Karl Kempter

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Karl Kempter

Karl Kempter (born January 17, 1819 in Limbach near Burgau , † March 12, 1871 in Augsburg ) was a German composer and church musician . His best-known work, the Great Pastoral Mass in G major , is still often performed at Christmas time in Augsburg and the surrounding area.


Karl Kempter comes from an old Limbach family that has been mentioned in a document in Limbach since the 17th century . His family produced theologians, religious, musicians and teachers. He himself was born on January 17, 1819, the seventh and youngest child of the schoolteachers' husband and wife Mathias and Kreszentia Kempter in house no. 1, the rural school in Limbach, and grew up in poor conditions.

His father soon recognized his son's high level of musicality and tried to give him a solid basic musical education. First, Mathias Kempter passed on to his son the musical knowledge that he himself had acquired from his uncle Father Bernhard Kempter in the Marchtal Monastery . With this encouragement, Karl Kempter devoted himself to music from an early age and proved to be a promising talent on the organ.

On December 1, 1831, his parents gave him to Augsburg for further music training at the age of twelve. There he was placed in the care of Michael Keller , who was the organist and choir regent at St. Ulrich and Afra in Augsburg and with whom Karl Kempter also lived. Michael Keller also gave Karl Kempter the impulses that would point the way for his later musical work. He was trained in singing, piano and organ playing as well as in composition. Kempter studied the figured bass based on the textbooks of Johann Georg Albrechtsberger and counterpoint based on those of Anton Reicha . His piano training followed the guidelines set out by Johann Nepomuk Hummel . During his specialist training, Karl Kempter devoted himself to church music.

After the former choir regent at the basilica, Father Rupert Streicher, died and Michael Keller had received the vacant position, the 18-year-old took over the position of organist at St. Ulrich and Afra after a six-year apprenticeship in 1837, which his teacher had previously held. At the same time the call was issued to the Domorganistenstelle to Keller, he that his pupil Karl for the organist at St. Ulrich and Afra protection granted.

On November 1, 1839, Michael Keller, who had been appointed cathedral music director of Augsburg a month earlier , gave his master student the job of cathedral organist . Karl Kempter was to hold this office with great zeal and commitment for 25 years. Now the twenty-year-old also began to compose.

In 1841 Karl Kempter married Josefa von Cobres in Augsburg, the daughter of a retired Austrian kuk officer. With her he had three children: Karl, Emma and Charlotte.

In addition to his organist service, Kempter gave music lessons both privately and at the St. Stephen's monastery in Augsburg .

From 1843 to 1867 he was a member of the Augsburg Liedertafel, which had existed since 1843 and was founded by Johann Rösle. There he sang in the second tenor. Karl Kempter wrote compositions for the Liedertafel, including a chorus of homage to Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy . Kempter composed masses, graduals, oratorios (John the Baptist, Mary, The Shepherds of Bethlehem, The Revelation) and published a church hymn book. Above all, popular singing, especially at church services, was the focus of his work: the ability to make music with the means available to the country choirs and for their own mentality was important to him. Many compositions, such as the hymn “Adoro te” and the so-called “Little Pastoral Mass”, were published by the music publisher Anton Böhm & Sohn , Augsburg, and found their way to church choirs all over the country. At the age of 31 he completed his most famous work, the great pastoral mass in G major, Op. 24. It was premiered at the Christmas mass in 1851 in the High Cathedral of Augsburg .

Kempter hardly left Augsburg, but maintained contacts with Kremsmünster / Austria, the Canon Monastery of St. Florian , the Einsiedeln Monastery / Switzerland, Prague and Budapest .

After the death of his teacher and friend Michael Keller on March 1, 1865, Karl Kempter was appointed cathedral music director. He thus held the highest office in the church music field in Augsburg.

Kempter's last years were marked by a nervous disorder and paralysis as a result of a stroke that had overtaken him at the age of 46 during a lesson at the St. Stephan Institute . Due to his illness he had to give up the office of cathedral music director in 1867. His successor was his student Karl Kammerlander, who like Kempter came from a family of teachers.

An accident concussion made his physical and mental deterioration worse. The deaths within the family - his wife died in 1869, his youngest daughter in 1870 - bothered him hard. Isolated, physically and mentally emaciated, Kempter died on March 12, 1871 in his last apartment, today's Stephansplatz 9. He was buried in the Catholic cemetery on Hermanstrasse in Augsburg.

Epitaph on the outer wall of St. Michael in the Hermanstrasse cemetery

Kemptersche apartments in Augsburg: Frauentorstr. 22, Karolinenstr. 37, Jesuitengasse 17, Stephansplatz 9.



Kempter had consistently composed and created more than 120 works. His compositional work includes, in line with his professional activity, mainly church music. He seldom created secular compositions, such as a “Hymn to King Ludwig” and a “Festival march for piano four hands”.

Kempter attached great importance to the fact that his compositions could be performed by small amateur choirs as well as in a lush cast with a large choir and full orchestra. His Latin Mass in G, op. 15, z. B. is suitable "for the use of well-staffed country and small town choirs" . Such indications take into account the often different capabilities of choirs.

His best-known work is the Pastoral Mass in G, op. 24. It was heard for the first time in the Augsburg Cathedral during Christmas mass on Christmas Eve 1851 . The instrumentation consists of an obbligato string quartet (2 violins, viola, violon) and organ, as well as a flute, two clarinets, two horns, two trumpets and timpani ad libitum. This instrumentation allows great flexibility during the performance. The additional use of winds and timpani creates a particularly festive character. Because of its catchy melody, this Christmas fair has become very popular, especially in southern Germany.

  • op.9 Latin Mass in D for 4 voices, 2 violin, viola, violon and organ obligatory, flute, 2 clarinet, 2 horns, 2 trumpets and timpani not obligatory (alternative version: Mass in D for 4 male voices, 2 violins, viola, Violon and organ obligatory; flute, 2 clarinets, 2 horns, 2 trumpets and timpani not obligatory)
  • op. 11 Festive Mass No. 1 in B flat for solos, choir and orchestra
  • op. 15 Latin mass in G for soprano, alto, tenor, bass, 2 violins, viola, violon & organ oblig., flute, 2 clarinets, 2 horns, 2 trumpets a. Timpani not compulsory; for the use of well-occupied land and smaller city choirs
  • op. 24 Pastoral Mass in G for solos, choir and orchestra
  • op. 25 “Hodie Christ natus est” Pastoral Graduals for soprano, alto, tenor, bass, 2 violins, viola, violon or organ oblig., 1 flute, 2 clarinets, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani and the like. Violoncello not obligatory.
  • op. 26 Pastoral Offertory for C or A clarinet solo, soprano, alto, bass, 2 violins, viola, violon a. Organ oblig., 1 flute, 2 clarinets, 2 horns a. Violoncello not obligatory (circa 1854)
  • op. 29 Hymn of Praise in honor of St. Sebastian for soprano, alto a. Organ obligatory, then tenor, bass a. Violon not obligatory
  • op. 30 German mass chants for 1 voice with organ accompaniment. u. any. Use of alto, tenor & bass voice
  • op. 35 Mass in A for soprano, alto, tenor, bass, 2 violins, viola, double bass a. Organ oblig., Flute, 2 clarinets, 2 horns, 2 trumpets a. Timpani not obligatory.
  • op. 40 funeral march for d. Pianoforte for 4 hands (circa 1853)
  • op. 41 Mass in C (circa 1860)
  • op.45 Mass in F (circa 1860)
  • op. 47 "4 Antiphonae Marianae" (circa 1855)
  • op. 56 "Dies irae"
  • op. 60 Rondo pastorale
  • op. 61 Mass in C for 1 voice with organ obligatory, then alto, bass, 2 violins, 2 horns ad lib.
  • op. 64 “Three Hymni Mariani” usable as graduals or offerings
  • op. 66 "Vademecum" 112 short a. easy organ pieces; for budding organists in the 2-, 3- and 4stg. Movement in all major and Minor keys; with e. Anh .: modulations, cadenzas, finger u. Pedaling exercises
  • op. 72 Landmesse in C for soprano, alto, bass, two violins and bass score or violon obbligato, tenor, viola, flute, two clarinets, two horns, two trumpets a. Timpani not obligatory, or only for four voices with the organ suspended
  • op.87 Mass in F / C (circa 1865)
  • op.88 Vesperae de Beata in D / G (circa 1880)
  • op. 90 “Ave Maria” for three-part mixed choir
  • op. 96 Mass in D / G (circa 1865)
  • op. 105 Missa pastoritia in F for four-part mixed choir, 2 horns, strings and organ
  • op. 129 Festival March
  • Oratorio "John the Baptist"
  • Oratorio "Maria"
  • Oratorio "The Shepherds of Bethlehem"
  • Oratorio "The Revelation"
  • Sunday Vespers in G for 1 voice with organ obligatory, then alto, bass, 2 violins, 2 horns ad lib.
  • Requiem in C minor with Libera for four male voices with or without organ accompaniment

Karl Kempter Society

On November 4th, 2008 the Karl Kempter Society was launched by Bernhard Löffler from Burgau . It sets itself the task of researching the composer's life and work and making them better known.


Web links

Commons : Karl Kempter  - Collection of images, videos and audio files