Georg Muffat

Composer. Born 1 June 1653. Died 23 February 1704
Georg Muffat
Georg Muffat

Georg Muffat Biography (BBC)

One of Baroque music’s most consciously eclectic figures, Georg Muffat was born in the Savoy region of France in 1653 to a family of Scottish descent, yet considered himself a German. As a boy he moved to Alsace, and at the age of ten went to study in Paris for six years with the dominant figure in French music, Jean-Baptiste Lully. On his return to Alsace his education was completed by the Jesuits, and he then spent a short period in Molsheim as organist to the exiled Chapter of Strasbourg Cathedral. A few years later, however, the threat of war caused him to abandon France for the German-speaking lands, first of all in Bavaria, then in Vienna, Prague and eventually Salzburg, where in 1678 he gained the post of organist and chamber musician to the Prince-Archbishop. His colleagues there included Heinrich Biber, though little is known of their personal or professional relationship.

In the early 1680s Muffat visited Rome, where he studied with the famous harpsichordist and organist Bernardo Pasquini, met the great violinist-composer Arcangelo Corelli, and heard him perform some of his influential concerti grossi. He returned to Salzburg in 1682, but eight years later moved on to become Kapellmeister at the court of the Bishop of Passau. He died in 1704, at the age of 50.

Muffat’s reaction to the different Baroque instrumental styles he had encountered by the time he was 30 - French followed by southern German and then Roman-Italian – was to pursue them with methodical open-mindedness. His published sets Armonico tributo (1682) and Ausserlesene Instrumental-Music (1701) both promoted concerti grossi in the Corellian mould, while the two publications entitled Florilegium (1695 and 1698) are among the earliest examples by a German composer of the French orchestral dance suite.

That Muffat was aware that he was introducing these two national styles to his fellow Germans is shown by the prefaces to his publications, which offer detailed and practical explanations of how the pieces they contained should be performed, together with expressed hopes that the two may yet be successfully combined. He was thus a crucial figure in the initiation of the characteristically German stylistic synthesis that would later find its apotheosis in the works of Bach, Handel and Telemann. His own hopes, however, seem to have gone beyond that: ‘My profession is very far from the tumult of arms and from the reasons of state that cause them to be taken up,’ he wrote. ‘When I mingle French airs with those of the Germans and the Italians, it is not in order to incite a war, but it is rather, perhaps, a prelude to the harmony of so many nations and to amiable peace.’

Profile © Lindsay Kemp, 2004

Georg Muffat Biography (Wikipedia)

Georg Muffat (1 June 1653 – 23 February 1704) was a Baroque composer and organist. He is best known for the remarkably articulate and informative performance directions printed along with his collections of string pieces Florilegium Primum and Florilegium Secundum (First and Second Bouquets) in 1695 and 1698.

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