Telemann and the Gypsies

Feb 28, 2018

Credit SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

You could write a book about the life of the German composer Georg Philipp Telemann– and as it turns out,  Telemann himself wrote three – three separate autobiographies. One of the things he wrote about is the time he spent in Poland in his early twenties. He became familiar with Polish and Moravian folk music during this period—he wrote that he experienced it in “all its barbaric beauty”—and he also heard the music of Eastern European gypsies. 

But he didn’t just listen: he incorporated some of the folk tunes he heard into his own music. It’s funny, because we don’t usually think of Telemann as a composer who was inspired by folk music and gypsies, but in one of his autobiographies he wrote, “One can hardly believe what wonderful imaginative ideas these pipers and fiddlers have as they improvise. In only a week, a composer could be inspired for an entire lifetime.”

This has been A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.