In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Georg Philipp Telemann

  • Introduction
  • Reference Resources
  • Magdeburger Telemann-Studien (MTS)
  • Festschriften
  • Other Essay Collections
  • Instrumental Music
  • Borrowing
  • Concertos and Ouvertures
  • Chamber Music

Music Georg Philipp Telemann
Jeanne Swack
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0082


Georg Philipp Telemann (b. 1681–d. 1767) was born in Magdeburg 14 March 1681. He began singing lessons at the age of ten and studied organ for two weeks, after which he quit in disappointment. Otherwise he was self-taught as a composer and a performer; he composed his first opera when he was twelve years old. In late 1693 or early 1694 he was sent to Zellerfeld to study, and in 1697 to the Gymnasium Andreanum in Hildesheim. Telemann entered the University of Leipzig in the fall of 1701 to study law. In June 1705 he took the position of Kapellmeister at the court of Count Erdmann von Promnitz in Sorau, Poland. By late 1708 he became Konzertmeister at the Eisenach court in order to direct the newly established court ensemble. There he composed some of his earliest-known concertos, as well as church music. In 1712 Telemann became director of city music and Kapellmeister in Frankfurt am Main. In September 1721, Telemann became cantor of the Hamburg Johanneum and director of music at Hamburg’s five principal churches. He was also required to compose music for civic occasions. In 1722 he also took over the directorship of the Hamburg opera. In August 1722 he successfully auditioned for the position of Thomaskantor in Leipzig; he turned the job down but was able to use the offer to obtain a raise in Hamburg (the job was finally given to Johann Sebastian Bach). In 1737–1738 he was in residence in Paris for eight months, where he premiered new works, including the well-known Nouveaux Quatuors. Telemann continued to compose nearly up until his death on 25 June 1767, at the age of eighty-six. Telemann was considered in his lifetime to be one of the most famous and prestigious German composers. The most prolific composer in the history of Western music, Telemann composed in virtually every genre known in his day. An innovator in the development of style and genre in the early 18th century, Telemann was especially interested in combining national styles and genres in new and novel ways. Over his long career, spanning from the late 17th century through the 1760s, he was at the forefront of the development of new genres, such as the Concertouverture and the Lutheran cantata in its proper sense; that is, a mixture of traditional chorale and biblical texts with newly composed poetry, as developed by his friend and colleague Erdmann Neumeister. He pioneered novel genres, such as the unaccompanied Fantasias for flute, violin, and viola da gamba. His reputation at the time far overshadowed that of his friend Johann Sebastian Bach, and virtually every German writer on music at the time praised his works. He was also a pioneer in music publishing, engraving, printing, and marketing most of his own printed collections. His innovations in publishing extended to the publication of his pioneering music magazine, Der getreue Musik-Meister, designed for amateur musicians, and he was the director of the Hamburg Opera from 1722 to 1738, where he not only composed new works, but arranged the works of other composers for performance. Although his reputation waned after his death, there has been a revival of his music since the late 20th century, with extensive editing and recording of previously unpublished or neglected works.


The principal ongoing collected edition of Telemann’s works is the Telemann-Auswahl-Ausgabe (Telemann Selective Edition, Georg Philipp Telemann: Musikalische Werke) published by Bärenreiter, Kassel and begun in 1950. Selected works have been published in a number of other series, some of them ongoing.

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