Johann Sebastian 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. Telemann was so revered in his day that he was the favourite for the Thomaskirche job back in 1722, but he turned the post down. Bach and Telemann may have been competitors, but they were also linked personally. Telemann was Carl Philippe Emanuel Bach’s godfather. It was Carl Philippe who took over as the director of music of Hamburg’s five principal churches when Telemann died in 1767. Telemann 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. 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.
Bach and Telemann may have been competitors, but they were also linked personally.