Johann Kuhnau is often dismissed to the footnotes as nothing more than an embittered conservative who was Bach's immediate predecessor as Thomaskantor. But even a cursory examination of his life reveals a polymath who trained as a lawyer, was multilingual, was one of Leipzig Opera House's founders, wrote on musical theory, and in between all of that somehow managed to the time to write a novel satirising the contemporary music scene. Oh yes, and it was Kuhnau who inspired Bach to use the title Clavier-Übung for four of his keyboard publications, and it was Kuhnau who was Bach's co-examiner of the Halle organ in 1716.
Musically he's the link between between Bach and Schutz and far from being dull or conservative his cantatas are not only strikingly beautiful but also sometimes quite dramatic. His great innovation was to provide them with a stable formal structure something that was a distinct innovation in German cantatas and that herald Bach's Leipzig cantatas. Kuhnau composed Gott, sei mir gnädig nach deiner Güte (God, be gracious to me in your goodness) in 1705 for Quinquagesima (Quinquagesima is the Sunday before Ash Wednesday – mfi). It's an engaging piece that's quite like some of Schütz's work in its very rhetorical approach to text-setting while Kuhnau's use of repetition – including instrumental repetition acts to help the listener recall the text. Enjoy :-)
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