Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Harpsichord Transcription of Concertos
At the very moment in which European music publishers were aiming their market strategies at the powerful force of Vivaldi’s instrumental writings, the young Bach was adapting for harpsichord and organ at least nine of the Italian composer’s concertos, no less than six of these drawn from his Estro armonico. Even if in this sticky situation the demands of the buyer’s prevailed (and more so here than usual) over artistic inspiration and personal motivation, Bach did not approach this task (entrusted to him by Johann Ernst) with the distance or, worse, the disrespectful arrogance of an editor. Indeed, a preliminary examination of his modus operandi reveals Bach’s constant efforts to avoid an indiscriminate mechanicalness in favor of technical and expressive solutions, which were anything but unequivocal or uniform. Yet generally speaking, it must be said that although Bach certainly comprehended the artistic, ideological and even spectacular prerequisites upon which the originality and appeal of Venetian instrumental music at the beginning of the century was based, he nonetheless attempted to reconcile certain of its more visible aspects with his own aesthetic ideals. Thus he adapted to the for ceful logic of a completely dissimilar musical horizon all those particularities which were fundamentally extraneous to him, ranging from an exaltation of the individual soloist against a subordinate background, to a vibrant interest in pure questions of timbre in the composition. In his approach to Vivaldi’s music, Bach does not limit himself merely to embellishing those places which would have been traditionally re-elaborated when intended for a different instrument.