I want to know everything

Georg Philipp Telemann


When the position Kuhnau had once held in Leipzig became vacant, Telemann applied for the position. Of the six musicians who applied, he was the favored candidate, even winning the approval of the city's council. Telemann declined the position, but only after using the offer as leverage to secure a pay raise for his position in Hamburg. When Telemann declined, the job was given to Christoph Graupner, who also declined it, paving the way for Johann Sebastian Bach. Telemann also augmented his Hamburg pay with a few small positions in other courts, and through publishing volumes of his own music.

Starting around 1740, Telemann's output decreased as he began to focus more energy on writing theoretical treatises. During this time he also corresponded with some younger composers, including Franz Benda and Telemann's godson, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Following the death of his eldest son Andreas in 1755, Telemann assumed the responsibility of raising his grandson Georg Michael Telemann, and beginning the future composer's education in music. Many of his sacred oratorios date from this period. In his later years, Telemann's eyesight began to deteriorate, and this led to a decline in his output around 1762, but the composer continued to write until his death on June 25, 1767.

Works and reputation

The Guinness Book of World Records lists Telemann as the most prolific composer of all time with more than eight hundred credited works. More recent studies, for example the thematic catalogues of his works published in the 1980s and 1990s, have shown that Telemann actually wrote over three thousand compositions, many of which are now lost. Some of his pieces, thought lost, were recently uncovered by noted musicologist Jason Grant. Many of the manuscripts were destroyed during World War II. It is unlikely that Telemann is the most prolific composer to date; Simon Sechter, for one, is thought to have written over eight thousand pieces.

Telemann was highly regarded during his lifetime, and for several decades afterwards; however by the first decades of the nineteenth century, his works were performed less frequently. The last performance of a substantial work by Telemann, Der Tod Jesu, until the twentieth century, was in 1832. Indeed, the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, which includes large articles on both Bach and Handel, does not mention Telemann.

The revival of interest in Telemann began in the first decades of the twentieth century and culminated in the Bärenreiter critical edition of the 1950s. Early music ensembles now commonly perform Telemann's works and numerous recordings of his music are available.

TWV numbers

Today each of Telemann's works is usually given a TWV number. TWV stands for Telemann Werkverzeichnis (Telemann Work Catalogue). TWV is followed by a numeral, a colon, a letter and a number. The first number after TWV indicates the general type of medium, the letter after the colon is the key of the particular work, and the following number is the numbering within that type of work. For example, Telemann's Concerto polonois in B flat major for strings and basso continuo is TWV 43:B3. And, for another example, Telemann's Suite in D major is TWV 55:D18.

Selected works


  • Adonis (1708)
  • Der Geduldige Socrates (1721) TWV 21:9.
  • Sieg der Schönheit (1722)
  • Pimpinone, intermezzo (1725) TWV 21:15 (1)
  • Adelheid (1727) TWV 21:17 ?
  • Don Quichotte der Löwenritter (1761) TWV 21:32


  • Der Schulmeister
  • Der Tod Jesu ("The Death of Jesus") TWV 5:5-6
  • Die Donner-Ode ("The Ode of Thunder") TWV 6:3a-b
  • Die Tageszeiten ("The Times of the Day")
  • Der Tag des Gerichts ("The Day of Judgement")

Orchestral suites

  • Ouvertüre Wassermusik (Hamburger Ebb und Fluth) TWV 55:C3
  • Ouvertüre des nations anciens et modernes in G TWV 55:G4
  • Ouvertüre g-moll in G minor TWV 55:g4

Chamber Music

  • Sinfonia Spirituosa in D Major (two violins, viola & continuo, trumpet ad libitum) TWV 44:1
  • Tafelmusik (1733) refers to music meant to accompany a meal)
  • Der getreue Musikmeister (1728), a musical journal containing 70 small vocal and instrumental compositions
  • 6 Paris Quartets, each of which has five to six instruments. TWV 43
  • Harmonischer Gottes-Dienst
  • The Twelve Fantasias for Transverse Flute without Bass (Barthold Kuijken, Transverse Flute) (G. A. Rottenburgh, c. 1740) TWV 40:2-13



  • Concerto in G Major, the first known concerto for viola, still regularly performed today (TWV 51:G9)


  • Klessmann, Eckart. Georg Philipp Telemann. Hamburg: Ellert & Richter Verlag, 2004. ISBN 3831901597
  • Petzoldt, Richard. Georg Philipp Telemann. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974. ISBN 0195197224
  • Telemann, Georg Philipp and C. Herrmann. Six Canonic Sontats: For Two Flutes. New York: International Music Co., 1956. OCLC 13654151