Born: April 25, 1690; Passau, Germany
Died: December 9, 1770; Vienna, Austria
Gottlieb Theophil Muffat was the son of an important composer, Georg Muffat (1653-1704). Gottlieb became the most important keyboard composer in Vienna in the first half of the eighteenth century.
Gottlieb was born after his father was appointed Kapellmeister to Johann Philipp of Lamberg, Bishop of Passau. It is almost certain that he was given his musical training by his father, and he probably stayed in Passau until his father's deathRead more or later. He arrived in Vienna no later than 1711, which is when his presence there is first documented. At that time he became a Hofscholar (advanced student at the Imperial court) under the famous teacher and notable composer Johann Joseph Fux (1660-1741). This was a part of the courts policy of educating talented scholars and artisans who might then enter its service.
Accordingly, Muffat received an appointment as official court organist in 1717. His duties were to play for services in the Hofkapelle and play continuo accompaniment at performances of opera at court. It was something of an apprentice position, and he was selected to receive a grant for further study abroad. It is not known precisely when or where he left to pursue these studies, but later he was appointed to higher positions at court, including teaching music to the four royal children, which included the future Empress Maria Theresia.
Muffat rose to the position of second organist in 1729 and, on the accession of Maria Theresia to the throne, he was promoted to first organist. He retained the position until his death.
All his published music appeared before that final appointment, and it is all keyboard music. Although his music is not well-known, he is generally accounted the best keyboard composer of his time after Johann Sebastian Bach. His music is in the forms associated with the late Baroque, namely, fugues, chaconnes, canzonas, suites, toccatas, organ preludes, and ricercares. Like Bach's Art of the Fugue ricercares, these are written without a preparatory movement, and in open score.
In general, Muffat was a conservative who consolidated rather than advanced the innovations of his predecessors. In this he is similar to Johann Sebastian Bach. But one aspect of his music gives it an unusual exotic flavor that is largely absent from Bach's. This is a strong interest in the traditional church modes, which flavor much of his music. For instance, he wrote 24 large toccatas (each followed by a capriccio) in the order of the church modes.
He did not leave his music in very orderly shape, making dating, attribution, and authenticating of editions of his music difficult. Thus some of his music has been attributed over the years to other composers, including Frescobaldi, Clementi, and Handel, who in fact directly borrowed some of Muffat's music in such works as the Ode to St Cecilia's Day and one of his organ concertos. Read less