Telemann at Café Zimmermann

Concert at Café Zimmermann

While J.S. Bach had music around him from the moment he was born, Georg Philipp Telemann had to fight to become a musician, just like Handel. The Telemanns were an academic family: and although this boy might be the greatest talent ever, his family definitely wanted something else for him than a musician’s life and livelihood, which many people at the time thought to be similar to that of travelling entertainers and jugglers. Their son was to become a lawyer, and thus at age 20, in 1701, he started reading law at the university of Leipzig.

The citizens of Leipzig were generally very interested in culture and sponsored a thriving musical life: the city had an opera theatre; and cantor of St. Thomas was Johann Kuhnau, who was in poor health and advocated a somewhat old-fashioned musical style, and did not quite perform to the Leipzig music lovers’ satisfaction. The appearance of young Mr Telemann was perfectly timed; he wrote music in the latest style and was a very sociable person – so musical activities soon outweighed his academic fervour. In 1702, he was appointed director of the opera theatre, and the young man also ventured into the area of the cantor of St. Thomas. Frustrated, Kuhnau had to stand by when the authorities decreed that every two weeks, a Telemann cantata instead of one of his was performed during church service.

An ensemble consisting of forty students he had founded in 1701, shortly after his arrival in Leipzig, came to be particularly successful. The “Telemann Collegium Musicum” differed drastically from any preceding ensembles Leipzig had known since the middle of the 17th century: forty members was a considerable orchestra size for that time, and Telemann knew how to spark enthusiasm in his musicians. Their activities covered a wide range: they played in the opera, in the church and organised – with Telemann acting as impresario – many public concerts, playing in the cafés during the winter time and in the gardens during the summer.

Telemann’s time in Leipzig lasted only three years: he had managed to convince his mother to accept his professional choice of being a musician, and accepted the position of conductor and bandmaster for Balthasar Erdmann Count of Promnitz in 1704. The count kept a princely court at his castle in Sorau (Lower Lusatia). However, Telemann’s Collegium Musicum remained intact, and in 1723, Gottfried Zimmermann, the omnipresent owner of the largest and most beautiful café in town, had the idea to link those successful events to his premises. And thus it happened that the Collegium Musicum played concerts “at Mr Gottfried Zimmermann’s, on Wednesdays from 4 to 6 o’clock in the garden during the summer, and on Fridays in the evening from 8 to 10 o’clock in the coffee house in Catherine Street”: concerts that were based on Georg Philipp Telemann’s work 20 years before.


— Detmar Huchting (Translator: Sibyl Marquardt)

It is rare that oboes and strings with continuo sound so interesting, varied and pleasurable as composed by Telemann. The Swiss ensemble Die Freitagsakademie makes his overtures, sonatas, concerts and trios sparkle. Die Freitagsakademie presents works of the often underestimated composer of the Baroque period in memory of Café Zimmermann in Leipzig, where Telemann’s Collegium Museum has written music history. We may not get tired to point out, that Telemann in no way inferiors to his contemporaries Handel and Bach. His genius and humor often exceeds the work of his colleagues. Again and again he came up with new ideas, he never stood still and especially his instrumental music reached its full potential. Telemann understood very well to be a great story teller with his music and to enthuses the audience even today.

Katharina Suske, artistic director and oboist of Die Freitagsakademie, has carefully selected the repertoire and also the musicians for this audio production. She has founded Die Freitagsakademie together with musical friends in Switzerland in 1993. The name of the ensemble refers to the concerts which Johann Gottlieb Janitsch organised every Friday in the 18th century. In a way Janitsch established the first concert series for the civil society outside the Court. Die Freitagsakademie has recorded for Winter & Winter »Travelogues of Italy« featuring music by Handel, Scarlatti and Corelli, Johann Sebastian Bach’s »The Brandenburg Concertos« and »Wiener Klassik« presenting the Quintets for Piano and Winds by Beethoven and Mozart.

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