Posted by Anthony Daly, Founder of NewBaroque
April 18, 2019

Georg Muffat: His Life and Music

Georg Muffat was a Baroque organist and composer who was born in Megève, Duchy of Savoy on 1st June 1653, the same year as Arcangelo Corelli. He studied in Paris and it is widely believed that his teacher was Jean Baptiste Lully. His early style was clearly influenced by the great master, and his later pieces too can be seen to bear resemblance to Lully's works.

Muffat became organist in Molsheim in north-eastern France and then at Sélestat, before leaving France to study law in Ingolstadt, Germany. He settled in Vienna for some time and then travelled to Prague and Salzburg where he spent ten years working for the archbishop. Muffat met Corelli while in Italy, where he travelled to around 1680. Here he learnt organ with Bernardo Pasquini. He later became Kapellmeister to the bishop of Passau in 1690, a position which he held until his death on 23rd February 1704.

Muffat's music comprise some of the best works of the genre, however they are not often played by early music ensembles. His five armonico tributo sonatas were composed during the period of time Muffat spent in Rome, and he gained useful advice from Corelli on their performance, which Muffat acknowledges in the preface to their publication in 1682. It is thought that the sonatas were performed privately at Corelli's home.

In the score of the works, Muffat designates passages as 'S' (solo) or 'T' (tutti), making them an early example of the concerto grosso musical form. The passacaglia from the fifth sonata is especially of note. Muffat writes over ten minutes' worth of variations over a ground, and its imaginative use of counterpoint which builds in stages makes for an admirable piece.

Muffat also wrote orchestral suites, for example his florilegium primum & secundum of 1695. His concerto grossi use material in part from the armonico tributo sonatas. He also wrote works for the organ (toccatas). Muffat has been recognised for his detailed performance directions written into his works; he is valued as a key composer by the historically informed performance (HIP) movement.

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