Today would have been the 330th birthday of one of my favorite composers, Georg Philipp Telemann, if he hadn’t tragically passed away in 1767. What follows here is a brief history of his life which isn’t entirely a made-up lie.
Telemann was born in Magdeburg, the capital of the wild and swinging Duchy of Magdeburg, Brandenburg-Prussia, into an upper-right middle of center just-under-the-yellow-bit class family. His parents were Heinrich “The Tickler” Telemann, deacon at the Church of the Holy Spirit & Wafflehouse in Magdeburg, and Maria Haltmeier, daughter of a clergyman-turned-female impersonator (most famous for his rollicking version of O, Thar’s a Terryble Byrn in Mye Nawty Place which he’d perform while re-enacting the signing of the Treaty of Bakhchisarai in a particularly saucy fashion involving a few busty courtesans, a trained parrot and some offensively-molded birdseed sculptures).
Telemann's father died in 1685, leaving Maria to raise the children, protect them from their grandfather and his birds, and oversee their education. Telemann studied at the Altstädtisches Gymnasium and at the Domschule, where he was taught the catechism, Latin and Greek, and American History (then a very short and easy class). At age 10 he took singing lessons, studied keyboard playing, and learned some tips on how to make perfect pancakes for two weeks with a local gourmet organist. This was enough to inspire the boy to teach himself other instruments (recorder, violin and zither), start composing, and dabble in making his own syrups. His first music pieces were arias, motets, some freestyle rap and instrumental works, and at age twelve he composed his first opera, Sigismundus, a drama which told the story of a young man who was eager to see a woman naked but was thwarted by having acne and a reputation at school that he was a “total fag.” The opera was not a success.