Georg Philipp Telemann (March 14, 1681 – June 25, 1767) was a German Baroque music composer, born in Magdeburg. Self-taught in music, he studied law at the University of Leipzig. Often described as the most prolific composer in history (at least in terms of surviving oeuvre), he was a contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi and a lifelong friend of George Frideric Handel. While in the present day Bach is generally thought of as the greater composer, Telemann was more widely renowned for his musical abilities during his lifetime.
Telemann traveled widely, absorbing various musical styles and incorporating them into his own compositions. He is known for writing concertos for unusual combinations of instruments, such as multiple violas or trumpets or oboes or harpsichords.
He held a series of important musical positions, culminating in that of music director of the five largest churches in Hamburg, from 1720 until his death in 1767.
In 1701, Telemann entered Leipzig University intending to study law, perhaps at the request of his mother. It was not long before his musical talent was discovered, however, and he was commissioned to write music for two of the city’s main churches. Soon thereafter, he founded a 40-member Collegium Musicum to give concerts of his music. The next year, Telemann became the director of Leipzig’s opera house and cantor of one of its churches. His growing prominence began to anger elder composer Johann Kuhnau, whose position as director of music for the city had been encroached upon by Telemann’s appointment as a cantor. Telemann was also using many students in his opera productions, leaving them less time to devote to participation in church music for Kuhnau. Kuhnau denounced Telemann as an “opera musician”. Even after Telemann’s departure, Kuhnau could not regain the performers he had lost to the opera.
Telemann left Leipzig in 1705 to become Kapellmeister for the court of Count Erdmann II in Sorau (now Zary, Poland). Here he acquainted himself with the French style of Lully and Campra, composing many overtures and suites in his two years at the post. An invasion of Germany by Sweden forced Count Erdmann's court to evacuate the castle. Telemann apparently visited Paris in 1707; and was later appointed as a leader of the singers at the court in Eisenach, where he met Johann Sebastian Bach. The major position of Telemann's life was his appointment in 1721 as musical director of the five main churches in Hamburg, a position he would hold for the rest of his life. Here Telemann wrote two cantatas for each Sunday, as well as other sacred music for special occasions, all while teaching singing and music theory and directing another collegium musicum, which gave weekly or bi-weekly performances. Telemann also directed the local opera house for a few years, but this proved a financial failure.
When the position Kuhnau had once held in Leipzig became vacant, Telemann applied for the position. Of the six musicians who applied, he was the favored candidate, even winning the approval of the city’s council. Telemann declined the position, but only after using the offer as leverage to secure a pay raise for his position in Hamburg. When Telemann declined the job, it was offered to Christoph Graupner, who also declined it, paving the way for J.S. Bach. Telemann augmented his Hamburg pay with a few small positions in other courts and through publishing volumes of his own music.
Starting around 1740, Telemann’s output decreased as he began to focus more on writing theoretical treatises. During this time he corresponded with some younger composers, including Franz Benda and Telemann's godson, C.P.E. Bach. Following the death of his eldest son Andreas in 1755, Telemann assumed the responsibility of raising his grandson Georg Michael Telemann, and beginning the future composer’s education in music. Many of his sacred oratorios date from this period. In his later years, Telemann’s eyesight began to deteriorate, and this led to a decline in his output around 1762, but the composer continued to write until his death on June 25, 1767.
Telemann was highly regarded during his lifetime, and for several decades afterwards; however, by the first decades of the 19th century his works were performed less frequently. The last performance of a substantial work by Telemann, Der Tod Jesu, until the 20th century, was in 1832. Indeed, the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, which includes large articles on both J. S. Bach and Handel, does not contain an entry on Telemann.
The revival of interest in Telemann began in the first decades of the 20th century and culminated in the Bärenreiter critical edition of the 1950s. Early music ensembles now commonly perform Telemann's works and numerous recordings of his music are available.
Today each of Telemann's works is usually given a TWV number. TWV stands for Telemann Werkeverzeichnis (Telemann Work Catalogue). TWV is followed by a numeral, a colon, a letter and a number. The first number after TWV indicates the general type of medium, the letter after the colon is the key of the particular work, and the following number is the numbering within that type of work. For example, Telemann's Concerto polonois in B flat major for strings and basso continuo is TWV 43:B3. And, for another example, Telemann's Suite in D major is TWV 55:D18.
Georg Philipp Telemann.( Miriways: Singspiel in drei Akten nach einem Libretto von Johann Samuel Muller; Die Last-tragende Liebe, oder Emma und Eginhard: Singspiel in drei Akten nach einem Libretto von Christoph Gottlieb Wend )(Book Review)
Dec 01, 2002; Georg Philipp Telemann. Miriways: Singspiel in drei Akten nach einem Libretto von Johann Samuel Muller, TWV 21:24. Herausgegeben...
Georg Philipp Telemann: Thematisch-Systematisches Verzeichnis seiner Werke: Telemann-Werkverzeichnis (TWV): Instrumentalwerke.(Review)
Sep 01, 2000; Georg Philipp Telemann: Thematisch-Systematisches Verzeichnis seiner Werke: Telemann-Werkverzeichnis (TWV): Instrumentalwerke....