Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) was the most adaptable and cosmopolitan of the German composers, even more so than his friends Bach and Handel. He was steeped not only in the French and Italian styles, but also, as he said repeatedly, in the Polish style.
His Suite in A minor is from a set of six “Ouvertures a 4 ou 6” (in four parts, with two optional horn parts) published in 1736 in Hamburg. No copies of the published edition are known today, but three of the suites are extant in copies. In his own day, Telemann was credited with popularizing the French orchestral suite in Germany. This may be because he is known to have written at least 125 such suites. This would be a staggering number for anyone but Telemann, who wrote wrote more music than anyone else known to history, even while, as Cantor of Hamburg’s Johanneum Lateinschule, he worked as a school principal and director of music for the city’s five major churches, ran an opera company and twice-weekly collegium concerts in his spare time, and operated his own publishing ventures.
The French suite or ouverture consisted of an overture (a slow stately introduction followed by a contrapuntal faster section) and a sequence of dance movements. The last movement was typically a gigue or one of its quick-tempo relatives, but Telemann, like Handel, sometimes closed with a minuet.
- Howard Posner