German composer. Studied as a boy in Dresden with Kittel and Krügner, becoming a member of the Kreuzschule choir (alongside his brother Andreas) in 1771; returned to Geising during an outbreak of the plague in 1680, then went to the Johanneum, Zittau, later in the year at the invitation of Kantor Titius, whose death (along with that of Edelmann, the organist) enabled Kuhnau temporarily to fill both posts; he also wrote music for the school dramas of Weise. Enrolled in law studies at Leipzig University in 1682; became Thomaskirche organist in 1684; upon graduation in 1688 he set up a thriving law practice. His important keyboard collections of suites and sonatas, Neue Clavier-Übung(1689, 1692), Frische Clavier-Früchte(1696), and Musicalischer Vorstellung einiger Biblischer Historien(1700), soon appeared; he also studied Hebrew and Greek and wrote the satirical novel Der musicalische Quack-Salber(Dresden, 1700). He succeeded Schelle as Thomaskantor in 1701. His later years in the post were beset by falling quality of students, competition from the Leipzig Opera, and rival musical ventures initiated by Telemann, Hoffmann, and J. F. Fasch; nonetheless, he was praised by Scheibe and Mattheson as one of the major musical and intellectual figures of his day. Some fifty cantatas are extant, along with other church music, though his dramatic music and some treatises are lost.