Telemann, Georg Philipp


Contemporary of Bach, who was honored as the equal of that greatest of masters. Was born at Magdeburg. His early training was desultory, but, being of a persistent nature, he learned much from a careful study of scores of great masters, among them Campra and Lully. The influence of the latter  may be clearly seen in an opera which he wrote when only twelve years old. In 1695 he conducted the music of the Catholic Church at Hildesheim. In 1700 he went to Leipsic University to pursue a course of science and languages, and while there he organized a student club called Collegium Musicium. He was also organist in the Neukirche. In 1714 he was made chapelmaster to Prince Promnitz at Sorau, and in 1708 concertmaster to the Court of Eisenach, succeeding Hebenstreit to the post of Hof- Kapellmeister in 1709.Still retaining this title and a pension, in 1711 he was called to Frankfort to become music-director to St. Catherine's Church, and to the Frauenstein, a local musical society. About this time he received the appointment of chapelmaster to the Prince of Bayreuth. Ten years later he was offered the position of music-director to the principal church of Hamburg and cantor of the Johanneium, and went to Hamburg, where he passed the remainder of his life. In 1823 he was offered the position of cantor at the Thomasschule at Leipsic, which on his declining it was given to Bach. Telemann wrote so many compositions that a great many of them are not even numbered. He had a thorough technical knowledge of music and wrote with the greatest facility, but his works are lacking in depth and grandeur, and his churchpieces particularly seem shallow. He had a bad influence on the churchmusic of his day, as he was considered a composer of the very highest ability, and consequently had many followers. He seems to have been affected by Italian composition, then decadent, and by French composition with which he became acquainted during a visit to Paris in 1737. His writings are lacking in depth and originality. Some of the most important of his writings are twelve complete sets of services for the year; thirty-two services for the installation of the Hamburg clergy; fourteen wedding  services; twenty ordination and anniversary services; forty-four Passions; twelve funeral services; many oratorios, of which the most important are Der Tag des Gerichts; Auferstehung Christi; a Passion to the words of Brockes; Tod Jesu; Die Tageszeiten; a Passion to words selected from the Gospels by himself, which is probably his best known work. He wrote about forty operas that were performed at Bayreuth, Eisenach and Hamburg; almost six hundred overtures; fifty minuets for harpsichord and other instruments; another set of fifty minuets; and a great mass of lesser music, chiefly instrumental.