Johann Caspar Kerll

Kerll was born in 1627 in Adorf (today in the Vogtland district of Saxony) as the son of an organ builder, where he took up his first position as organist at St. Michael’s Church. He probably converted to Roman Catholicism in Vienna in the 1640s and went to Rome around 1648/49 to study with the composer Giacomo Carissimi. After the appointment of his brother Leopold Wilhelm as governor of the Netherlands by Emperor Ferdinand III. Johann Caspar became court organist in the Brussels residence. In 1655 the Brussels court was dissolved, and Kerll was appointed to the Munich court opera, where he was initially provisional vice-kapellmeister, then vice-kapellmeister and after the death of Giovanni Giacomo Porro finally in 1656 hofkapellmeister. Kerll took over the musical direction of the services, the chamber and table music as well as the court opera. Several of his operas were premiered in Munich. He resigned his post in 1673, probably as a result of intrigues by Italian musicians. In 1674 Kerll went to Vienna with his family, where he received a pension granted by the emperor and from 1677 worked as the court’s first organist. Nevertheless, he repeatedly visited Munich, for example in 1688 when the Munich engraver Carl Gustav Amling made the only known portrait of the composer. In 1692 Kerll gave up his post in Vienna to go to Munich, where he died on February 13, 1693 and was buried in the crypt of the Augustinian monastery on Kaufingerstrasse. During his lifetime, Kerll was considered the best-known German composer of operas and church music, and his works were performed internationally. He was equally famous as an organ improviser.

Photo credit: Engraving, Carl Gustav Amling, around 1680, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München, Inventar-Nr. 122532 D