Christoph Graupner was one of the principal German composers of the period of J.S. Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann. He was highly thought of in his day, much like Georg Frederic Handel or Telemann, with whom he maintained a lifetime friendship. Composers Johann David Heinichen and Johann Friedrich Fasch were also close friends of his. His first teachers were Mylius and the organist Küster, whom Graupner followed to Reichenbach in 1694. He entered the Leipzig Thomasschule in 1696, where J.D. Heinichen was a fellow student; he studied under Johann Schelle and Johann Kuhnau and befriended Telemann and his future colleague Gottfried Grünewald during his nine years in the city.
Leaving Leipzig in 1706, Christoph Graupner went to Hamburg, replacing in June 1707 Schieferdecker at the harpsichord of the Oper am Gänsemarkt (Hamburg Opera Orchestra) under Reinhard Keiser. G.F. Handel, then 21, was a violinist in the same orchestra. Graupner composed there his first five operas that received great public acclaim, perhaps also collaborating on three others with R. Keiser, who was a key figure in the world of German opera. In 1709 he became Vice-Kapellmeister at the court of Ernst Ludwig, Landgrave of Hessen-Darmstadt, succeeding Briegel as Hofkapellmeister (conductor and composer) in 1711 (or 1712). Grünewald replaced him as Vice-Kapellmeister, and Johann Friedrich Fasch came to study with him in the same year. He wrote many operas up to 1719, when he turned to sacred and instrumental composition.
On March 1723, at the request of the Landgrave, who had hired him, Christoph Graupner turned down a prestigious position: Kantor at St. Thomas's in Leipzig, as a successeor to Johann Kuhnau when Telemann declined the post. His rejection allowed J.S. Bach to be given the post on May 5, 1723. In his letter of non-acceptance, Graupner spontaneously mentions J.S. Bach in a very positive manner. This, while being highly unusual at the time, is the mark of an individual possessing deep modesty and rigor. Graupner never again sought to leave Darmstadt, and the thirty-eight remaining years of his life were spent at the court at Darmstadt.
Christoph Graupner was a prolific and tireless composer. Though blind later in life, he produced immense amounts of music, with over 2,000 works, including 8 Operas, 1,418 Sacred Cantatas, of which he was an outstanding composer, 24 Secular Cantatas, 113 Symphonies, 86 Overtures (Suites), 44 Concerti for one to four instruments, 66 Trio Sonatas, as well as keyboard music, including well as 41 Partita for Harpsichord. He also gained notoriety for the meticulous calligraphy of his autographs and scores, the writing of which he completed with great care. On that matter, Johann Mattheson wrote in 1740, "His manuscript scores are so beautifully written, one might think they are engravings in copper." In addition to a large number of autographs, he also copied out many works of other composers, a custom he first cultivated as Kuhnau's student. There are copies in his own hand of works by some of his contemporaries: Antonio Vivaldi, Georg Philipp Telemann, Johann Friedrich Fasch, Stamitz, Richter and others. One will find the same extraordinary attention to detail in his re-writing by hand of pieces for the harpsichord or the orchestra, which he undoubtedly meant to perform or conduct for the court. In this way, Graupner has provided a first-rate source for works of the Baroque era. We know that J.S. Bach copied the music of his predecessors as well as that of his contemporaries, but from a strictly personal and didactic perspective.
Christoph Graupner was also one of the German composers, such as J.D. Heinichen, Johann Georg Pisendel, Fasch, Hurlebusch and Telemann, who imitated the works of A. Vivaldi, through which the Italian concerto, especially the solo concerto, became known in Germany. He was known to be one of the Protestant masters whom J.S. Bach admired and studied. Like J.S. Bach, and in accordance with the social function assigned to composers in the 18th century, Graupner worked in a humble and tireless manner, without much concern for posterity. He was a man of such humility that he requested all his music be destroyed by fire after his death. The inevitable legal fight that ensued, placing in opposition his heirs and the court at Darmstadt, was resolved in 1819 when the court was declared sole proprietor of the composer's works. Thus Graupner's manuscripts and autographs remained at the castle in Darmstadt and are now the property of the Hessische Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek at the town's university.