Georg Philipp Telemann came from an affluent but unmusical family. Though he showed early promise as a performer and composer, his mother had other ideas and tried to discourage him by confiscating all his musical instruments. As a law student in Leipzig, however, he became increasingly involved in ‘extra-curricular’ musical activities. He composed a cantata every two weeks and had written four operas by the time he gave in totally to his real passion.
Fame and fortune in a creative artist’s lifetime do not necessarily presage the judgement of posterity. Throughout Germany Telemann basked in the sunshine of success, far eclipsing his contemporary colleague and occasional competitor Johann Sebastian Bach. In 1722 he was chosen by the city fathers of Leipzig for the position of Kantor at the St.Thomas Choir School; Bach was approached and secured this position only after Telemann had turned the offer down. When City Councillor Platz announced the appointment of Bach as Kantor for the churches in Leipzig in 1723, his pronouncement stated, “Since the best man could not be obtained, mediocre ones would have to be accepted.” Telemann in fact never had any intention of going to Leipzig, he simply used the offer to improve his bargaining position at Hamburg, where he established himself as Kantor of the five main churches in the city and ultimately as Director of the Hamburg Opera (an unheard of combination that annoyed the city fathers). He remained in Hamburg until his death in 1767.Download booklet