The story of Händel and Telemann
On this date in 1681, Georg Philipp Telemann was born in Magdeburg. Not only was Telemann the most famous composer in Germany during the first half of the eighteenth century, but he was also a close friend of both Georg Friedrich Händel and Johann Sebastian Bach. Since Händel was my own composition teacher and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (Telemann’s godson) one of my musical mentors, Telemann holds a special place for me in the composers’ pantheon.
I had the (at first, dubious) pleasure of meeting Telemann personally in October 1752, when I arrived in Hamburg from London at the age of seventeen, my first trip abroad. He was a wizened and gruff old man, who contradicted everything I said, at least until he read the letter of introduction I had brought from Händel. After that, Telemann’s demeanour towards me changed completely, and he even agreed to arrange my first public concert in Germany, risking trouble with the local religious authorities for allowing a woman to appear on stage.
Besides helping me launch my career as a professional harpsichordist on the Continent, Telemann had also done something else, decades earlier, which ultimately proved even more important. Through his understanding and love for a friend who happened to be ‘different’, he encouraged that man to accept his difference and not condemn himself for it. Of course, the friend in question was Händel, and the lesson he had learned from Telemann was in turn given to me at a very critical time in my life.
This is the story of the friendship between the two composers, as told to me by Händel at his house in Brook Street, London, on the 13th of December 1750. I had gone to see him in an emotionally distraught state, having once again killed a human after losing control of my lycanthropic nature. Naturally I didn’t go into the details, but did imply that she had been my lover. He made certain – correct – assumptions about my sexual preference and decided to make a startling (and, in those days, dangerous) confession of his own.