This week’s SUGGESTED LISTENING for the CLASSICAL MUSIC SKEPTIC: the Conclusion in B-flat from Production III of G. P. Telemann’s Tafelmusik, performed below by Musica Amphion (Netherlands).
About the Composer:
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) has one of the largest surviving portfolios of work of any composer in history. He was a German Baroque composer, placing him in the same category as Händel and Bach, both of whom overshadow him today. But back in the day, Telemann was the man. He was a self-taught musician, having entered university to study law. By the time he was in his early twenties, he had established himself as a skillful composer and instrumentalist. He worked as head musician (Kapellmeister) at several noble courts and ultimately landed the position of Kantor for the city of Hamburg — basically, in charge of all the music performed in that city at church services, festivals, and even private parties. Telemann was first choice to be Kantor of Leipzig, but he turned down the offer, using it as leverage to up his pay in Hamburg. Leipzig was forced to hire an organist of mediocre acclaim named J. S. Bach instead. Alas, it was for the best.
About the Piece:
Tafelmusik is German for “table music” — literally, music performed at the dinner table. Today, our parties involve loud music and dancing and junk food; the Baroque era was no different. At feasts and banquets, the host would hire a band of musicians to provide background music and entertainment. The music needed to be lighthearted — no one wants sad music at a party — and it also needed to be simple enough so as not to distract from partygoers’ conversation. Many composers took on the task of composing Tafelmusik, but Telemann’s collection is by far the most renowned. Telemann used his Tafelmusik to show off all the different styles and instruments he was capable of composing for. He wrote three parts (“productions”) each with six subsections; most of the subsections were further divided into three or four movements. The recording above is the last section (“conclusion”) of the last production, short and sweet. Listen to the thrumming bass line that builds in volume and intensity, and the oboes that play a sort of fanfare. It’s exciting and fun, and you could totally get up and dance to it — PARTY LIKE IT’S 1733!
If you enjoyed Tafelmusik, you might also like…
- G. P. Telemann: Conclusion from Tafelmusik Part II
- J. S. Bach: Allegro from Brandenburg Concerto No. 5
- Igor Stravinsky: Pulcinella Suite