Born: 1650; Güstrow, Germany
Died: September 27, 1711; Copenhagen, Denmark
Born in the very North German town of Güstrow between 1640 and 1650, composer Christian Geist opted to follow in his father's footsteps, as the elder Geist was Kantor at the local Cathedral. A good bass singer, an instrumentalist in the orchestra led by Daniel Danielis, and student of organist Albert Schop -- son of violinist Johann Schop -- Geist traveled to Copenhagen in 1669 in hopes of finding work, but came up empty handed. In 1670, he wasRead more hired by Gustav Düben the elder in Stockholm to play in the royal orchestra, but was already out of the job by 1674 owing to some disagreement with Düben. After authorities in Hamburg turned him down, Geist spent a decade in Gothenburg, playing an organ that was barely built, and petitioning -- frequently without success -- for payment for services rendered. Finally, in 1684 Geist made it back to Copenhagen, playing organ in three churches, though he dropped one of these positions in 1686. Geist married the widow of his predecessor, presented public concerts, and enjoyed a fairly stable existence in Copenhagen until a late outbreak of bubonic plague in 1711 claimed him, his wife, and entire family.
All but six of Christian Geist's extant 60 or so vocal works have come down to us through Gustav Düben the elder's library and thus date only to 1670-1674; the remainder, in German rather than Latin, originated in Gothenberg. Three organ pieces commonly attributed to Geist are considered of unlikely authenticity; however, they are the most often heard works in his whole output. The vocal music, however, is extraordinary; while all but two pieces are set to sacred texts, most were not meant for use in services but for early public concerts given to an exceptionally pious audience to whom secular material was considered either inappropriate or sinful. The pieces are well situated to the modest ensembles used in such affairs and betray a highly chromatic and individual style; whomever Geist's main teacher may have been -- Danielis, Schop, or his father -- Geist was grounded in the Italian style current some two generations before he was born. Geist was not wholly limited to the sacred concerto genre; two motets by him are known to have been used at the coronation ceremonies held in Stockholm when King Charles IX attained his majority in 1672, and these are more ambitious in scale and scope. Read less
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