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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: September 2012

12 - The Court of Hesse-Darmstadt



THE PERIOD BETWEEN 1715 and 1760 – the focus of the present volume – virtually coincides with that of the employment of Christoph Graupner (1683–1760) at the court of Hesse, from his initial engagement as a musician in Darmstadt in 1709, followed by his promotion to first Hofkapellmeister just two years later. His fifty-one years of service covered the reigns of two landgraves: Ernst Ludwig (1667–1739) for the first thirty years, and his son Ludwig VIII (1691–1768) for the remaining twenty-one until Graupner's death. Considering its size and compared to other Hofkapellen, in the period immediately following Graupner's arrival in particular, the Darmstadt court had at its disposal an extraordinarily high number of vocalists and instrumentalists. However, the spirit of optimism which had initially accompanied Graupner's appointment began to disappear by the end of the second decade of the eighteenth century: opera performances came to a halt and from this time on opportunities for composition at the court were restricted to chamber music as well as to cantatas for the Sunday church service. Financial difficulties at the court became a long-term issue for the musicians who repeatedly called for their unpaid wages.

Over the course of the more than fifty years during which Graupner was active as a composer in the same location, he produced a total oeuvre of over 1,400 vocal works (including 10 operas) and 300 verified instrumental works (plus a further 90 anonymous and uncertain instrumental compositions).