Thursday, February 11, 2010

A 306 Year Old Mystery

In January 7, 1704, the Bavarian cannons and mortars fired at Passau from early morning and into the night. As the fires raged and casualties flooded the streets, the city’s leadership realized that they were in a hopeless situation. To prevent the complete destruction of their city, they decided t0 surrender.

Siege and Refugees-Sheva Apelbaum A few weeks after the  fall of Passau, Georg Muffat, its music director, died,  probably from sickness he had gotten during the siege.  When the 51 year old music director passed away he took a secret with him, a secret that I uncovered completely by chance just this week.

Siege of Viena-Sheva Apelbaum

Last Sunday, as we were driving to visit my 97 year old great grandma, my dad was listening to his favorite Baroque radio station and as he usually does, he was trying to guess the name of the composer and the name of the piece (he usually gets it right each time). 

This time however, as the pieces were playing  out loud, my dad said  something like “it’s in the style of Lully, but it’s too slow” or “sounds like Delalande, but its too mellow. ”

When the announcer finally said that the name of the composer was Georg Muffat,  My dad said, “who is Georg Muffat?”

When we got home I decided to investigate this further.  We first bought the CD we heard on the radio(Nobilis Juventus by Armonico Tributo)  and listed to it several times.  We also listened to the composers my dad identified (he has a large baroque music collection). 

At the same time I did some research about each composer and their relationship to each other. 

Composer Relationships-Sheva Apelbaum

From my research I found that Georg Muffat was born in France in 1653 .  In 1663 he traveled to Paris to study music with Jean-Baptiste Lully (who happened to be a good friend of Michel Richard Delalande).

In  1670 he decided to make a career change and go back to school to study law.  He attended the university in Ingolstadt (the birthplace of the monster created by Professor Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s novel). In 1677 he traveled to Salzburg (Austria), where he found work as an organist.

In about 1687, he traveled to Italy, to study the organ with Bernardo Pasquini.  While he was there, he was introduced to Arcangelo Corelli’s music (who was Pasquini’s good friend).  Eventually he returned to Germany and from 1690 until his death in 1704, he was Kapellmeister (music director) of Passau.

It turns out that Moffat not only met and knew these other composers personally,  but he probably copied their music and wrote his music according to their style, which explains why his pieces sounded so much like Lully’s, Delalande’s and others. 

Here are few examples:


Original Composition

Muffat’s Adaptation

Michel Richard Delalande

Les Soupers du Roy

Indissolubilis Amititia

Michel Richard Delalande

Symphonie pour violons, hautbois et cors de chasse

Nobilis Juventus

Jean-Baptiste Lully

Le bourgeois  Gentilhomme

Indissolubilis Amititia


  1. Des host guat gmocht, derndl!

    At least I can say I have been in Passau and in Ingolstadt and in Salzburg! AT LEAST!

    If I ever have to research something very serious I will come running to you and begging for help!

    You are just amazing, finding the spices in everything and presenting them to us!!

    Jo, dank der sche and pfiad de!!!

    :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

  2. Wowa! How did you all get so educated!!! I am a Bach lover, and I didn't even know who these Baroque guys were! I love their hairstyles...and you are brilliant! Thank you, for sharing the music with us too--have you ever been to Salzburg? Do you know these incredible componists were so small in their day, they slept in beds the size of children's beds, today? When I saw the Mozart house, I was deeply impressed...