Georg Philipp Telemann

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Georg Philipp Telemann

Georg Philipp Telemann (Magdeburg, Sacrum Germanic Roman Empire, March 14, 1681 – Hamburg, Holy Roman Empire, June 25, 1767) was a German baroque composer, although his work was also had characteristics of early classicism. He is considered the most prolific composer in the history of music.

Self-taught in music, studied law at the University of Leipzig. He was a contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Friedrich Händel.

So prolific that he was never able to count the number of his compositions, he traveled a lot, absorbing different musical studies and incorporating them into his own compositions. He obtained a series of important positions, culminating with that of music director of the five largest churches in Hamburg, from 1720 until his death, in 1767. He was succeeded by his son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.

Georg_Philipp_Telemann’s Biography

Georg Philipp Telemann was born in Magdeburg, the current capital of the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt. His family had no particular interest in music, since only one great-grandfather had been a singer in Halberstadt, and no other relative had had any connection with it.

The father died in 1685, leaving the education of the young Telemann in charge of the widow. They had jobs in the local church and they were a middle-class family. The boy began to discover music at 10 years of age, showing immediate talent when composing his first opus at age 12. However, this ability did not have the support of his family; fearing that Telemann would pursue a musical career, his mother stripped him of all instruments and sent him in 1693 to a new school in Zellerfeld, in the hope that this change would direct the boy towards a more lucrative profession. Key factors for Telemann becoming the most famous musician of his time in Germany were his sense of humor, a friendly personality, tremendous self-confidence and incredible productivity from an early age.

The maternal strategy finally failed because the school principal observed the musical talent of the new student and allowed Telemann to continue composing and expanding his knowledge in a self-taught way. By the time he completed his studies in Hildesheim, Telemann had learned to play the flute, the organ, the violin, the viola da gamba, the transverse flute, the oboe, the chalumeau, among other musical instruments almost without help. His travels also allowed him to meet new musical styles, his first influences being Johann Rosenmüller and Arcangelo Corelli

In 1701, Telemann entered the University of Leipzig in order to study law, possibly at the request of his mother. The new attempt lasted no more than it took for his talent to be discovered, and soon he was commissioned to compose music for the main churches of the city. Soon after, he founded a 40-member collegium musicum to give concerts of his music. The following year he was named director of the Leipzig Opera and the cantor of one of his churches. His growing fame begins to disturb the major composer Johann Kuhnau, whose position as musical director of the city was put at risk by being named Telemann singer. Telemann also occupied many students in his operatic productions, taking away time to participate in the sacred music promoted by Kuhnau.


Signatures of Telemann (1714 and 1757).

Finally, Kuhnau denounced Telemann as an “opera musician”, but even after the latter’s departure, he failed to recover the interpreters he had lost.

Telemann left Leipzig in 1705 to act as a choirmaster at the court of Count Erdmann II in Sorau, where he became acquainted with the French style of Lully and Campra, composing various overtures and suites during the two years he was in Market Stall. The invasion of Germany by the Swedes forced the court of Erdmann to evacuate the castle. It is believed that Telemann visited Paris in 1707 and then was appointed head of singers at the court of Eisenach, where he met Johann Sebastian Bach. The main charge obtained by Telemann was his appointment in 1721 as musical director of the five main churches of Hamburg, since he would keep the rest of his life. There he wrote two cantatas for each Sunday liturgy, as well as other sacred music for special occasions, in addition to teaching singing and music theory, and directing another collegium musicum, which performed one or two concerts per week. Telemann also directed the local opera for a few years, but this meant a financial bankruptcy.

When the Kuhnau post in Leipzig was vacant, Telemann was presented as a candidate, being approved by the city council among six applicants. However, he rejected the appointment, although not before using it as an excuse to obtain a salary increase in his position in Hamburg. Given the persistence of the vacancy, the council of Leipzig selected Christoph Graupner, who also did not accept the appointment. Who finally assumed the position was Johann Sebastian Bach. Telemann also increased its revenues in Hamburg with several minor charges in other courts, and with the publication of volumes of its own music.

His musical production began to decline after 1740 and he focused more energetically on writing theoretical treatises. During this time he also worked with some young composers, such as Franz Benda and his godson, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.

After the death of his eldest son Andreas in 1755, Telemann assumed the responsibility of raising his grandson Georg Michael Telemann, initiating the musical education of the future composer. Many of his oratorios come from this era. In the last years his sight began to deteriorate, and this problem led him to diminish his activity as of 1762. In spite of this, he continued composing until his death, on June 25, 1767.

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