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Telemann, Georg Philippe
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Georg Philipp Telemann

(Born; Magdeburg, 14 March 1681; Died; Hamburg, 25 June 1767). German composer. He was one of the most prolific composers ever. At ten he could play four instruments and had written arias, motets and instrumental works. His parents discouraged musical studies, but he gravitated back to them. At Leipzig University he founded a collegium musicum; at 21 he became musical director of the Leipzig Opera; at 23 he took on a post as church organist. The next year he moved to Zary, as court Kapellmeister, where he wrote French-style dance suites, sometimes tinged by local Polish and Moravian folk music, and cantatas. In 1708 he went in the same capacity to the Eisenach court and in 1712 to Frankfurt as city music director. As Kapellmeister of a church there, he wrote at least five cantata cycles and works for civic occasions, while his duties as director of a collegium musicum drew from him instrumental works and oratorios.

He was offered various other positions, but moved only in 1721, when he was invited to Hamburg as director of music at the five main churches and Kantor at the Johanneum. Here he had to write two cantatas each Sunday, with extra ones for special church and civic occasions, as well as an annual Passion, oratorio and serenata. In his spare time he directed a collegium musicum and wrote for the opera house; the city councillors waived their objections to the latter when he indicated that he would otherwise accept an invitation to Leipzig. He directed the Hamburg Opera from 1722 until its closure in 1738. In 1737 he paid a visit to Paris, appearing at court and the Concert Spirituel. From 1740 he devoted more time to musical theory, but from 1755 he turned to the oratorio. He published much of his music, notably a set of 72 cantatas and the three sets of Musique de table (1733), his best-known works, each including a concerto, a suite and several chamber pieces. He was eager to foster the spread of music and active in publishing several didactic works, for example on figured bass and ornamentation. He was by far the most famous composer in Germany; in a contemporary dictionary he is assigned four times as much space as J. S. Bach.

Telemann composed in all the forms and styles current in his day; he wrote Italian-style concertos and sonatas, French-style overture-suites and quartets, German fugues, cantatas, Passions and songs. Some of his chamber works, for example the quartets in the Musique de table, are in a conversational, dialogue-like manner that is lucid in texture and elegant in diction. Whatever style he used, Telemann's music is easily recognizable as his own, with its clear periodic structure, its clarity and its ready fluency. Though four years senior to Bach and Handel, he used an idiom more forward-looking than theirs and in several genres can be seen as a forerunner of the Classical style.

His grandson Georg Michael (1748-1831) was a Kantor and teacher at the cathedral school in Riga; his output includes church and organ works and writings on music.

Sacred vocal music Circa;1700 church cantatas; 27 Passions and Passion oratorios; 6 oratorios, incl. Der Tag des Gerichts (1762): 17 masses; 2 Magnificats; Circa;30 psalms; 16 motets; sacred songs, duets, canons; occasional cantatas; oratorios

Secular vocal music 9 operas incl. Der geduldige Socrates (1721), Pimpinone, intermezzo (1725); music for other composers operas; occasional serenades, cantatas; Circa;50 solo cantatas; over 100 songs

Orchestral music Circa;120 ovs.; 4 syms.; 2 divertimentos; 47 concs. for solo inst; Circa;50 other concs.

Chamber music 36 solo fantasias; duos; Circa;100 vn sonatas, fl sonatas; over 100 trio sonatas; over 50 qts, qnts; lute pieces

Keyboard music fugues , chorale preludes; suites, fantasias, minuets
(c)Groves Dictionaries, MacMillan Publishers Limited, UK

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