Georg Muffat is known primarily for several instrumental collections, among which are his Florilegia orchestral suites, comprised of two sets, dating from 1695 and 1698, respectively. They are unusual because, though written by a German composer, they are fashioned in the French style, featuring dance music divulging the influence of Muffat's teacher, Lully. Among Muffat's early works, the Armonico tributo, a collection of five sonatas for strings and basso continuo, is notable for its five-part string writing and mixture of French and Corellian influences. In the end, despite these influences, Muffat must be viewed as a generally original composer, who in his versatility and multi-faceted approach managed to unite the French, Italian and German styles in his music. Though he was primarily a composer of instrumental works, he also wrote operas, though none have survived.
Georg Muffat was baptized on June 1, 1653, and was thus probably born about a week before that date. He would consider himself German, though his parents were of Scottish origin and his birthplace, MegÃ¨ve, Savoy, is located in France. He showed unusual musical talent as a child, and at age ten traveled to Paris and began study with Lully. After six years of instruction with that master and others, he began studies at the Jesuit-run college in Selestat, Alsace, in 1669.
Two years later, he was appointed organist at a church in Molsheim, through which the Strasbourg Cathedral functioned in exile. Muffat apparently was not wholly satisfied with his career up to this point, for by 1674 he would depart for Bavaria to study law. But the impending war in Alsace certainly had an influence on his decision to leave the region, if not to seek a change of career.
By 1678, he had secured a position in Salzburg in the service of Archbishop Gandolf, Count of Kuenberg. Here he served as organist and player in the chamber ensemble. Muffat took leave of his post in about 1681 for an extended stay in Italy, where he would study with Pasquini and come under the influence of Corelli. Muffat's aforementioned Armonico tributo dates to this period. The composer returned to Salzburg in the fall of 1682. He was apparently satisfied with conditions there, but after the death of the archbishop in 1687, he gradually became disenchanted with his post.
Muffat had earned the patronage of Emperor Leopold I of Vienna by 1677, and seems to have reestablished ties with him following his Salzburg departure, for he appeared at the Augsburg coronation of the Emperor's son as Roman king in 1690. Moreover, Muffat dedicated his solo organ composition, Apparatus musico-organisticus, to Emperor Leopold and presented him with a copy. In 1690 Muffat's son, Gottlieb (d. 1770), was born. He would go on to become a composer of significance himself, though his chosen field of composition was limited primarily to the keyboard genre.
Later on in 1690, Muffat secured a post as Kapellmeister at the Passau Court of Bishop Johann Philipp. In 1695, the composer produced the first of his important Florilegia orchestral suites, the Suavioris harmoniae instrumentalis hyporchematicae florilegium primum, which was comprised of seven suites. Three years later he produced the second set, Florilegium secundum, which consisted of eight suites for orchestra. Among his last important works was the 1701 collection of 12 concerti grossi, entitled Ausserlesene Instrumental-Music. Muffat stayed on in his post at Passau until his death.
© Robert Cummings, All Music Guide