Conrad Friedrich Hurlebusch (1691-1765)


Conrad Friedrich Hurlebusch was born in Brunswick, Northern Germany in 1691 (baptised 30 December) and died in Amsterdam 17 December 1765. He became a preeminent cembalist and organist after having been tutored by his father, Heinrich Lorenz Hurlebusch. After long tours in Europe he was active in Germany, but was invited to come to Stockholm by King Frederick I in 1723. He composed two cantatas during his time in Sweden from 1723−25 and thereafter returned to Germany until 1742, when he settled in Amsterdam where he was hired as an organist.


Conrad Friedrich Hurlebusch was a real cosmopolitan. He was born in 1691 in Brunswick, a cultural centre in northern Germany where his father was organist. His father, Heinrich Lorenz Hurlebusch, seems to have been his son’s only teacher, and the gifted Conrad Friedrich developed into an excellent cembalist and organist. Rather than enrolling at a university, however, he went out on long tours of Europe as a cembalist virtuoso. He toured Italy for three years and stayed in Vienna for two years before returning to Germany and the court of Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria and Kurfürst of the Holy Roman Empire.

In 1721 he returned to Brunswick where he composed his first Italian opera, L’innocenza difesa, which was likely performed at the opera house the following year. With this work he tried − unsuccessfully – to open up a door into England, where he had hoped to make a place for himself in the cultural life. In Hamburg he met the composer, author and critic Johann Mattheson, who made many positive statements about Hurlebusch’s compositions (in Musikalische Ehrenpforte and Critica Musica).

In 1723 the Swedish King Frederick I invited Hurlebusch to Stockholm. Frederick was born in 1676 in Kassel as the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, and Hurlebusch had likely met him in Kassel on one of his tours. Hurlebusch accepted the invitation despite the fact that he had only been offered the minor position of ‘Cammer Musicus’ (court chamber musician). Hurlebusch had also been promised a well-paid position as organist in the German Church in Stockholm by Anders von Düben (a central figure in court music).

Hurlebusch’s time in Sweden turned out to be a disappointment. Düben had either been wrong about the organist position, or pushed Hurlebusch out of the spotlight, since the position he had promised was not even open at the time. The eminent conductor Johan Helmich Roman was also at the royal court, and was a significant obstacle to further success for Hurlebusch. He thus returned to Germany already in April of 1725, without having achieved his goal of artistic and financial security in Stockholm.

In spite of this, his expertise was recognised at the royal court. He, not Roman, had been given the honour of composing and performing a cantata, Feste Musicale, for the 10 year anniversary celebration of King Frederick’s arrival in Stockholm on 15 January 1725. Only one week later, 23 January 1725, he performed another cantata, Festeggiamente Musicale, this time dedicated to Queen Ulrika Eleonora on her birthday. These two cantatas are the only known Hurlebusch compositions to have been composed during his time in Sweden. Mattheson mentions in Musikalische Ehrenpforte that Hurlebusch was working on an opera, ‘Arminio’, in 1724, but that it was never completed due to a poor libretto.

After his time in Sweden Hurlebusch returned to Germany where he resumed his erratic lifestyle. In an attempt to settle he returned to Hamburg, where he remained for 10 years and made a living as a music teacher. In 1742 he travelled to Amsterdam, where he finally got a position as organist at Oude Kerk, the city’s oldest church. From then on he actively participated in Amsterdam’s musical life and became close friends with the composer Pietro Antonio Locatelli. He became a Dutch citizen in 1743 and acquired the privilege of printing music in 1746. In spite of this he seemed to become more and more isolated. He remained single, but lived together with a woman who had come with him from Hamburg. In time he became sicklier and died in 1765. He was buried in the cemetery at Oude Kerk.


The two cantatas, Feste Musicale à l’anniversaire de l’arrivèe dans le Royeaume de Sa M:te Fridéric I, Roy de Suède, celebrée à Stockholm le 15. Janw. 1725 and Festeggiamente Musicale per il di natale di sua Real Maestà Ulrica Eleonora in Stockholm alle 23 di gennaio 1725 are, as previously mentioned, the only known compositions from Hurlebusch’s time in Sweden.

The cantata to Frederick I, Feste Musicale, is considerably longer than Festeggiamente Musicale, and the instrumental parts to the arias are much richer − an indication that Hurlebusch was given the task of composing the latter after the performance of the former. Both works are composed in a mixed style with − due to the occasion − one very pompous French overture and arias in Italian style. Feste Musicale makes up a rudimentary suite: overture, gavotte, minuet, gavotte, da capo. It is not known who contributed the texts to these works, but it is likely, at least for the German cantata, that Hurlebusch himself is the author (the absence of text attributions is a sign of modesty, and typical of the time).

Holger Schmitt-Hallenberg © 2014
Trans. Nicole Vickers


Anold, Tore: Conrad Friedrich Hurlebusch − Kring en tysk tonsättares vistelse i Sverige 1723−25, thesis in musicology, Uppsala universitet, 1955.
Friedlaender, Max: Das deutsche Lied im 18. Jahrhundert: Quellen und Studien, vol. 1−3, Stuttgart : J.G. Cotta'sche Buchhandlung Nachf., 1902 [new ed. 1962].
Kahleyss, Rainer: Conrad Friedrich Hurlebusch (1691−1765), Frankfurt am Main: Haag + Herchen, 1984.
Kretschmar, Hermann: Geschichte des neuen deutschen Liedes, vol. 1, Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1911 [new ed. 1966].
Mattheson, Johann: Grundlage einer Ehren-Pforte, Hamburg: self-published, 1740 [new ed. Berlin 1910].
Seiffert, M: 'Konrad Friedrich Hurlebusch', in Tijdschrift der Vereniging voor Nederlandsche Muziekgeschiedenis, 1904.
Stahre, Ivar: 'Hurlebusch, Conrac Friedrich', in: Sohlmans musiklexikon, vol. 3, pp. 499−500, Stockholm: Sohlman, 1976.

Summary list of works

Operas (all of which are lost), instrumental music (solo concerti, concerto grosso, etc.), works for keyboard (Opere scelte per il clavicembalo, Composizioni per il cembalo, cembalo sonatas, etc.) works for organ, cantatas (Due cantata, Tu parti amato Tirsi, Feste Musicale, Festeggiamento Musicale, and Lascia l’amato Iido), vocal compositions (72 odes, etc.).

Collected works

Works with Swedish affiliation
Feste Musicale à l'anniversaire de l'arrivée dans le Royeaume de Sa M:te Fridéric I Roy de Suède ... Celebrée à Stockholm le 15 Janw: 1725.
Festeggiamento Musicale per il di natale di Sua Real Maestà Ulrica Eleonora Reginas di Suezia ... in Stockholm alli 23. Gennaro 1725.

Works by Conrad Friedrich Hurlebusch

This is not a complete list of works. The following works are those that have been inventoried so far.

Number of works: 2