Go, team!

Rumor has it there is some sort of big sporting event happening today. Not knowing much about these things, I can’t take sides or even comment!

But it brings to mind some famous (and a few infamous) MUSICAL competitions and rivalries in the baroque era!

George Frideric Handel and Domenico Scarlatti were once set up to have a friendly “competition” to determine which man was the better keyboard player. The diplomatic judges named Handel as the better organist and Scarlatti as the superior harpsichordist.

Jean-Baptiste Lully’s admirers were displeased when Jean-Philippe Rameau came along with new and challenging ideas for French opera. The so-called “Lullistes” and “Ramistes” fought over those aesthetics for many years.

There was also Christoph Willibald Gluck and Niccolò Piccinni, whose loyal fans continued to lock horns very publicly over which musician was a superior composer.

When Johann Sebastian Bach was the leading keyboard player in Germany, his friend and colleague Silvius Leopold Weiss was the leading lute player.  One of their contemporaries, Johann Friedrich Reichardt, claimed that Weiss challenged Bach to a friendly private competition improvising fantasies and fugues. (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Weiss-Silvius-Leopold.htm)

Some of these stories may be apocryphal, or exaggerated, and I suppose we may never know the whole story. But it seems the desire to choose sides and compete is a deeply human impulse. On a happy note, we can enjoy music by ALL of these fine composers, whether or not we take sides or have a favorite. Everyone’s a winner!

Now, please pass the guacamole!