73. Georg Philipp Telemann [365 Composers for 2013]


14th March – Georg Philipp Telemann


Telemann (14th March 1681 – 25th June 1767) is our composer for 14th March, to mark the day of his birth
Nationality: German
Lifespan: 86 years
Genre: Baroque
Education: Self-taught
Fame Ranking: 2

Telemann was a man who was regarded with much respect in his own lifetime, but whose reputation suffered at the pen of later music critics to the extent that he was pretty much ignored for the whole of the 19th century. He was friends with Bach and Handel, and was even godfather to Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel, who was named after him. After his death he was unfavourably compared to his friends – the Encyclopedia Britannica for example described him as “vastly inferior”, and as a result his reputation dwindled to nothing. It was revived in the 20th century after it was discovered that some works previously attributed to J.S Bach were actually Telemann’s compositions.

Telemann was born into a religious family, with most family members employed by the church in some role. His family were not supportive of his desire to become a musician. His mother even confiscated all his musical instruments while he was a boy, to prevent him from pursuing his passion. Telemann, however, continued to compose in secret, completing his first opera aged just 12. He was largely self-taught, and over the years managed to become accomplished on a whole host of instruments including the organ, recorder, violin, zither,  flute, oboe, chalumeau, viola da gamba, double bass and bass trombone.

Telemann was extremely prolific, with over 3,000 works known to be by his hand. He is an important figure in music history because he is a link between the late Baroque and early Classical eras. He was very alert to new trends in music and was keen on blending styles from different nations, such as French, Italian and Polish. He continued composing even up to the day of his death.

Here is an example of Telemann’s “Tafelmusik” (“Table Music”) – music to be performed at a feast or banquet:

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Listen to more works by Telemann – click the box!


(1) http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/tomserviceblog/2012/sep/24/tom-service-guide-wolfgang-rihm


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