Friedrich Kuhlau - a composer you should know
a page from the website     
back to startpage biography bibliography – numerical bibliography – classified discography links

The German-Danish composer
Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832)
This painting was made 1828 by Christian Horneman on occasion of Kuhlau's appointment to professor

I have written this website as a follow-up to my 416 pages long biography of the
German-Danish Composer Friedrich Kuhlau, published by Olms Verlag 2011
(see left column at the bottom)

Apart from a few small and popular publications this book is the first exhaustively biography on Kuhlau ever. It is based on many years of research, and as for the present website I have good reasons to believe that it is the most correct and detailed work of reference on his life and his work to be found on the Internet.

Until now the biography has only been published in German, but I should be delighted if this website could reach the attention of an English publisher! In case you would like to know more about the book, you will find some links in the left column.

Most people know Kuhlau only - if at all - as the composer of a number of small easy sonatinas still to be found in many piano schools. But this gives a false impression of Kuhlau - just as the cute little piano piece called "For Elise" gives a false impression of Beethoven! Kuhlau also wrote grand piano sonatas that are reminiscent of Beethoven's sonatas in style, length and difficulty - not to mention many other magnificent piano works for 2 and 4 hands. They have not been published since the lifetime of Kuhlau, but right now a collected edition of all his sonatas has just been published (see more below).

However among flutists Kuhlau is much appreciated and he is often referred to as "the Beethoven of the flute". About 80 of Kuhlau's more than 550 compositions are for flute - alone or in combination with other instruments. Also his chamber music deserves a revival, whereas his operas hardly will be able to attract a modern audience, mostly due to the weak libretti.

The discography added to this website includes 112 compositions on 35 different CDs. It is mainly meant as an appetizer and there is no guarantee they are still on the market, but on the Internet many more can easily be found. The list of compositions (bibliography) is copied from my book and partly translated into English. Almost all the literature on Kuhlau is written in Danish or German. Therefore there is no separate list of literature on the the present website, but you are referred to the list of literature from my book (see 'Links to the book' in the column to the left).

The cover of my Kuhlau biography.

Links to the book:
The publisher's english introduction
The index (german)
The authors introduction (german)
Chapter 29 – a sample (german)
The list of literature

The translation of my Danish Kuhlau biography into German has been sponsored by Kuhlau's native town Uelzen. Uelzen also is the sponsor of a new edition of Kuhlau's compositions for the flute (see 'links'), and the city arranges a biannual flute competition named after Kuhlau: the Kuhlau-Wettbewerb (see 'links').

In Japan Kuhlau has found many admirers thanks to the flutist professor Toshinori Ishihara, who has founded a kind of Kuhlau fan club called The International Friedrich Kuhlau Society (IFKS), even though it has attracted few members outside Japan so far. The society's website however has an English version where many interesting things can be found (see 'links'). Among IFKS's publications, the republishing of some of the operas may appear a little strange to a westerner, since this part of Kuhlau's oeuvre is generally considered to be the least viable due to the weak libretti. However, the society's edition of Kuhlau's nineteen grand piano sonatas, published in the autumn of 2012, fulfils the wishes of many pianists.

You can learn more about this publication here:
And here you can view the first page of two sonatas:

The author signs a copy of his Kuhlau biography at the presentation in the townhall of Uelzen

The founder of the International Friedrich Kuhlau Society, Professor Toshinori Ishihara, on a visit at the author. The photo is taken from the top of the University Library (my former workplace) in Aarhus, Denmark.