Christoph Grosspietsch writes: There is no picture available at all. All pictures havebeen destroyed after Graupners death in 1760. A thematic catalog of Graupner’s instrumental music (questionable works included) is about to be published (GWV).
A contemporary of J.S. Bach, Christoph Graupner (Kirchberg, Saxony, January 1683-Darmstadt in Hesse, May 1st, 1760) was a composer highly thought of in his day, much like Händel or Telemann, with whom he maintained a lifetime friendship. Composers Heinichen and Fasch were also close friends of his.
After studying at Leipzig with Kuhnau, J.S. Bach’s predecessor as Cantor of St. Thomas’s in Leipzig, Graupner left the city in 1705 to assume the function of harpsichordist at the Hamburg Opera Orchestra, under Reinhard Keiser. Händel, then 21, was a violinist in the same orchestra. At that time, Graupner composed several operas that received great public acclaim. He also took part in the composition of three operas in collaboration with Keiser, a key figure in the world of German opera.
In 1709, Graupner was offered a post at the court in Hesse-Darmstadt, where he became conductor and composer (Hofkapellmeister) in 1711. On March 1723, at the request of the Landgrave, who had hired him, he turned down a prestigious position: Cantor at St. Thomas’s in Leipzig. His rejection allowed Johann Sebastian Bach to be given the post on May 5th. In his letter of non-acceptance, Graupner spontaneously mentions Bach in a very positive manner. This, while being highly unusual at the time, is the mark of an individual possessing deep modesty and rigor. The thirty-eight remaining years of his life were spent at the court at Darmstadt.
Graupner was a man of such humility that he requested all his music be destroyed by fire after his death. The inevitable legal fight that ensued, placing in opposition his heirs and the court at Darmstadt, was resolved in 1819 when the court was declared sole proprietor of the composer’s works. Thus Graupner’s manuscripts and autographs remained at the castle in Darmstadt and are now the property of the Hessische Landes und Hochschulbibliothek at the town’s university.
Graupner also gained notoriety for the meticulous calligraphy of his autographs and scores, the writing of which he completed with great care. On that matter, Mattheson wrote in 1740, "His manuscript scores are so beautifully written, one might think they are engravings." In addition to a large number of autographs, there are copies in his own hand of works by some of his contemporaries: Vivaldi, Telemann, Fasch, Stamitz, Richter and others. One will find the same extraordinary attention to detail in his re-writing by hand of pieces for the harpsichord or the orchestra, which he undoubtedly meant to perform or conduct for the court. In this way, Graupner has provided a first-rate source for works of the Baroque era. We know that Bach copied the music of his predecessors as well as that of his contemporaries, but from a strictly personal and didactic perspective.
A prolific and tireless composer, Graupner composed 113 Symphonies, 86 Overtures, 8 Operas, 1418 Cantas, 66 Trio Sonatas, 44 Concerti for one to four instruments as well as 41 Partita for Harpsichord.
Like J.S. Bach, and in accordance with the social function assigned to composers in the eighteenth century, Graupner worked in a humble and tireless manner, without much concern for posterity.
© Geneviève Soly
- Germany, Kirchberg, Neumarkt 11 — 13 Jan 1683