Tafelmusik (German: literally, "table-music") is a term used since the mid-16th century for music played at feasts and banquets. Often the term was also used as a title for collections of music, some of which was intended to be so used. The function was displaced in the late 18th century by the divertimento, and its importance soon diminished, but it was revived and partially restored in the vocal genre of the Liedertafel by Carl Friedrich Zelter beginning in 1809, and male-voice choral societies describing themselves by this name continued the practice until the mid-20th century.
Some of the most significant composers of Tafelmusik included Johann Hermann Schein, whose Banchetto musicale of 1617 acquired considerable fame, and Michael Praetorius, who wrote about the phenomenon of Tafelmusik in his Syntagma musicum of 1619. Music from Schein's collection is still performed by early music ensembles with some regularity.
The Tafelmusik or Musique de Table by the Baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann is perhaps his most celebrated collection of music. Composed in 1733, Telemann's Tafelmusik has been compared as a collection to the renowned Brandenburg concertos of Johann Sebastian Bach in clearly demonstrating the composer’s supreme skill in handling a diversity of musical genres and a variety of instruments.
Tafelmusik could be either instrumental, vocal, or both. As might be expected, it was often of a somewhat lighter character than music for other occasions.
- Unverricht, Hubert (2001). "Tafelmusik". In Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (eds.). The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd ed.). London: Macmillan.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
- It was voted #76 in the Classic 100 Baroque and Before (ABC)