The latest episode of our SKaffeehaus podcast is all about Johann Kuhnau. Ahead of our concerts of his Festive Cantatas in York and at Wigmore Hall (December 2022), we discuss the man, his music, how he has been seen, and how we should see (and above all listen to) him today, with David Erler, Professor Bettina Varwig, and Professor Stephen Rose.
Composer, outstanding organist, choir trainer, lawyer, and formidable linguist, Johann Kuhnau was Thomaskantor in Leipzig for over 20 years, writing over 1,000 vocal works for church performance there. The few dozen that remain show a variety and ability to unlock the gamut of emotions from desperate sadness through to unbridled job. This belies Kuhnau’s conservative and anti-operatic stance handed down in his war of words with those loyal to the upstart Georg Philipp Telemann, with whom he competed for musical resources in Leipzig at the start of his tenure.
Beset by ill health and bruised from his jousting in these political culture wars, Kuhnau’s legacy has been constructed largely in ignorance of his vocal music – which is immediate, moving, joyful, and dramatic. Thanks to David Erler, Nick Pfefferkorn, and Breitkopf Verlag, this music is becoming much more widely available.Listen on Apple PodcastsListen on Spotify
Listen to all previous SKaffeehaus episodes and subscribe for more.