According to Bach, the true rational vocation of music lies not in search of some elaborate abstract concept but to produce “a full-sounding Harmonie to the Honor of God and the permissible delight of the soul” and that “the end and the cause of the Basso Continuo, as all music, it should not be more than the glory of God and the delight of the soul and the mind. If you do not follow this, it is not real music, but a racket and a hellish noise”. The works on this recording are a tangible example of this musical aesthetic.
Telemann and Bach’s early friendship is attested by C.P.E. Bach in a 1775 letter to Johann Nikolaus Forkel: “In his younger days he saw a good deal of Telemann, who also stood godfather to me. He esteemed him, particularly in his instrumental things, very highly”. Telemann was the unquestioned master of the ‘Mixed Taste’, created by elaborating the Italian, German and French styles which he studied in his early years. The 2 Concerti a`4 from this recording are the surprising result of this new style that became the model for the next generation of musicians. The process of self-borrowing or borrowing preexistent music by others to stimulate one’s compositional invention was a widespread, if not entirely uncontroversial practice in early eighteenth-century Germany.
So, if the purpose of the music is to celebrate the glory of God and the delight of the soul and the mind, why should the composers not use their own compositions, their most successful (those that the Italians called musiche da Baule) or that by other composers, elaborating and reusing them on several occasions? Bach itself draws from compositions of his youth and readjusts them in the last phase of his compositional output notably in the Sinfonias for Cantatas: BVW 146/1 is modelled after a lost concerto for violin (and then reworked in BVW 1052/1), with the solo organ part probably meant for his sixteen years old son Wilhelm, BVW 42/1 after a lost instrumental concert.
BWV 156/1 is the reworking of a lost concerto for oboe and reused also in BVW 1056/2. Justly celebrated as one of the composers “most memorable, ‚singable‘melodies” the oboe solo is substantially based upon the first movement of Telemann‘s concerto for solo oboe or flute and strings 51:G and Telemann appears to have reused his opening theme for the first movement of the flute solo 41:G9 (Essercizii musici) . This modelling process invites us to consider Bach and other composers’ working methods: the transformation of music by another composer into a distinctive expression of his own compositional voice. Bachs relationship to preexistent music by others was “less a matter of imitation of a model than of an awareness of the possibilities, an expansion of his own manner of writing and stimulation of his musical ideas. At a very early point, there emerge elements of the most characteristic and essential parameters of Bach’s compositional art: the probing elaboration, modification, and transformation of a given musical res facta originating from himself or another composer, with the aim of improvement and further individualization”.
1 Why Bach chose to borrow from his friend and admired colleague this particular piece in the first place “could be simply explained upon the high quality of its musical invention and its potential for elaboration and possibly motivated by admiration for and friendly competition with Telemann. He may have sought simultaneously to pay a compliment to his friend (with more than the requisite interest). Whatever Bach’s motivation for this borrowing, the discovery that one of his most famous melodies owes inspiration to Telemann not only enriches the musical and aesthetic context in which we may understand both composers achievements, but also imposes a fresh layer of meaning onto Adorno’s bon mot : they say Bach, mean Telemann”.
2 Together to celebrate “the glory of God and the permissible delight of the soul.”