Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Carl Heinrich Graun

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GRAUN, Carl Heinrich (1701-1759), a celebrated composer, was born May 7, 1701, at Wahrenbrück in Saxony, the youngest of three brothers, all more or less musical. His father held a small post under Government, but he gave his children a careful education. Graun’s beautiful soprano voice was noticed at the school where he was educated, and soon secured him an appointment in the choir of the city of Dresden. His masters were Grundig and Petzold, and at an early age he composed a number of sacred cantatas and other pieces for the church service. He completed his studies under Schmidt, and profited much by the Italian operas which were performed at Dresden under Lotti, the celebrated composer. After his voice had changed to a tenor, he made his d6but at the opera of Brunswick, in a work by Schurmann, an inferior composer of the day ; but not being satisfied with the arias assigned him he re-wrote them, so much to the satisfaction of the court that he was commissioned to write an opera for the next season. This work, Pollidoro (1726), and five other operas written for Brunswick, spread his fame all over Germany. Other works, mostly of a sacred character, including two settings of the Passion, also belong to the Brunswick period. It was there that Frederick the Great, at that time crown prince of Prussia, heard the singer, and immediately engaged him for his private chapel at Castle Reinsberg. There Graun remained for five years, and wrote a number of cantatas, mostly to words written by Frederick himself in French, and translated into Italian by Boltarelli. On his accession to the throne in 1740, Frederick sent Graun to Italy to engage singers for a new opera to be established at Berlin. Graun remained a year on his travels, earning universal applause as a singer in the chief cities of Italy. After his return to Berlin he was appointed royal chapel-master, with a salary of 2000 thalers (300). In this capacity he wrote twenty-eight operas, all to Italian words, of which the last, Merope (1756), is perhaps the most perfect. But of infinitely greater importance than these is his oratorio the Death of Jesus, which is still annually performed at Berlin. It is here that Graun shows his skill as a contrapuntist, and his originality of melodious invention. In the Italian operas he imitates the florid style of his time, but there also considerable dramatic power is occasionally shown in the recitatives. Graun died on the 8th of August 1759, at Berlin, in the same house in which, thirty-two years later, Meyerbeer was born.