Johann Mattheson

German composer and music theorist Johann Mattheson was born in Hamburg on 28 September 1681 into a rich family, and as part of his education studied composition, keyboard instruments, violin and voice. He was precocious as a child, singing in Hamburg Opera Chorus and singing and playing the organ in church from the age of nine. Later he sang solos with Hamburg Opera, conducted rehearsals and wrote his own operas.

As a composer of mostly vocal music, including cantatas, operas and oratorios, he has largely been overlooked, partly because almost all his music went missing after World War II until 1998, and is best known as a music theorist, writing about the harmony of the German Baroque, theatrical style and performance practice. But he also spoke fluent English, worked as a diplomat, as secretary to the English ambassador, and married the daughter of an English clergyman.

He was also, famously, a good friend of George Frideric Handel, translating the first biography of Handel from English into German after Handel's death, and paying to have it published in Hamburg.

Mattheson died in Hamburg on 17 April 1764, aged eighty-two.


A selection of articles about Johann Mattheson

CD Spotlight. Truly Gripping, Attractive and Alluring - Johann Mattheson's oratorio 'Joseph', highly commended by Roderic Dunnett. '... an outstanding performance in every way, and indeed a perfect introduction to Mattheson's fresh and vital writing ...'

CD Spotlight. Diversely Experienced - Music for bassoon, harpsichord and double bass, impresses Howard Smith. '... an outright "tour de force".'