Manchester, 14th-18th July 2004


Steven Zohn (Temple University, USA)

Telemannís wit: burlesque, parody, and satire in the Ouverture-Suites

Accounts of musical wit and humor in the eighteenth century often begin and end with Mozartís Ein musikalischer SpaŖ and the quartets and symphonies of Joseph Haydn, the implication being that such sophisticated comic expression was possible only within the so-called Viennese Classical style. Indeed, the literary theories of wit and humor that began appearing around mid-century provide us with a useful theoretical framework for appreciating Haydnís and Mozartís musical jokes. Yet some early eighteenth-century repertories comically disconfirm listenersí expectations through similar strategies, none more so than the ouverture-suites of Telemann, whose ďlively wit and jovial dispositionĒ became legendary soon after his death.

In this paper, I consider the ways in which Telemannís burlesque suite movements make their jesting effect through exaggerated gestures and mixtures of socially encoded high and low styles, then examine works that parody established styles and genres. Among the latter are the ingenious ouverture to La Bizarre, in which only some of the instruments agree to play along with convention, and the Ouverture Burlesque di Quixotte, a musical parody that mirrors the satirical aspect of Cervantesí novel. I conclude by demonstrating that the Ouverture, jointes díune Suite tragi-comique, which illustrates three ailments (gout, hypochondria, and vainglory) and their remedies, satirizes the German publicís fascination with enlightened medicine during the 1750s and 1760s. In fact, much suggests that Telemann intended his suite as a musical pendant to popular medical journals such as Der Arzt (1759-64) and Der Hypochondrist (1762), and to several satirical plays of the time.

Last updated on 10 May 2004