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Georg Friedrich Kauffmann (Composer)

Born: February 14, 1679 - Ostermondra, Thuringia, Germany
Died: February 27, 1735 - Merseburg, Germany

The German organist and composer, Georg Friedrich Kauffmann, received his early keyboard training from J.H. Buttstett in Erfurt and continued under Johann Friedrich Alberti in Merseburg, with whom he also studied composition. When Alberti suffered a stroke in 1698 which caused paralysis in his right hand, Kauffmann deputized for him, and in 1710 succeeded his teacher as organist at the court of Duke Christian I of Saxony and at Merseburg Cathedral. Kauffmann subsequently became court organist for the Duke of Saxe-Merseburg and was later promoted to court Kapellmeister.

Kauffmann’s music and reputation spread beyond Merseburg within a few years of his appointment in 1710. Bach’s friend Johann Gottfried Walther, who may have known Kauffmann in Erfurt, copied his chorale-prelude on Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir early in the second decade of the century, and Walther’s pupil Johann Tobias Krebs copied Kauffmann’s G major Fantasia at roughly the same time. (Two later manuscripts written by Walther, D-Bsb Mus.2254/1–4 and NL-DHgm 4.G.14, contain further copies of Kauffmann’s organ works.) In Leipzig, the university considered asking Kauffmann to inspect the newly finished organ of the Paulinerkirche in 1717, but the invitation eventually went to Bach; five years later, two scribes who worked for Johann Kuhnau – one of them his nephew J.A. Kuhnau, who later worked for Bach – copied parts to Kauffmann’s solo cantata Unverzagt, beklemmtes Herz, probably for a performance on August 16, 1722, shortly after Kuhnau’s death. Kauffmann may have owed his Leipzig contacts to J.P. Kunzen, the librettist of his oratorio Die Himmelfahrt Christi. In Halle, the organist Gottfried Kirchhoff owned cantatas by Kauffmann, which he presumably used for performance in the Marienkirche; none of these copies, however, still exists.

In autumn 1722 Kauffmann went to Leipzig to compete for Kuhnau’s former position of Kantor at the Thomaskirche. The minutes of the Leipzig town council for November 22, 1722 list Kauffmann, described as ‘court organist and music director in Merseburg’, as one of seven contestants. According to the Hollsteinischer Correspondent (Hamburg) of 8 December, he performed his test piece on November 29, the first Sunday of Advent. The council minutes of December 21 report that Kauffmann ‘requested again that he be admitted to examination’. The council acceded to the request since J.S.Bach and Graupner were allowed two cantata performances each. He remained among the finalists for the job until Bach ultimately received it in April 1723. Bach and Kauffmann may have had at least indirect contacts during the following years. In or about 1727, when Bach’s son Wilhelm Friedemann was studying in Merseburg with J.G. Graun, J.A. Kuhnau copied the scores of two Kauffmann cantatas, Komm, du freudenvoller Geist and Nicht uns, Herr; he copied a third, Die Liebe Gottes ist ausgegossen, at an uncertain later date. The pieces most probably served for performance at the Neue Kirche in Leipzig.

In 1725 Johann Mattheson’s Critica musica carried an announcement for a treatise by Kauffmann, who referred to himself in the prospectus as ‘director of church music to the Duke of Saxe-Merseburg’. The treatise – completed in manuscript but never printed, and since lost – bore the title Introduzzione alla musica antica et moderna, das ist: Eine ausführliche Einleitung zur alten und neuen Wissenschaft der edlen Music; the contents, given in summary, included ‘the general and special rules of composition in the old and new style’, a formulation that suggests Kauffmann followed the tradition of ‘figural’ contrapuntal reduction established by Christoph Bernhard.

Eight years later Kauffmann began the serial publication of his Harmonische Seelenlust, the first collection of chorale preludes for organ to appear in print since Scheidt’s Tabulatura nova of 1624. The title-page identifies the composer as ‘chapel director and court organist to the Duke of Saxe-Merseburg’ – somewhat confusingly, since according to other sources, J.T. Römhild had become ducal Kapellmeister in 1731. Kauffmann most probably planned the Harmonische Seelenlust as a complete edition of his organ chorales and it was published on a subscription basis. He died of consumption before the entire collection appeared, but his widow saw the remaining instalments through the press; this may account for the inclusion of three pieces by Walther (two settings of Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten and one of Wir Christenleut) and one by Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow (Nun lasst uns Gott, dem Herren), among the later numbers. The publication met with little initial success – in a letter of August 4, 1736, Walther reported a complaint from one of the publishers to the effect that ‘buyers are getting scarcer all the time, and if it continues like this, he will have to give it up’ – but it soon established itself as one of the most significant achievements of German organ music and remained in high esteem into the 19th century. Its 98 chorale preludes, described by the composer as ‘short, but elaborated with particular invention and pleasing style’, embrace virtually every type current in the early 18th century, including duets (‘in which there is always figural activity [etwas Obligates], which restores what the absence of other voices takes away’), fughettas on the first line of the chorale, and a variety of cantus firmus settings, six of which have the melody ‘played à part on the oboe’ and are the earliest examples of the type. Kauffmann furnished unusually careful performance directions, often providing copious ornaments, tempo markings, and detailed suggestions for registration. The music reveals a vivid motivic imagination and a flair for affective dissonances and harmonic progressions.

Kauffmann’s vocal works, with their concise phrase structure and avoidance of polyphonic complexity, adhere to the stylistic norms of German sacred music in his generation. All use librettos of the post-Neumeister type, consisting almost exclusively of recitatives and arias; scriptural texts and chorales appear only in the outer movements of Nicht uns, Herr and Die Liebe Gottes ist ausgegossen. The opening choruses of these cantatas – one fugal, the other freely concerted – have considerable breadth and rhythmic vigour. In the Ascension Oratorio, Kauffmann aids the dramatic flow by avoiding text repetition and demonstrates his fine instrumental style in the symphonia – a French overture in the style of Georg Frideric Handel. Kauffmann’s recitatives achieve notable fluency of declamation; his arias, all set as strict da capos, have attractive thematic material and maintain well-balancedproportions between sections.

The inventiveness and solid craftsmanship of Kauffmann’s music bear out Walther’s opinion that it ‘cannot but be considered estimable by people of judgment’. Despite the small extent of his surviving output, Kauffmann ranks among the very best of J.S. Bach’s German contemporaries.


Vocal (all in D-Lem):
Die Himmelfahrt Christi (orat, J.P. Kunzen), SSATB, 2 tpt, timp, 2 ob, 2 vn, 2 va, bc, org [autograph score]
Die Liebe Gottes ist ausgegossen (cantata for Whit Sunday), SSTB, 2 tpt, timp, 2 ob, 2 vn, 2 va, bc [score copy by J.A. Kuhnau]
Komm, du freudenvoller Geist (cant. for Whit Sunday), SSTB, 2 ob, 2 vn, 2 va, bc [score copy by Kuhnau]
Nicht uns, Herr, sondern deinem Namen gib Ehre (cant. for Visitation), SATB, 2 ob, 2 vn, 2 va, bc [score copy by Kuhnau]
Unverzagt, beklemmtes Herz (cantata for the 11th Sunday after Trinity), S, 2 vn, bc [pts copied by Kuhnau and anon scribe]

Fantasia, G, D-Bsb Mus.Bach. P 801 [copy by J.T. Krebs]
Harmonische Seelenlust musikalischer Gönner und Freunde, das ist: Kurtze, jedoch nach besondern Genie und guter Grace elaborirte Praeludia von 2, 3 und 4 Stimmen über die bekanntesten Choral-Lieder, 98 preludes on 63 chorales and 66 figured bass settings, org (
Leipzig, 1733–6); ed. P. Pidoux (Kassel, 1951)


Source: Grove Music Online, © Oxford University Press 2005/2006 , acc. 12/17/05 5/15/06 (Authors: Joshua Rifkin & Peter Janson)
Contributed by
Thomas Braatz (December 2005, May 2006)

Use of Chorale Melodies in his works


Chorale Melody


Ach Gott und Herr, Chorale Prelude for Organ from Harmonische Seelenlust

Ach Gott und Herr


Ach Gott vom Himmel sieh darein, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein


Alle Menschen müssen sterben, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Alle Menschen müssen sterben (Zahn 6779a with only a slight variation)


Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr

Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ


Auf meinen lieben Gott, Chorale prelude for Organ

Auf meinen lieben Gott


Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Befiehl du deine Wege (I)


Christ lag in Todesbanden, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Christ lag in Todesbanden

Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt


Puer natus in Bethlehem, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem (Puer natus in Bethlehem)


Chorale Prelude for Organ on Erschienen ist der herrliche Tag

Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag


Es ist das Heil uns kommen her, Chorale Prelude for Organ from Harmonische Sellenlust

Es ist das Heil uns kommen her


Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele


Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, Chorale Prelude in 2 versions: 1. for Oboe and Organ; 2. for Organ (manualiter)

Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ


Herr Christ, der einig Gottessohn, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn

Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir, Chorale Prelude for Oboe and Organ

Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir


Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut, Chorale Prelude for Organ from Harmonische Seelenlust

Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut


Herr Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht II, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Herr Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht

Komm, heiliger Geist, Herre Gott, 2 Chorale Preludes for Organ

Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott


Kommt her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Kommt her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn


Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich


Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, 5 Chorale Preludes for Organ

Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland

Nun laßt uns Gott dem Herren, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Nun laßt uns Gott dem Herren

O Gott, du frommer Gott, Chorale Prelude for Organ

O Gott, du frommer Gott

O Herre Gott, dein göttlich Wort, 2 Chorale Preludes for Organ

O Herre Gott, dein göttlich(s) Wort


Chorale Prelude for Organ on Nun ruhen alle Wälder/In allen meinen Taten

O Welt, ich muß dich lassen


Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele


Valet will ich dir geben, Chorale Prelude for Organ from Harmonische Seelenlust

Valet will ich dir geben


Vater unser im Himmelreich, Chorale Prelude for Organ in Harmonische Seelenlust

Vater unser im Himmelreich


Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz


Was mein Gott will, das gscheh allzeit, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Was mein Gott will, das g’scheh allzeit

Wenn mein Stündlein vorhanden ist, Chorale Prelude for Organ from Harmonische Seelenlust

Wenn mein Stündlein vorhanden ist


Chorale Prelude for Organ on Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten in 3 sections with two marked “Alio modo” from Harmonische Seelenlust

Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten


Wir Christenleut, Chorale Prelude for Organ from Harmonische Seelenlust

Wir Christenleut habn jetzund Freud


Links to other Sites



FrotscherG | GerberNL | MGG1 (F.W Riedel) | WaltherML
W. Serauky: Musikgeschichte der Stadt Halle (Halle and Berlin, 1935-43/R)
F. Treiber: ‘Die thüringisch-sächsische Kirchenkantate zur Zeit des jungen J.S. Bachs (etwa 1700–1723)’, AMf, ii (1937), 129–59
H. Becker: ‘Die frühe hamburgische Tagespresse als musikgeschichtliche Quelle’, Beiträge zur hamburgischen Musikgeschichte, ed. H. Husmann (
Hamburg, 1956), 22–45
W. Neumann and H.-J. Schulze, eds.: Bach-Dokumente, ii: Fremdschriftliche und gedruckte Dokumente zur Lebensgeschichte Johann Sebastian Bachs 1685–1750 (
Kassel, 1969)
H. Zietz: Quellenkritische Untersuchungen an den Bach-Handschriften P 801, P 802 und P 803 aus dem ‘Krebs’schen Nachlass’ unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Choralbearbeitungen des jungen J.S. Bachs (
Hamburg, 1969)
A. Glöckner: Neuerkenntnisse zu Johann Sebastian Bachs Aufführungskalender zwischen 1729 und 1735, Bach Jb 1981, 43-75
A. Glöckner: Leipziger Neukirchenmusik 1729-1761, BMw, xxv (1983), 105-12
H.J. Busch and J. Goens: Georg Friedrich Kauffmanns Harmonische Seelenlust und seine Registrierungskunst im Dienste der A, Ars organi, xxxix (1991), 151-9
C. Wolff: Bach: Essays on His Life and Music (London, 1991)
P. Janson: Applicato textus or dramma per musica? The Function of the Church Cantatas by George Friedrich Kauffmann (diss., U. of Victoria, BC, 1992)
J. Butt: ‘J.S. Bach and G.F. Kauffmann: Reflections on Bach's Later Style’, Bach Studies, ii, ed. D.R. Melamed (Cambridge, 1995), 47–61

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Last update: Wednesday, June 14, 2017 15:12