Georg Phillip Telemann (1681-1767) is today a fairly well known Baroque composer, at least among classical music buffs. He was a contemporary of Handel and J. S. Bach — who both counted Telemann as a friend and admired his music. Receiving that kind of endorsement is like having Anthony Hopkins or Daniel Day-Lewis tell you you’re a great actor.
Self-taught, innovative, versatile, immensely popular in his day and arguably the most prolific composers of all time, Telemann strongly influenced the musical style of the later Baroque and early Classical eras.
The imaginativeness of Telemann’s compositions is one of the first things I noticed during my recent Telemann binge-listening marathon. His music is full of unusual twists and turns. With Telemann, you never quite know what’s coming, but it’s always better than you expected. Also noticeable: The differences in his sacred, concert and operatic compositions are more pronounced than what I discern in most other composers.
Of course I have no idea of what Telemann’s personality was like, but I’d wager he had a pretty good sense of humor. His music has a certain playfulness that’s definitely lacking in J. S. Bach and Handel, but very much present in a composer who came along a little bit later, Mozart.
Samples of Telemann
This lovely aria is from his comic opera Der geduldige Socrates (Patient Socrates), which premiered in 1721. The entire opera is terrific. If you enjoy opera, listen to the whole thing, as well as Orpheus, Germanicus and Flavius Bertaridus — all excellent.
This is from his Brockes Passion, better than Handel’s version, in my opinion:
This is his concerto for three oboes, three violins and continuo in B-flat major:
His Overture Suite in G major, La Bizarre:
(Image credit – Wikimedia Commons)
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