“I was born in Magdeburg on March 14, 1681. (…) My father, Henricus, was a preacher (…) and died January 17, 1685 when he was barely 39 years old. I was almost 4 years old at the time. My mother, Maria, was also descended from a pastor and died in 1710. In the elementary schools I learned the usual things: reading, writing, catechism and some Latin; but then I eventually took up playing on my own the violin, flute and zither and entertained my friends with this music without even knowing anything about notes on a page. When I was ten, I began attending the Gymnasium where I received a higher level of instruction from the cantor, Mr. Benedicto Christiani, (…) In music I had learned so much in only a few weeks that the cantor let me be his substitute for singing classes even though many in the class were much better than I. (…) I began composing myself, but without anyone knowing about this. Meanwhile, using an assumed name, I found a way to get my miserable effort at composition into the cantor’s hands and those of his prefect. Then I began to hear in church and on the street the best possible praise for the composer of this score. This emboldened me so much that I, at the age of twelve, got a hold of an opera from Hamburg, Sigismundus, and set it to music. It was performed on a hastily erected stage with me singing the role of the hero rather defiantly. I would love to see this score again if I were not in my right mind! Before I could attain such abilities in music, I first had to get some keyboard instruction, but unfortunately my first and only teacher was an organist who tried to terrorize me with German keyboard tablature notation which I then proceeded to play as stiffly as his grandfather did, from whom he originally inherited it. In my head I heard all sorts of more interesting melodies than were presented to me here. So I decided, after two weeks of torture, to quit these lessons. After this point in time, I never did learn anything more from music teachers. Oh, but what storms I had to endure because of the opera mentioned above! Hordes of music haters came to my mother and tried to persuade her that I would become charlatan, tightrope walker, minstrel, woodchuck trainer, etc., if I did not stop my involvement with music. The next thing I knew, they had taken away all my scores and instruments. With this they had robbed me of half of my life. In order to cure me of my preoccupation with music even more, they had decided to send me away from Magdeburg to a school in Zellerfeld located in the Harz Mountain region. This probably happened because my music tyrants probably thought that the witches in the Harz Mountains could not stand any music at all. After some time had passed, a mountain festival was to take place and the cantor was asked to set to music some poetry that been prepared for him. Unfortunately, he suffered from rather severe gout. Meanwhile I had already confided to one of my fellow students that I knew how to set texts to music. He revealed this to the cantor whereupon I was summoned to him and, upon his request, accepted to complete this task. When the day of the performance arrived, my cantor still could not leave his sickbed. That is why I ended up conducting the music as well. Since I was still not very tall, I had to stand on a small bench so that I could be seen by all the musicians. There were quite a few vocalists and instrumentalists and the music sounded good. The guileless miners, who were moved more by my small stature than by the harmonious music, wanted to show me their appreciation after the church service was over. A crowd of miners accompanied me home with one of them carrying me on his shoulder. All the while to honor me, I heard them frequently exclaim: “You are a proper little leader who sets the tone for all the others!” (…) This then tempted me to once again to indulge myself in a sort of innocent disobedience by beginning to play my spinet again, trying to figure out basso continuo on my own, and writing down my own set of rules for this. I did this because I did not know that books had already been written on this subject. I also did not want to ask the organist because of the fear that had been instilled in me by the terrible experience in Magdeburg that I still remembered quite clearly. I did not now forget to practice violin and flute as well. For almost every Sunday I prepared a cantata. For the choir I composed motets and for the city musicians all kinds of special event symphonies. (…) Also, the excellent instrumentalists in these cities stimulated in me the desire to improve my own ability to play these instruments. This would have happened if I had not been driven by a strong fire of enthusiasm to acquaint myself with other instruments besides keyboard, violin and flute. Now I also turned to learning how to play the oboe, transverse flute, chalameau, viola da gamba and even the contrabass and the bass trombone. Finally I had had enough of these years of service in a subordinate position and wanted very much to attend a university, so I chose Leipzig University. (…) my roommate, I do not know how this really happened, discovered by chance between the linen sheets in my suitcase Psalm 6 which I had set to music. I explained to him why I had composed this and he approved, but then he asked me if he could have it so that it could be performed next Sunday in St. Thomas Church. After hearing this composition, Mr. D. Romanus, the mayor of Leipzig at that time and also a privy councilor liked it so much that he persuaded me to compose something like this once every two weeks, for which I would receive considerable remuneration. (…) Now, when I received a new sum of money from my mother, whose orders I respected, I thought of her, sent back the money, wrote to her about my present circumstances and asked her to change her mind about my music-making. She gave me her blessing for my new endeavor. Now at least I was a musician again even if it was only part-time. (…) In 1704 I accepted an appointment as court conductor/music director in Sorau, (…) when the court moved to Plesse, an Upper-Silesian area which the Promnitz family governed, I became acquainted there and also in Krakau with Polish and Moravian music in its true, barbaric beauty. In the common inns of the region, the instruments consisted of a violin which was strapped to the body, tuned a third higher than usual, and which could ‘outscream’ a normal violin, a Polish bagpipe, a bass trombone and a portative. In fancier inns a portative would not be used, but the first two [Polish violins and bagpipes] were increased in number. I had once heard 36 bagpipes and 8 Polish violins playing together. It is impossible to imagine the fantastic musical ideas they presented between dances when the dancers rested and the musicians improvised music together to fill out the time. Anyone who paid very close attention could pick up in 8 days sufficient musical ideas to last a lifetime. In short, in this music there is much that is good if you know how to work with this material properly. Later I had composed various concerti and trios in this manner in which I featured a solo Italian bagpipe with alternating adagio and allegro sections. (…) I am reminded here of the strong support given to me by Mr. Hebenstreit on the violin. He must certainly be considered one of the best violin players known to me. I remember well whenever we had to play a concert together, I would lock myself in my room with the sleeve of my left arm rolled up and with this arm greased with ointment to strengthen the nerves and would try to improve my technical skill in order to try to hold my own against his superior playing ability. And lo and behold, my playing would improve considerably. Without considering the beautiful compositions which he had composed, it would be easy to imagine the large number of compositions which I supplied. I completed four yearly cantata cycles besides two others which were for the afternoon services where a few cantatas were still missing, not to mention the masses, communion music and the psalms. Add to these the serenatas for birthdays and name-days for which I also prepared the libretti. There must have been about 20 of these besides another 50 cantatas in Italian and German. How is it even possible to remember all my other compositions for strings and brass instruments?! I placed special emphasis on trios where my method involved making the second part just as important as the first and where the bass moved along with a natural melody and harmony closely associated with the two treble parts so that every note could not be any other note than the one it was. People tried to compliment me by saying that this was my special forte. (…)
Georg Philipp Telemann from Mattheson’s Ehren-Pforte, Hamburg, 1740
Translation by Thomas Braatz, 2009
Mattheson’s subscript/couplet following Telemann’s autobiography reads: People sing the praises of Lully; they speak very highly of Corelli; Only Telemann is above all praise.
I was born on October 29th, 1965. My father, Mimmo, died just after I was born, bequeathing me an old MC on which he sang Brassens with his guitar and a deep, warm voice. My mother had nothing to envy to an actual opera singer, but she was terribly proud of her musical illiteracy. My grandmother Ida actually went to the Conservatory but devoted her life to the family. My Grandfather Franco escaped the Nazi concentration camps to the pace of Boogie Woogie... he improvised with two stiff hands that barely spanned the keyboard. On the long car journeys to Calabria, we all (managing not to throw up) sang loud songs of the Italian resistance, popular songs from all the regions of Italy, arias from Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte, Traviata, Elisir d'amore, canons, roman stornelli... but back at home, I couldn't wait to put on the Inti Illimanos record and play El Condor Pasa with my plastic flute. I lived in a musically stimulating environment but without the pressures of a musicians' children, who have to make music at all costs, and that's why I'm musically omnivorous and playful.
At the age of twelve, Louisa di Segni, the progenitor of the Dalcroze method in Italy, saved me from traditional solfeggio, and Pedro Memelsdorff, a child at that time but a formidable flautist already, made me love the recorder and the Telemann’s duets. One day, playing with my sister Anna, I confessed... I played by ear! She reassured me and showed me a basic trick for the musical reading that I still jealously attended: she told me that in essence the music first rises and then goes down. Meanwhile, at the Italian Ancient Music Center, Sergio Siminowich gathered a real army of young talents. I sang in the choir and played in the orchestra with joy and pride as a real amateur. In a few years, I learned a significant part of the baroque repertoire. To satisfy the bureaucracy, I took a diploma at the Royal College of Music in London and another at the Conservatoire Populaire de Musique Ancienne in Geneva. The meeting with Alessandro de Marchi opened up new creative horizons, and together with other colleagues, we founded the “Teatro Armonico”, an ensemble with which we rigorously performed only unpublished scores.
I started to do some concerts, playing with the Academia Montis Regalis (L. Mangiocavallo, T. Koopman, C. Banchini, B. Kuijken, A. Bjlsma, S. Balestracci, J. Savall), Concerto Italiano - R. Alessandrini, Le Concert des Nations - J. Savall, Wiener Akademie - M. Haselbock, Il Complesso Barocco - A. Curtis, La Risonanza - F. Bonizzoni, Ars Antiqua Austria - G. Letzbor, Europa Galante - F. Biondi, L'Astrée, Musica Antiqua de Toulon, Il Teatro Armonico - A. De Marchi, La Cappella della Pietà dei Turchini - T. Florio, Accademia Bizantina - O. Dantone, I Sonatori della Giosiosa Marca - G. Fava, I Barocchisti - D. Fasolis, Modo Antiquo - F. M. Sardelli.
But a sudden and uncontrollable desire to attend the lower frequencies of the orchestra brought me closer to the baroque bassoon and then, an equal desire pushed me to explore his recent history, armed with the classical bassoon, then romantic, and I arrived at Beethoven and Rossini.
I participated in tours throughout Europe and South America at the main concert institutions and the most important ancient music festivals. I am also President of the Cultural Association “RACCONTARCANTANDO” with which I carry out concerts, theatrical and pedagogical activities, as a flautist, bassoonist and director of musical theatre for children.
I founded and run my own theatrical space in Rome, which is called “Prima”, for concerts, shows and initiatives out of the ordinary.
Now I teach recorder and ensemble for ancient instruments at the L'Aquila Conservatory and the baroque bassoon at the Latina Conservatory.
Georg Philipp Telemann (b Magdeburg, 14 March 1681; d Hamburg, 25 June 1767). German composer. The most prolific composer of his time, he was widely regarded as Germany’s leading composer during the first half of the 18th century. He remained at the forefront of musical innovation throughout his career, and was an important link between the late Baroque and early Classical styles. He also contributed significantly to Germany’s concert life and the fields of music publishing, music education and theory.