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Georg Philipp Telemann, Trauer-Musik eines kunsterfahrenen Kanarien-Vogels (Funereal Music for a Sweet-Singing Canary)(1721); recording by Hermann Prey and the Deutsche Bach-Solisten, Philips
Telemann firmly stakes out the bronze medal position among the German Baroque masters, but his contemporaries didn’t see things that way. In 1722, Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann competed for the position of Kantor in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, and the vestry picked Telemann hands-down. Fortunately for posterity, Telemann was lured back to Hamburg and never accepted the position. As a result, Bach accepted the post and launched the production of his liturgically sequenced cantata series, viewed by many as the crown jewel of the entire late Baroque repertoire. Telemann also took his hand to the cantata form, in a style much more light-hearted than Bach; indeed, some have seen in it some friendly mockery. The best of these is the cantata Trauer-Musik eines kunsterfahrenen Kanarien-Vogels, in which Telemann sings a sweet farewell to his pet canary. By the way, we know from the opening line, Ach, weh, meine Kanarin ist tot!, that the bird in question was a female. For which reason, this funeral music is particularly appropriate for Tuesday, October 23, as the House Judiciary Committee convenes to look at the mischief of a like-named aviary figure from Montgomery, Alabama. Prey’s singing is wonderful, and the piece is paired with another cantata in a lighter mode, Der Schulmeister (The Schoolmaster).
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”