Born March 14, 1681 in Magdeburg, Brandenburg,Georg Philipp TelemannHe was a German composer of the late Baroque period, who wrote sacred and secular music, but who was much admired for his ecclesiastical compositions, which ranged from small cantatas to large-format works for soloists, choir and orchestra.
TelemannHe was the son of a Protestant minister and received a good general education, but never received music lessons. Although he showed great musical gifts at a young age, his family discouraged him from becoming a professional musician, which at the time was not an attractive or paid occupation. However, being self-taught, he acquired a great facility to compose and play musical instruments as diverse as the violin, the recorder, the oboe, the viola da gamba, the chalumeau and the clavier. In 1701 he enrolled at the University of Leipzig as a law student, but musical activities soon prevailed and absorbed him for the rest of his life.
Leipzig became the springboard of the musical career ofTelemann. The municipal authorities realized that, in addition to his musical gifts, the young man had extraordinary energy, diligence and talent for organization. He was commissioned to assist the Thomaskirche organist, Johann Kuhnau, in composing church cantatas, and he was also assigned a position as organist in the university chapel.Telemannhe reorganized the collegium musicum, the student music society, into an efficient amateur orchestra that gave public concerts (then a novelty) and became conductor of the Leipzig Opera, for which he also composed. His next posts were at two princely courts: first as a Kapellmeister (conductor of the court orchestra) in Sorau (now Zary, Poland; 1705-08), then as Concertmaster (first violinist) and later as Kapellmeister in Eisenach (1708-12). By playing, conducting, studying, and composing, he acquired the musical knowledge, practical experience, and ease of composition that would be vital when he assumed the musical direction of Frankfurt am Main (1712–21) and Hamburg (1721–67). In Frankfurt he was the musical director of two churches and responsible for the city’s official music. As in Leipzig, he reorganized the student collegium musicum and gave public concerts with the group.
A master of the major styles of his day — German, Italian, and French — he could write easily and fluently in any of them, and often absorbed influences from Polish and English music. He composed for the church as well as for the opera and concerts. His music was natural in melody, daring in harmonies, upbeat in rhythm, and beautifully orchestrated. Deep or witty, serious or light, it never lacked quality or variety. Telemann’s printed compositions number more than 50 works, among them (counting each one as an article) the famous collectionTable music(published in 1733; containing three orchestral suites, three concertos, three quartets, three trios, and three sonatas); the first music periodical,Der getreue Music-Meister(1728–29; contains 70 compositions);Der harmonische Gottesdienst(1725–26; 72 church cantatas); and 36 fantasies for harpsichord.
In the eyes of his eighteenth-century contemporaries,Georg Philipp Telemannhe was the greatest composer of the time. Through his public concerts, he presented to the general public music previously reserved for the court, the aristocracy, or a limited number of bourgeois. His massive production of publications provided instrumental and vocal material for Protestant churches throughout Germany, for orchestras and for a wide variety of amateur and professional musicians.