Georg Philipp Telemann was a German composer of the late Baroque period, born in 1681 in Magdeburg, Germany. Telemann received no formal musical training, and his father, a Lutheran pastor, was opposed to his becoming a professional musician. However, he showed great ability in music at an early age, mastering the violin, keyboard, and flute by the time he was ten and composing an opera at the age of twelve.
Telemann went to Leipzig University to study law in 1701, but it was soon apparent that, despite his family's objections, his career would be in music. In 1703, he was appointed director of the Leipzig Opera, and the following year, he became organist of the Neue Kirche. Ironically, given his parents' certainty that a career in music was bound to be one of poverty and obscurity, Telemann secured a series of lucrative posts, culminating in his appointment as Kantor of the Hamburg Johnannuem in 1721, a post where his salary was triple that of Johann Sebastian Bach in Leipzig.
Although he is now less celebrated than Bach—or his friend Handel, with whom he maintained a lifelong correspondence—Telemann was one of the most celebrated and successful musicians of his time. He was hugely prolific, particularly in church music, writing well over 1,000 cantatas and forty-six settings of the Passion. His operas were also very successful, particularly the comic work Pimpinone, and he composed a number of well-received secular cantatas, such as the work of classical mythology Ino. Perhaps the most enduring of Telemann's compositions, however, have been his orchestral suites, a relatively new form at the time, first written by Jean-Baptiste Lully in France.
Telemann's work tends to be quite complex, with a large variety of instrumental combinations creating a dense, multi-layered effect which was characteristic of the high Baroque—of which he was, during his lifetime, probably regarded as the leading exponent.