The immediate predecessor of J.S. Bach as Thomaskantor in Leipzig, Kuhnau was among the most respected musicians of his time. Well known as a keyboard player and theorist, he experienced difficulties in his position when it seemed that the young composer Telemann was proving a serious, if perhaps unwitting, rival.
By the nature of his employment in Leipzig, Kuhnau wrote a quantity of church music, setting German and Latin texts; his cantatas mark an important step in the development of the form.
Kuhnau’s keyboard music provided a precedent for Bach (not least his Clavier-Übung) while his Biblical Sonatas provide an interesting example of programme music for the harpsichord.