The German composer and organist, Georg Melchior Hoffmann, received his musical training as a choirboy (Kapellknabe) in the Dresden Hofkapelle from Johann Christoph Schmidt. He went to Leipzig in autumn 1702 and enrolled at the university to study law. He also joined the student collegium musicum founded by Georg Philipp Telemann.
When Telemann left Leipzig in June 1705, Hoffmann succeeded him as organist and music director of the Neukirche, and took over as director of Telemann's Collegium Musicum (later to be taken by J.S. Bach). He was also conductor of the Leipzig civic opera, which had been in existence since 1693 and for which he wrote a number of works, and conducted in Leipzig public concerts and the Operntheater. In 1709 he met the violin virtuoso Johann Georg Pisendel, who became leader of the orchestra of Hoffmann's Collegium. At this time the ensemble consisted of 50 to 60 musicians and had won fame and recognition beyond the Leipzig area. [note the size of this ensemble!]
Hoffmann seems to have visited England between 1709 and 1710, but no details are known. During a longer stay in England he was represented by J.G. Pisendel in Leipzig. There is no definite evidence of a visit to Italy in 1714 either, and it is unlikely that he went there. In 1713 he applied, along with J J.S. Bach and three other candidates, to succeed Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow as organist at the Liebfrauenkirche in Halle. When J.S. Bach eventually declined the appointment on March 19, 1714 the Halle consistory offered it to Hoffmann, but although he officially accepted the post he never took up his duties in Halle, and in fact resigned on 23 July. On September 9, 1714 he married Margaretha Elisabeth Philipp and in the same month became one of the few Leipzig musicians of the time to be granted citizenship. He had been suffering from a serious illness since 1713 and died on the evening of October 6, 1715, aged only 36. He was buried in the Johannisfriedhof in Leipzig on October 10; all the pupils of the Thomasschule attended the funeral.
Hoffmann died a prosperous citizen, regarded by his contemporaries as an important composer and a sensitive musician. The Leipzig chronicler Christoph Ernst Sicul described him in an obituary as 'a famous composer', whose collegium musicum had produced many fine musicians holding prominent positions as organists or in the Kapellen of major German courts.
Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel, a member of Hoffmann's collegium from 1707 to 1710, and the Darmstadt court poet Georg Christian Lehms also paid tribute to Hoffmann's great importance in their writings, and Charles Burney regarded him as one of the finest composers of the first half of the 18th century. In spite of his early death Hoffmann left a quite extensive body of work, although only a fraction of it has survived. Very little from his secular output, and in particular from his operas, is extant, and his music only began to attract attention from musicologists when three works previously attributed to J.S. Bach (BWV 53, BWV 189 and BWV Anh. 21) were recognized as being by Hoffmann (or, in the case of BWV 53, probably by him). In older studies Hoffmann has often been confused with the Breslau composer Johann Georg Hoffmann.
Melchior Hoffmann's music shows a feeling for unusual and effective orchestration. His cantata and opera arias are notable for their pleasant, attractive and accessible melodies, sometimes with a strong emotional emphasis, as in the cantata Meine Seele rühmt und preist. His later compositions show Italian influence.
Missa (e), B, vn/fl, bc, D-Bsb (partly autograph), later version (a), S/T, va, bc, Bsb; Sanctus (a), SATB, str, bc, 1708, Bsb*; Sanctus (C), SATB, 3 tpt, timp, str, bc, Bsb*; Sanctus (D), SATB, 3 tpt, timp, 2 ob, str, bc, Bsb; Mag (d), SATB, 2 vn, 2 va, bc, 1700, Bsb*
Cants.: Entfernet euch, ihr schmeichlenden Gedanken, S/T, 2 hn, 2 ob, str, bc, Dl; Lob sei dem allerhöchsten Gott, SATB, 2 tpt, str, bc, B-Bc; Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn, S, fl, str, bc, D-Bsb (partly autograph), RUS-SPsc*; Meine Seele rühmt und preist, T, fl, ob, vn, bc, D-Bsb; Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, SATB, 2 tpt, timp, str, bc, 1708, Bsb, DK-Kk* Doubtful: 3 missa brevis (C, C, G), D-Bsb; 4 cants., MÜG; Schlage doch, gewünschte Stunde (cant.), A, bells, str, bc, Bsb
Lost: 32 cants., listed in Breitkopf catalogues, 1761 and 1764
performed in Leipzig; music lost except for some arias in D-SHs and S-L Acontius und Cydippe, 1709; Banise, oder Die dritte Abteilung dieser asiatischen Prinzessin, 1710; Balacin, oder Die erste Abteilung der asiatischen Banise, 1712; Chaumigrem, oder Die andere Abteilung der asiatischen Banise, 1712; Die amazonische Königin Orithya, 1713; Rhea Sylvia, 1714
Other secular vocal
Cantatas.: Auf, muntre Sinnen zum Jagen, T, str, bc; Ich lebe als im Schlafe, S, str, bc; Schönste Lippen, eure Liebe, S, ob, bc; Treue Liebe edler Seelen, S, str, bc; Verdopple, Tyranne, verdopple dein Rasen, S, ob, str, bc; Verfolge mich immer mit rasenden Stürmen, S, str, bc: all D-SHs
Lost: 8 cants., listed in Breitkopf catalogue, 1761
Sinfonie (f), str, D-Dl, GB-Lbl; Conc. (E ), hn, 2 ob, str, D-Dl; Sonata (g), ob, vn, bc, Dl
Lost: 5 sinfonie (D, D, F, A, B ), str, bc, listed in Breitkopf catalogue, 1762