Classical Haiku: Georg Philipp Telemann

You took first place in
life. In death, the immortal
J.S. Bach won out.

I love it when the world gets it wrong.

That’s basically what happened a few hundred years ago when Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church needed a music director. Johann Sebastian Bach applied for the job, but the search committee’s first choice was Georg Philipp Telemann, who wrote some smashing music we still hear much of today.

Telemann declined the offer, so the committee went to Christoph Graupner, who also declined. Working their way down the short list, the committee then lighted on the third-choice candidate, Bach.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out why Bach wasn’t snapped up right off the bat. Maybe it was politics, maybe it was envy. Whatever. He eventually got the job, and he proved his mettle by composing on the tightest of deadlines some of the most spectacular church music ever written.

Today, the great Bach is one of the “Three B’s” and where is Telemann? One of the three T’s, I guess. You get the point. Still, in fairness to Telemann, it cannot have been easy working in the same field as J.S. Bach. And Telemann’s music is great music. It’s just not (forgive me) Bach.

Today’s Classical Haiku is for Telemann, a composer of beautiful music who – perhaps unjustly, but who said the world was fair? — will forever be compared with Bach.

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