Georg Philipp Telemann  
Georg Philipp Telemann
Georg Philipp Telemann, (born March 14, 1681, Magdeburg, Brandenburg [Germany]—died June 25, 1767, Hamburg), German composer of the late Baroque period, who wrote both sacred and secular music but was most admired for his church compositions, which ranged from small cantatas to large-scale works for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Telemann was the son of a Protestant minister and was given a good general education but never actually received music lessons. Though he showed great musical gifts at an early age, he was discouraged by his family from becoming a professional musician, at that time neither an attractive nor a remunerative occupation. By self-teaching, however, he acquired great facility in composing and in playing such diverse musical instruments as the violin, recorder, oboe, viola da gamba, chalumeau, and clavier. In 1701 he enrolled at the University of Leipzig as a law student, but musical activities soon prevailed and were to engross him for the rest of his life.

Leipzig became the stepping-stone for Telemann’s musical career. The municipal authorities there realized that, apart from his musical gifts, the young firebrand possessed extraordinary energy, diligence, and a talent for organization. They commissioned him to assist the organist of the Thomaskirche, Johann Kuhnau, by composing church cantatas for alternate Sundays, and also gave him a position as organist at the university chapel, Neuenkirche. Telemann reorganized the collegium musicum, the student musical society, into an efficient amateur orchestra that gave public concerts (then a novelty) and became director of the Leipzig Opera, for which he also composed. Telemann’s next positions were at two princely courts: first as kapellmeister (conductor of the court orchestra) in Sorau (now Żary, Poland; 1705–08), then as concertmaster (first violinist) and later kapellmeister in Eisenach (1708–12). By playing, conducting, studying, and composing he gained the musical knowledge, practical experience, and facility in composing that were to be vital when he assumed the musical directorship of Frankfurt am Main (1712–21) and Hamburg (1721–67). In Frankfurt he was musical director of two churches and in charge of the town’s official music. As in Leipzig, he reorganized the students’ collegium musicum and gave public concerts with the group. In Frankfurt Telemann started publishing music that made him famous not only in Germany but also abroad. As musical director of Hamburg, one of the outstanding musical positions of the time, he supplied the five main churches with music, was in charge of the Hamburg Opera, and served as cantor at Hamburg’s renowned humanistic school, the Johanneum, where he also was an instructor in music. In Hamburg, too, he directed a collegium musicum and presented public concerts. In 1729 he refused a call to organize a German orchestra at the Russian court. He had also declined an offer in 1722 from municipal authorities in Leipzig to succeed Kuhnau as organist of the Thomaskirche. This proffered position, which had been promised him 17 years earlier by authorities in the event of Kuhnau’s death, manifested the high esteem in which even the young Telemann was held. (Following Telemann’s refusal, the position fell to Johann Sebastian Bach.) In addition to all his activities in Hamburg, he also supplied (by contract) the courts of Eisenach and Bayreuth, as well as the town of Frankfurt, with music and continued to publish his compositions.


A master of the principal styles of his time—German, Italian, and French—he could write with ease and fluency in any of them and often absorbed influences of Polish and English music. He composed equally as well for the church as for opera and concerts. His music was natural in melody, bold in harmonies, buoyant in rhythm, and beautifully orchestrated. Profound or witty, serious or light, it never lacked quality or variety. Telemann’s printed compositions number more than 50 opuses, among them (counting each as one item) the famous collection Musique de table (published in 1733; containing three orchestral suites, three concerti, three quartets, three trios, and three sonatas); the first music periodical, Der getreue Music-Meister (1728–29; containing 70 compositions); Der harmonische Gottesdienst (1725–26; 72 church cantatas); and 36 fantasias for harpsichord.

Except for a brief journey to France (1737–38), where he was enthusiastically received, Telemann never left Germany. He married twice and had eight sons and three daughters. His first wife died young in childbirth; his second wife absconded with a Swedish officer, leaving Telemann with a debt of 3,000 taler. Apart from being a prolific composer, he was also a keen writer; his two autobiographies of 1718 and 1739 are comparatively well documented. He published a long poem after his first wife’s death, and many words in his vocal compositions came from his own pen. Especially noteworthy are Telemann’s many prefaces to collections of his music, which contain a great amount of practical advice on how his compositions (as well as those of his contemporaries) should be performed. A friend of Bach and Handel, he was godfather to Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel, who succeeded as musical director of Hamburg after Telemann’s death at the age of 86.

In the eyes of his 18th-century contemporaries, Georg Philipp Telemann was the greatest living composer. The dreaded critic Johann Mattheson wrote of him that “Corelli and Lully may be justly honoured but Telemann is above all praise.” Through his public concerts Telemann introduced to the general public music previously reserved for the court, the aristocracy, or a limited number of burghers. His enormous output of publications provided instrumental and vocal material for Protestant churches throughout Germany, for orchestras, and for a great variety of amateur and professional musicians.

The multiplicity of Telemann’s activities and the great number of his compositions are remarkable, indeed. In his lifetime he was most admired for his church compositions. These vary from small cantatas, suitable for domestic use or for use in churches with limited means, to large-scale works for soloists, chorus, and orchestra. His secular vocal music also has a wide range, from simple strophic songs to the dramatic cantata Ino, written at the age of 84. Of his operas the comic ones were the most successful, particularly Pimpinone. His orchestral works consist of suites (called ouvertures), concerti grossi, and concerti. His chamber works are remarkable for their quantity, the great variety of instrumental combinations, and the expert writing for each instrument.

After Telemann’s death, the new music styles of Haydn and Mozart obliterated the older ones. And in the 19th century, when the works of Bach and Handel were reappraised, Telemann’s reputation was reduced to that of a prolific but superficial scribbler. In the 20th century, however, a historically and aesthetically more correct opinion has been formed, largely through studies by Max Schneider and Romain Rolland. New editions of his work have appeared, especially since the 1930s, and the interest of players, conductors, and publishers has increased.

Walter G. Bergmann

Encyclopædia Britannica

Telemann's birthplace, the city of Magdeburg, in early 18th century.

Telemann was born in Magdeburg in Germany into a family with strong links with the clergy. He received no specific musical education, yet by the age often had learned to play the keyboard, flute, violin, and zither; by the time he was 12 he had even written an opera. Unimpressed, his mother confiscated his instruments and sent him away to school. There, fortunately, the superintendent was a music theorist, and for the next four years Telemann outwardly continued to please his family with formal studies while at the same time developing his understanding of musical composition.

His education progressed to the Gymnasium Andreanum in Hildesheim, where he was again lucky in finding a teacher who encouraged him to compose music for school dramas and for the local Catholic church. After a spell at Leipzig University studying law, Telemann settled in Leipzig and wrote a psalm setting, which was performed at the Thomaskirche and led to an invitation from the mayor to compose a cantata for every second Sunday. This annoyed the new Cantor at the church, who tried to curb Telemann's increasing influence; but it was not long before the commissions were requested for every Sunday.

In 1702 the young composer founded the Collegium Musicum, with which he staged regular concerts. The same year he was appointed musical director of the Leipzig Opera and started to compose operas, giving roles to some of his students. When a new organ was installed in the University church he offered his Collegium Musicum to provide sacred music on feast days.

Telemann left Leipzig in 1705 and briefly held the position of Kapellmeister to Count Erdmann II of Promnitz in Sorau (now Poland), composing courtly music in the style of Lully at the Count's request. In 1708 he became Konzcrtmeister to the Eisenach Court, leading the court orchestra and writing cantatas and instrumental music. He took up a post in Frankfurt in 1712 and two years later married the daughter of a Frankfurt council clerk, with whom he raised ten children.

In 1721 Telemann was appointed Cantor of the Hamburg Johanneum, and eventually became Music Director of the Hamburg Opera. He increased the city's musical activity by mounting a series of concerts and operas, including works by Handel. During this period he composed his three collections of Tafelmusik (Table Music). As the name suggests, these pieces were to be played as accompaniment to banquets in noble and middleclass circles. Each set begins with a French-style overture, followed by a sequence of melodic pieces which could be played in any order.

Over the years, Telemann's energy declined; but towards the end of his life, encouraged by Handel — who was a friend of some 50 years' standing — he turned to writing oratorios, a genre m which he had previously shown little interest. In the course of seven years, from 1755 to 1762, he wrote six oratorios, including in 1762 Der Tag des Gerichrs (The Day of Judgment). These, together with his vast output of 600 Italian overtures, as well as 47 concertos for solo instruments (21 for violin) and 40 operas, comfortably ensure his enduring reputation.

Georg Philipp Telemann - Essercizii Musici
Camerata Köln
Georg Philipp Telemann Chamber Works,Musica Alta Ripa
Georg Philipp Telemann Chamber Music
Georg Philipp Telemann Ouvertures and Concertos
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) - Tafelmusik - Production 1

I. Ouverture - Suite in B flat major for two oboes, bassoon, strings & b.c. TWV55:B1

1. Ouverture (Lentement- Presto-Lentement-Presto) 0:00
2. Bergerie (un peu vivement) 8:10
3. Allegresse (vite) 10:44
4. Postillons 13:11
5. Flaterie 15:17
6. Badinage (très vite) 18:23
7. Menuet 20:46

II. Quatuor in E minor for flute, violin, violoncello & b.c. TWV43:e2

1. Adagio 23:48
2. Allegro 25:51
3. Dolce 27:52
4. Allegro 30:28

III. Concerto in E flat major for two horns, strings & b.c. TWV54:Es1

1. Maestoso 32:35
2. Allegro 35:27
3. Grave 40:02
4. Vivace 42:45

IV. Trio in D major for 2 flutes & b.c. TWV42:D5

1. Andante 47:09
2. Allegro 49:23
3. Grave-Largo-Grave 51:28
4. Vivace 53:56

V. Solo in G minor for oboe & b.c. TWV41:g6

1. Largo 55:56
2. Presto-Tempo giusto-Presto 58:40
3. Andante 1:03:11
4. Allegro 1:04:16

VI. Conclusion in B flat major for two oboes, bassoon, strings & b.c. TWV50:10

1. Furioso 1:07:02


Pieter-Jan Belder, conductor
Rémy Baudet, leader

Rémy Baudet, leader (Soloist: I - III)
Franc Polman
Sayuri Yamagata (Soloist: I, III)
Kees Koelmans
Pauline Kostense
Marinette Troost
Annelies van der Vegt
Gustavo Zarba

Staas Swierstra
Marten Boeken

Albert Brüggen
Jaap ter Linden (Soloist: II)
Richte van der Meer
Nils Wieboldt

Double bass
Margaret Urquhart
Robert Franenberg
James Munro

Wilbert Hazelzet (Soloist: II, IV)
Kate Clark (Soloist: IV)

Alfredo Bernardini (Soloist: I, V)
Frank de Bruine
Peter Frankenberg (Soloist: I)

Danny Bond (Soloist: I)

Pieter-Jan Belder

William Wroth

Teunis van der Zwart (Soloist: III)
Erwin Wieringa (Soloist: III)

Pieter-Jan Belder

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) - Tafelmusik - Production 2
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) - Tafelmusik - Production 3
Georg Philipp Telemann Der Messias,Concerti
Georg Philipp Telemann - "Concerto per tromba in Re magg." Adagio
Museo di San Francesco in Mercatello sul Metauro (Pesaro e Urbino).
Chiesa di San Francesco. Concerto di Mezz'Estate - 12 agosto 2009.
tromba Francesco marconi - Orchestra Sinfonica G. Rossini - clavicembalo Lorenzo Antinori - direttore Lanfranco Marcelletti
Georg Philipp Telemann- Concerto in E major for flute, oboe d'amore, viola d'amore & strings-Allegro
This is the twelfth track from Triple Concertos, performed by Collegium Musicum 90 and conducted by Simon Standage, 1995. Rachel Brown on flute, Anthony Robson on oboe d'amore, and Simon Standage on viola d'amore.
Georg Philipp Telemann: Overture for Violin & Strings in A major
Álbum: Telemann: Complete Overtures Vol.1 (Disc 3)
Interpretes del álbum: Patrick Peire, Marc Peire, Elisabeth Schollaert, Ellen Donovan, Ruth Van Killegem, Philippe Benoit, Lindy Vanden Berk, Koen Coppé, Ivo Hadermann & Collegium Instrumentale Brugense
Compositor: Georg Philipp Telemann
Año: 2005
Genero: Barroco Alemán
Movimientos: Overture-Divertimento-Le Lusinghe-Minuets-Pasatempo-Tempo di Giga
Georg Philipp Telemann: Overture for Violin & Strings in B minor
Álbum: Telemann: Complete Overtures Vol.2 (Disc 3)
Interpretes del álbum: Patrick Peire, Elisabeth Schollaert, Bram Nolf, Jan Maebe, Marc Peire, Ruth Van Killegem, Koen Coppé & Collegium Instrumentale Brugense
Compositor: Georg Philipp Telemann
Año: 2006
Genero: Barroco Alemán
Movimientos: Overture-Gavotte-Loure-Rejouissance-La Bravoure-Minuets-Rodomontate
Telemann / Karl Ristenpart, Maurice Andre, 1962: Trumpet Concerto in D major - Grave, Aria, Adagio
The German conductor Karl Ristenpart (1900-1967) leads the Chamber Orchestra of the Saar in a 1962 performance of the second movement of the Telemann Concerto in D major for Trumpet, 2 Oboes, Strings and Continuo. This recording features Maurice Andre (trumpet) and Helmut Winschermann and Erich Bolz (oboes). I created this music video from the cassette pictured above, issued sometime in the early 1980s on the Nonesuch label, serial number 9 71132-4.
Classical Music Timeline

Classical Music History

Instruments Through the Ages

Composers and Masterworks