Mattheson, Johann



Exceedingly versatile and diligent student, diplomat and musical composer; born at Hamburg. His versatility showed itself early, for besides music he studied modern languages, law, and political science, and possessed all the accomplishments of a cultivated gentleman of that time. When nine years old he played a composition of his own on the organ in Hamburg. In 1696 he made his debut in opera in a female part, and in 1699 produced his first opera, Die Pleyaden, appearing in Cleopatra as Antony in 1704. In 1703 Handel came to Hamburg and immediately became the friend of Mattheson and his rival for popular favor. In 1704 Mattheson became tutor to a son of Sir Cyril Wych, English envoy at Hamburg, and in 1706 was made Wych's secretary. In this capacity he was several times employed on various diplomatic affairs, but in spite of the great amount of labor he performed he still continued to compose, teach and write on musical subjects. In 1715 he was appointed cantor and canon of Hamburg Cathedral, and was instrumental in introducing variations such as duets, choruses and airs into church service, finally introducing women as church singers. In 1719 he was given the title of Court-Kapellmeister by the Duke of Holstein. In 1728, owing to deafness, he retired from his work at the Cathedral and devoted himself chiefly to writing. Among his works are Das neu eroffnete Orchester; Das deschütze and Das Forschende Orchester; Critica musica; Der Musikalische Patriot; Grundlage einer Ehrenpforte; and a collection of biographies of contemporary musicians. His theoretical works are Grosse Generalbassschule; Exemplarische Organisten Probe; Kleine Generalsschule, the Kern melodischer Wissenschaft and Vollkommene Capellmeister.