Five facts about composer Georg Philipp Telemann

Here are five facts about the Baroque composer whose music is at last starting to make something of a comeback


JS Bach is regarded as the greatest German Baroque composer today, but back at the start of the 18th century, it was Telemann who ruled the roost.

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1. Telemann was so revered in his day that he was the favourite for the Thomaskirche job back in 1722. Fortunately for JS Bach, Telemann turned the post down. In fact, Bach was something like fourth choice for the post of Thomaskantor, or music director.

2. Bach and Telemann may have been competitors, but they were also linked personally. Telemann was CPE Bach (JS’s second surviving child) godfather, although it should be noted that that did not mean that that JS Bach and Telemann were friends. It was CPE Bach who took over as the director of music of Hamburg’s five principal churches when Telemann died in 1767. 

3. He was one of music’s most prolific composers, writing in excess of 3,000 works, or almost three times as many as Bach and five times as many as Mozart. His stylistic range is incredible too, able to write equally proficiently in the French, Italian and German styles.

4. Telemann had an interesting love life. His second wife regularly cheated on him and built up massive debts before leaving him in the lurch. The composer was eventually bailed out by his friends.

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5. Somehow, Telemann also found time for gardening, at which he excelled. ‘I am insatiable where hyacinths and tulips are concerned, greedy for ranunculi, and especially for anemones,’ he wrote once in a letter. He spent a good deal of time in his Hamburg garden and exchanged bulbs and plants with renowned botanists across Europe.