Telemann Academy

The fashion for holding various plebiscites and setting up rankings of the most outstanding (most liked? most-listened-to?) composers seems to continue endlessly. These nice games, to which the editorial offices of radio stations and music magazines invite their listeners and readers, give a sociologically interesting picture of the currently dominant musical tastes, most often without aspiring to enter the space of more serious reflection on a fascinating issue: what is it that one composer composes better? than the other? Or why do we think so? And yet, even in the most respected publishing houses, the authors of various entries sometimes - consciously or not - add the following terms in front of the composers’ names: "the most outstanding", "the most important", "leading". So since there is the most outstanding one, then there is also the one a little less outstanding, and maybe there are also some completely unremarkable ones. Is it possible at all to reasonably award laurels in such composers’ competitions?

If someone asked me about it, I would answer that there is a composer who surpasses every podium, and every pedestal is insufficient for him. Bach. Absolutely out of categories. And when we think of mere mortals? Even those from his time, to make it easier to compare? Who’s next: Monteverdi? Vivaldi? Handel? Or maybe … Telemann? He was a friend of Bach, or at least so close to him that he became the godfather of his son, Carl Philipp Emmanuel, who later took over from Telemann as music director in Hamburg. Although they were almost contemporaries and came from similar backgrounds, the careers of Bach and Telemann took a completely different course. Without giving up traditional church or court jobs (especially in the second half of his life they were quite prestigious and lucrative), he developed his free market activity on an unprecedented scale, becoming the embodiment of a new type of composer – entrepreneur. He wrote for every imaginable and unimaginable line-ups of instruments (he knew how to play almost all of them …), often adjusting the difficulty of the composition to the widest group of clients – amateur musicians – which enhanced his business. In order not to lose control over anything, he engraved, printed and sold his works himself, and in a way he tried his hand as a poet and librettist, prepared articles on music theory, published compositions of his colleagues and conducted extensive correspondence with musicians, intellectuals and diplomats from all over Europe. Supervising the musical settings of five major churches in Hamburg, he also organized public concerts and opera performances with his own compositions, as well as taking care of marketing and distribution of tickets. It is estimated that he could have written up to four thousand works (a large part was destroyed, especially during World War II), as noted by the Guinness Book of Records, awarding him the title of the most prolific composer in the history of music (as it turns out, the primacy belongs to a certain Simon Sechter, who, as part of his daily composing exercises, wrote about six thousand fugues, adding two thousand other pieces to them ...).

When we encounter such figures, we immediately suspect a sort of factory-line production, and perhaps this is the case with Telemann – we should not find mystical Bachlike depths in each of his works. On the other hand, when Telemann announced the subscription (at exorbitant prices!) of his most important instrumental cycles: the Paris Quartets and the Musique de table, the most famous names of the era appeared on the subscription list, headed by Bach and Handel. Telemann, apart from many years of friendship and intense professional contacts, had a passion for growing bulbous plants with the latter, and both men exchanged rare specimens. For us, Telemann is also important for the Polish episode in his life, which he described in his autobiographies. The Polish style, along with Italian and French, became for him an equivalent component of modern mixed stylistics, gradually turning into the pan-European aesthetics of musical Classicism, whose foundations Telemann laid in his later works. Quite a lot for one CV.

So if we were to come back to the question: who after Bach? – maybe it is worth considering Telemann’s candidacy? It is not easy to give a representative image of such a hugely extensive and varied work during just a few concerts. We invite you cordially to all the events of the Telemann Academy. Maybe they will effect unexpected changes in your personal rankings of favorite composers?

Jarosław Thiel
Programme Director Telemann Academy


NOTE! This site uses cookies and similar technologies.

Like most websites, we use cookies to facilitate online booking and to ensure we give you the best possible experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume you're happy to receive cookies. You can learn more about changing your settings in our Privacy Policy. Learn more

Accept & close
Newsletter Melomana
We announce new concerts, we remind you about the start of ticket sales, we let you know about the last vacancies