General synthesis article trying to consider, as an example, the causes of the notoriety of Bach, particularly in comparison whit his contemporary Vivaldi.

Is the notoriety of the greats composers due to the real musical interest of their masterpieces for the people or to the result of a complex alchemy in which ideology mainly intervenes ? The name of Bach seems particularly to illustrate the influence of extra-musicals factors in the recognition of genius, real or supposed. The comparison with his contemporary Vivaldi allow to show the importance of such factors.

According to biographers, the fame of Bach in his age did not go beyond his province while Vivaldi's (elder to Bach by seven years), goes into whole Europe.

The difference of notoriety between the two composers is shown by the number of their masterpieces published in their age. 14 opus of Vivaldi are published en particular by Roger in Amsterdam, but also in London and Paris, altogether whole more than 40 sonatas, more than 90 concerti, according to Verzeichnis der Werke, Ryom Peter, VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik Leipzig, 1974, pp158-163). In comparison, the Bach publishing are rare (mainly Cantata n°71, 4 parts of Clavier-Übung, Schemelli Hymnbook, Musical offering, Canonic Variations BWV 769, Schübler chorales, Art of fugue, Canon BWV 1076 according to New Grove Dictionary of music and Musicians, Macmillan Publishers Limited, London, 1989 p 804). On the other hand, the handwrittens copies of Vivaldi's masterpieces were discovered in places very distant of Venice : library of Norway, Poland, Sweden (according to Vivaldiana, Centre International de Documentation Antonio Vivaldi, Vaillant-Carmanne, Liège, [s.d.]).

Besides, Bach transcribed for keyboard several masterpieces of the Venitian composer while Vivaldi had probably known nothing about Bach.

Bach has transcripted 10 concertos from Vivaldi, 6 for harpsichord, 1 for 4 harpsichords, 3 for organ (from Bouquet,Boyer, Marie-Thérèse - Vivaldi et le concerto - Editions Que Sais-je (PUF), Paris, 1985 p. 107)

 At the end of the XVIIIth century, after his death, Vivaldi is forgotten, but while Bach reach an european notoriety post-mortem about 1820*, the discovery of Vivaldi will wait more than a century**.

*In particular, the first representation of St. Matthew Passion date from 1829 in Berlin according New Grove Dictionary of music and Musicians (1989).

**The 28 of January 1928, some concerti transcribed by Gentili were performed in public in Turin. The knowledge of the Vivaldi masterpieces arose after the foundation of the Scuola veneziana by Algelo Eprikian (according to Vivaldiana, Centre International de Documentation Antonio Vivaldi, Vaillant-Carmanne, Liège [s.d.].)

Further, while Bach is universally admired by musicographers, and sometimes considered as the greatest composer, Vivaldi stays for them a relatively secondary composer. The comparison of the notices on the two composers is significant. L'Histoire de la Musique de Larousse (La Musique, les hommes, les instruments, les oeuvres, tome 1 under the direction of Norbert Dufourcq, Paris, 1965) dedicates 3 large pages and a half to Bach and a quarter of a page to Vivaldi, that is a proportion of 1 to 12. The book title : Three great masters of baroc music J. S. Bach, Haendel, Telemann, apparently, the others composers of this age being judged secondary. L'Histoire de la Musique occidentale (Messidor, Paris, 1983, book of 800 pages written by 17 specialists)  dedicates 15,5 pages to Bach and 5,5 at Vivaldi, that is a fraction of 1/3. L'Histoire de la Musique de Larousse, (Larousse, Paris, 2000), dedicates 571 lines to Bach and 80 lines to Vivaldi, i.e. a proportion of 7 to 1. The Histoire de la Musique de Larousse, Paris, 2000. The Petite encyclopédie de la musique, (1997), dedicates in its history of music 76 lines to Bach and 5 to Vivaldi, i.e. a proportion of 1 to 15.

The petite encyclopédie de la musique on the direction of Brigitte Massin , Editions du Regard, 1997. We must however note than the biography part of this book devote 2 pages to Bach and 0,7 to Vivaldi. The comparison between the importance of the two composers in this book has a peculiar signification because it is a pedagogic book for the youth. It represents the basic knowledge that we want to transmit to future generations.

In La musique, Histoire, dictionnaire, discographie, (Roland de Candé, Paris, 1969), nevertheless author of a monography on Vivaldi, presents all the Italians composers (Vivaldi, Tartini, Pergolesi and also Leclair (?) ) in a same paragraph designated Italians concerti while he presents Bach, Haendel, Rameau each one in a specific paragraph. The New Encyclopaedia Britannica - (Chicago, 1992 (dernier copyright) - vol 24 notice History of western Music) devote 21 lines to Bach even though Vivaldi is only quoted (as Corelli or Tartini).

16 of thoses lines are devoted to both Bach and Handel. The author write: The Baroque area reached its zenith in the work of Johan Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) and Georg Frederic Handel (1685-1759). - p 559

The history of music in all forms (books of specialists, pedagogic books, popularisation books...), generally issued by the more great editors, signed or supervised by highest personalities in the musical field or written by critics, literators, since 1965 (later exhumation of Vivaldi and fashion of this composer in the years 1960) until to-day allow to see the difference of consideration between the two composers by official intelligentsia and the whole musical society. In the great histories of music written by an important number of authors, the cause of these differences is probably the inertia of reference books where a certain steadiness is hard to modify (in comparison with author's works alone), however Bach is always considered as the most important baroque composer. Whatever the origin of these differences, we see objectively at the beginning of the 21st century the persistence of a choice realized two centuries before. On the other hand, it seems that the prestige of the Cantor for the intellectuals to-day is so considerable than at the beginning of the 20th century even though the image of Vivaldi is for them - in spite of his success and perhaps because of it - the one of a secondary composer, rather superficial.  The notice of the Larousse dictionary (1957)* is probably not far from the opinion of many intellectuals to-day considering themselves as superior music-lovers.

* VIVALDI Antonio : Venitian violinist and composer who was more frequently characterized by virtuosity and exterior sensibility than by deep expression (Larousse classique - Larousse, Paris, 1957)

The difference in dealing with to the two composers (Bach and Vivaldi) in the history music books can appear amazing because it is not certain that the audience of Bach is so much superior at Vivaldi's and above all if we compare the respective role of the two composers in the musical evolution in the 20th century.

In fact, according to all the musicologists, Vivaldi had a great importance in the transformation of the concerto, developping the mind of solist, on the other hand the novelties he carries in the symphonism were incontestable. On the contrary, Bach was a typically conservative who did not change the musical language. He was turned towards the past, prefering religious music, choral song, the ancient forms : fugue, polyphonic writing.

Behind schedule of a half century on the novelties on his age for the essential of his production,  he represents a bridge between the 17th and the 18th century. How to understand the importance of the name of Bach to-day? A retrospective of the circumstances of Bach revival can perhaps carry an answer.

Certain books  notice the references to Bach in many composers of 19th and 20th century. This sporadic influence - concerning generally countrapuntic works, often didactic and on the fringes of general music evolution (which belongs to accompanied melody) cannot be compared with the whole works of concertant or symphonic music and do not justify for us such an important development. On the other hand, these references will be a consequence of Bach apology in the beginning of the 19th century, that we will analysed below.


According to all the sources, the first stage of the revival of Bach is the biography of Bach by Forkel in 1802. Then, thanks to learned societies, the name of Bach rose up in Europe according to the New Grove Dictionary of music and Musicians (1989), the Bach-Gesellschaft in 1850, then the Bachvereine, and later, the société Bach of Gustave Bret in Paris In London, during the 19th century, Wesley, presents Bach as a superhuman genius, designates him as San Sebastian, Our Appolo and his propaganda converts many sceptics, particularly Burney, the old musicologist. Still according to the same book:

At Cambridge in the 1840, T.A. Walmisley lectured on Bach and taught his students to revere him above all other composers. (New Grove Dictionary of music and Musicians, Macmillan Publishers Limited, London,1989)

Later on, the enthusiasm will not decline, as show by the following quotations, of which many, come from books with important circulation and republishing, then significant for the influence they have had and the importance of the ideology they transmit.

The Larousse du 20e siècle of 1928 (Librairie larousse, Paris, 1928), neverthless prudent and objective as all the usuals, asserts about the Cantor :

The strength of his production is equal in his masterpiece to the beauty and the richness of the inspiration and an incomparable science [...] The prodigious artist has produced in all musical kinds and he was superior in all. The boldness of his inspiration... in front of which we do not cease to fill with wonder are like the prolegomenos to all future music.

In the same spirit, Eugène Vuillermoz, in his Histoire de la musique (1973, first publishing 1949) asserts:

But what makes his over-whelming superiority on all composers of  his age, is the deep sensitive character who changes his most formalistic scores. (Vuillermoz Émile, Histoire de la musique, Fayard, 1973, première édition de 1949, p 140)

Roland de Candé (Jean-Sébastien Bach - Seuil, Paris, 1984) presents the first performance of The San Matthiew Passion as a major event of our civilisation. He write also :

All the musical forms known in his time, except opera, were extraordinarly amplified by Bach and projected in the future.(p. 292)

Even the concerto - who was invented by Torelli, developed by Vivaldi, with the importance we know - has been extraordinarly amplified by Bach whose concertant works are essentially transcriptions or works of doubtful authenticity! Let's bet that if Bach would has composed an opera, he would be the best who were never writen.

Lucien Rebatet , as likewise, asserts in Une histoire de la musique (1969) :

Never a musical organisation stronger, more perfect than that of the Cantor of Leipzig has lived in the skull of a mortal (Rebatet, Lucien, Une histoire de la musique, Laffont, Paris, 1969.)

Louis Aguettant, the most famous critic probably in the first half of the 20th century who considers Saint-Saëns and Tchaïkovski with a deep contempt, writes about Bach:

To-day, everybody knows that his name is one of a musician that none overtakes, that none probably equals. (Aguettant, Louis - La musique de piano des origines à Ravel - Albin Michel, Paris, 1954 - p. 51)

And the conductor W. Furtwangler, in a statement, summarize the phenomenon of sacralisation of Bach:

Bach is the saint who throne, inaccessible under the clouds, the greatest of musicians, the Homerus of music, whose light shines in the sky of musical Europe.

Camille Mauclair notices rightly in La religion de la musique (1908) the exception that Bach represents in the speech of musicologists.

The greatest composers are severely criticized : none perhaps, except Bach, is spared. (Mauclair Camille, La religion de la musique, Librairie Fishbacher  Paris  1908 environ, p. 104)

It seems that the least criticize to Bach is sacrilegious.

It is also about Bach that we find at the highest degree the dogma of infallibility of the composer, as shows this quotation of Edmond Buchet in Connaissance de la musique (1942):

That I admire and that always astonished me in Bach is exactly this musical feeling thick, concise and inexhaustible of all his masterpieces. (Buchet, Edmond, Connaissance de la musique, Editions Correa Paris 1942, p. 161).

A particularly stricking example of the dogma of infallibility of the composer is supplied by Jacques Chailley. In his book Les Passions de Jean-Sébastien Bach, (PUF, Paris, 1963, p70), he considers as inauthentic the St. Luke Passion, as most musicologists (All the biographers avoid the discussion and do not talk about the St. Luke Passion or mention it of doubtful authenticity. That expression is a minimum for us), because for him the quality of this Passion is unworthy of Bach  (Apparently, nothing allows to think this Passion is inauthentic. Nothing except the respect due to the great Bach. Because the work is bad. Nothing shows the style of the master. p.70). In fact, this work is, as writes Chailley, autograph and it bears the signature JJ (Jesu, Juva) who, said Chailley, allow distinguish the own masterpieces of Bach from the innumerable copies he wrote otherwise. This attitude of the musicologist is curious because he considers as authentic without discussion the St. John Passion, which ten pages only are autograph (fact which he is not ignorant of). The consideration of the aesthetic value of the masterpiece for the appreciation of the authenticity seems an inadmissible argument on the scientific level, even more so if the authenticity is established incontestable by material proofs (the autography and the signature). Then, there is in most biographers a postulate of the greatness of Bach which overrides all objective consideration.

It appears that many recent Music History books, and even dictionaries, generally respecting the objectivity of scientific books introduce as Pavlovian reflex about Bach judgments of value. The terms sublime, genial, wonderful, marvellous are used even though they are generally not used for Vivaldi and most other composers.

The idolatry about Bach since his revival cannot be contested. The exaggeration of these overstatements, sometimes through a religious  vocabulary incites to be prudent and not believe these speeches. On the other hand, Vivaldi has never represented a myth, he is apparently known because his music is really appreciated, it is the reason why he represents - contrary to the opinion of most of commentators - a more solid and authentic value. The hiatus between the consideration of Bach by the intellectuals and the success more limited that he obtains in direction of the meloman public during his life and at his revival in the XIXth century is stricking. If we agree with Nicolas Temperley, a writer of  New Grove Dictionary of music and Musicians (1989):

Nevertheless, for many years, Bach was known in England more by reputation than by experience. (New Grove Dictionary of music and Musicians , p. 885).

It is the same strange observation that Fauquet and Hennion remark in the growing of Bach notoriety in the 19th century:

In the beginning of the 19th century, Bach is famous without being known (p. 54). We must always have the idea that for Bach his notoriety came before success (p 160) (Fauquet, Joël-Marie/Hennion, Antoine - La grandeur de Bach L'amour de la musique en France au 19th siècle - Fayard, Paris, 2000)

Then, the rise up of Bach is characterized by an artificial character involved by supporters associations. The admirers of Bach belonged and probably belong to-day to the intellectuals, as Handschin remarks

Is not it significant, particularly, that the admirers of Bach are recruited mainly in the intellectuals circles ? (Histoire de la Musique tome 1 Des origines à Jean-Sébastien Bach encyclopédie de la Pléïade, Gallimard, 1977, p 1185).

These intellectuals are rather allergic to Vivaldi

This remark, do not seems right for musicologists, in particular Arnold Schering, Roland de Candé who were interested in both composers.)

However, the heroisation, for example about the great painters of the Renaissance seems for the great artists a natural transformation that we can consider as an amplification without suspecting their genius, but we do not find this ideological will to impose a name against the public as it is the case with the admirers of Bach.

We remark that if the veneration is less important in current books (because the music history conception is more scientific), its effects have not disappeared : Bach, who was unknown in the 18th century is now among the four most famous composers in first place in the history music book*. Likewise, if the anathems against the virtuoso-composer have almost disappeared in books, their effects are always here. The most famous of virtuosos-composers (Vivaldi, Viotti, Paganini) in their time are to-day consider as secondary composers or very little known.

*A study we have realized on about ten music history books and music dictionaries belonging to the 20th century has shown that the 4 great composers who are a head (by number of pages) are almost always Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Wagner. Vivaldi is about 22nd.

How to explain that enthousiasm for Bach even though the whole baroque age, in particular Italian, is occulted ?


The rise up peculiar to German baroque composers (Bach and Handel) can be explained by the important activity of Germanic musicologists in the 19th century (particularly Forkel, Spitta, Riemann...) while this activity remains poor in Italy (11)

Before the 20th century the state of musicology in Italy presented a strange contrast between the richness of the country's archives and the failure of its scholars to make the best use of them (New Grove Dictionnary of music and Musicians (1989) p 849.).

To this importance of the historiography in German, we can add the importance of German publishers as Peters and Breitkopf who begin early in the 19th century a complete issue of the works of the Cantor* - the first issue realized of an composer - and the role on the opinion of the press reviews, which the main is leading - by an extraordinary chance - by Nikolaus Forkel himself**.

*It was begun in 1943 by London Handel Society editions (New Grove dictionary, p 884) while the complete publishing of the Vivaldi work did not begin before 1947 by the Editions Ricordi, (Vivaldiana, Centre International de Documentation Antonio Vivaldi, Vaillant-Carmanne, Liège, [s.d.]))

**Germany has preserved the tradition of music periodicals and those which were founded in the end of 18th by the priest Vogler, JN Forkel et JF Rochlitz have announced Schumann's "Neue Zeitschrift für Musik" which, after its foundation in 1834, has become one of the more influent vehicle of public opinion  (Université d'Oxford -Dictionnaire encyclopédique de la musique - Robert laffont, Paris, 1988 - sous la direction de Denis Arnold; titre original : The new Oxford Companion to music - p 564 article critique musicale).

How to explain that the most famous composer of the 18th century whose works are in many European capitals beyond Norway, Sweden or Poland was discovered in the middle of the 20th century even though another unknown composer (Bach) which works have stayed in an almost only library in Germany have become famous a century before? The importance of German historiography can explain it.

That is the conclusion noted by Denis Arnold: J.S. Bach was a German composer, fundamental data, for two reasons: when the German national conscience arises in the 18th century, attention turns to a composer who seems to be very slightly indebted to foreign cultures (we know to-day that it is wrong). On the other hand, Germany is a good place for historic works such as archaeology or study of archives. J.S. Bach having bequeathed many manuscripts to his sons, the material is available for choir as Singakademie of Berlin, one choir who is devoted to ancient music. (Université d'Oxford - Dictionnaire encyclopédique de la musique - Robert Laffont, Paris, 1988 - sous la direction de Denis Arnold; titre original : The new Oxford Companion to music copyright Oxford University presse 1983 - p 169 Denis Arnold)

The nationalism which existed at the beginning of the Bach revival appears in the biography by Forkel. Handschin remarks that certain parts too nationalist have been eliminated in the recent republishing .

A scruple of delicacy which dates of several years have led to eliminate in the republishing, parts judged too "patriotic"(Histoire de la musique tome 1 Des origines à Jean-Sébastien Bach Encyclopédie de la Pléïade, Gallimard, Paris, 1977, p 1185).

 How to explain in fact that the two baroque composers considerated as important of the 18th century in the books since the end of the 19th century are Bach and Handel, two German composers while the preponderance of the Italian music in all Europe is contested by no musicologist. ?

Telemann, another German composer, is sometimes associated to him even though the other composers are relegated far behind.

On the same topic, the notice of the music history in the Dictionnaire encyclopédique Quillet (Librairie Aristide Quillet, Paris, 1969 - notice musique p. 4457) is significant. The part Music of 17th and 18th century contains a general notice (400 words) and registers on the different national music. More than half of the notice is devoted to Bach. No Italian composer is quoted, but Handel and Rameau are quoted. The place devoted to the national music in the registers is: Italian music: 0,18; French music: 0,29; English music: 0,08; German music: 0,45. The overwhelming domination of Italian music in whole Europe in this time is miraculously changed here into German domination. We can see the hiatus between the historic reality and the historiography. So, we can remark in the registers that Bach take up 28 lines and Vivaldi 1 line, this in a book which was issued in 1969.

According to all the authors, in the first half of the 18th century, it was in fact the Italian composers who invented all the new forms and fill most of the European courts. Generally, most of the names known to-day about an artistic period come from the geographic place who dominates at this period. For example, the impressionist painters famous to-day are those who invented this style in France (particularly Renoir and Monet) and who have had anyway incontestable notoriety during their life. It would have seemed curious should the history of painting had forgotten them all and imposed a name of a painter who would come from another geographic place and who would stay unknown during his life. Then, there is an curious incongruity  in the history of music who can lead us to suspect a deformation. We cannot blame German musicographers for their natural and legitimate choice to study and promote particularly the composers of their land, neither their nationalist tendency in the historic context (which they were not alone to show), but so it seems, in an objective conception of music history, to relativise the hierarchical values they have established. If we consider the values of representativeness we have given, it is not the case.

After Forkel, Philipp Spitta has praised in Bach a music purely Germanic who does not contain foreign influence, but when musicologists reveal in his works many influences, appears miraculously the famous argument of synthesis, permitting to make compilators appear as superior composers. The genius of the Cantor was not to have been superbly isolated, but on the contrary to have achieved a synthesis, of course genial, of Italian, French and Germanic influences. The following quotation coming from Encyclopédia universalis Dictionnaire de la musique Les compositeurs (Albin Michel 1998) show the opinion underlying in many musicographers:

We should think differently the whole music history and the arts : there were the composers who wanted rule their music and those who wanted that their music rule themselves. Many revolutions, and often bad, were born by the first: and we can say that the second obtain best synthesis. It is the case of Bach. (notice Bach)

We cannot mean more elegantly that the greatest composers are compilators clever to use innovations founded by others and that innovators are nuisance it is necessary to eliminate.

In the other hand, the archaism of Bach, who nevertheless used the tonalism of the 18th century, allowed to do appears Bach as author of an other synthesis, unique, between the contrapunctic style and the "modern" style. This adds a time universalism to his geographic universalism. Theses exegetic opinions changes, too adapted to the embarrassing things and converting insufficiencies in eminent qualities, can, at the very least, lead to have doubts about theses assertions. More, the tendency of Bach to compilate and borrow allows, by the magical dialectic of our musicographers, a admirable open-mindedness and universalism. Thus, Bach appears as the champion of the European music.

We can evoke a synthesis of German, Italian elements; this without forgot French influences, so miraculously assimilated and magnified. (Dictionnaire de la musique - Larousse, 2001 - sous la direction de Marc Vignal , p42) We can notice the title of the sub chapter of this chapter devoted to Bach: A genial systhesis.

Further, the existence in his works of a rhythmic impulse (characteristic of prebaroque music) who evoke jazz allows to integrate Bach in the actual tendency of the cosmopolitism and give him the surpassing of a visionary of future.

However, if the nationalist cause could be important at the beginning, perhaps it is not essential afterwards, and insufficient to explain the growth of the Bach "cult" in many European lands. It does not explain the choice of Bach and not Telemann, another German composer more famous in its time than the cantor of Leipzig.

On the other hand, we can think the English musicographers (as Wesley and Walmisey) did not have peculiar motivation to prefer German composers to Italian. Bach was also supported by musicographers of various origins like André Pirro or Alberto Basso for example. The preponderant cause of the Bach "cult" seems, on the contrary, ideological. Some statements in Bach's biography by Forkel are significant of an ideology very inclined toward intellectualist conception opposed to an artistical conception where intuitive musical pleasure is essential :

It is necessary to have assimilate theses masterpieces (Bach masterpieces) to be fond of them and to be fond of the genius of their author : this supposes for the lover a serious and tenacious study. (Forkel Johann Nikolaus Première biographie de Bach traduction  in "Bach et son temps", Hachette, [s.l.] 1982, p 444)

To-day, the Bach masterpieces are known by a large public, though this one is not fond to study the masterpiece he listens ? Is this interest really bound to the musical contents as artistical masterpiece ? Let us consider the different causes which can explain the favourable position of Bach near for the public.


It appears, at first, that the most famous Bach masterpiece, at least in the instrumental music, would be free transcriptions, desattributed works or masterpiece containing borrowings of others composers, if we agree with some experts.

Remark that false attributions, generally, are dishonesties of composers or publishers who use known names. We can thus explain the wrong attributions on the name of Vivaldi, and all other composers famous in their time. These misattributed works never became famous and never participated to the misnotoriety of Vivaldi. About Bach, the misattributed works mainly result of his activity of copying and transcripting, which shows his temperament of compilator (for example concertos transcribed from Vivaldi, Marcello, Sachen-Weimar). Let's make a panorama of famous or relatively famous works whose authenticity is contested.

It is to-day quite sure that the famous Great toccata and fugue BWV 565 is not a work of Bach.

Io Tomita comment like this the series of studies on this work in his Bach Bibliography: One of the most vexing questions facing the recent Bach scholarship concerns the authenticity of the famous toccata and fugue in D minor (BWV 565). Despite its universal appeal for the awesome image of the composer and his powerful writing for the organ, there was insufficient evidence to testify that it was a genuine work by Bach. It is only recently that this long unresolved case is reopened; it became evident that the ground to attribute the work to J. S. Bach is still tenuous. (Tomita, Io - On-line review In Bach Bibliography -13 June 2000 -

It is the same for a part of the Chromatic Fantasia. It  would be an improvisation written by one of Bach's son who would join a part of his personal inspiration. It is sure on the other hand that the famous Passacaglia and Fugue BWV 582 contains a modified theme coming from a book of organ of André Raison.

The borrowing is noted on the notice of certain recordings, and by the Bach-Gesellschafft. We can also remark that the borrowing is not indicated by the name of the masterpiece (as for exemple Variations on a theme of Diabelli of Beethoven, neither by the name of the composer (who would be for this masterpiece : André Raison/Johann Sebastian Bach. This occultation (not by intention) of the borrowing is not peculiar of the Bach's masterpiece. For example, the famous Symphonie fantastique (Berlioz) which contains in its last movement a theme of Tomas de Celeno is presented under the name of Berlioz alone as all masterpieces which contains Dies irae. These inaccuracies and false attributions generally contribute to maintain the prestige of the most celebrated composers to the detriment of the least.)

Still agreeing to the experts, the main theme of the first mouvement of the famous Concerto im italienischen Gusto BWV 971 was noted by Handel 10 years earlier in Italy. So, the authenticity of the violin concertos is debated... These inauthenticities, suspicions of inauthenticity, and these very numerous borrowings (that we do not enumerate here), involve a considerable doubt on the global value of Bach'work because they concern his most celebrated masterpieces, those which have probably led to his notoriety, particularly his most famous masterpiece, the Toccata and Fugue BWV 565. Then, the Cantor would have acquired an undeserved notoriety thanks to borrowings or transcriptions, notoriety which would be spread on his other works, authentic, thanks to the name acquired. On this subject Fauquet et Hennion remark the role of Ave Maria of Gounod, presented by this composer above the name of Bach. popularising the name of Gounod, it popularises the name of Bach. p. 165. Only the accompaniment is an use of Bach Prelude. Then, the musical interest of the work, mainly bounded to the melody, is due to Gounod and not Bach..

André Pirro, nevertheless great admirer of Bach, has acknowledged the important use of themes coming from many works of his contemporaries. He considers that Bach would change the works of these mediocre composers into genius masterpieces, giving them a depth that alone the Cantor was capable of.

The maestro certainly enjoyed it. First, the pleasure to change into a more perfect masterpiece the work he considers : in a excellent article, M. Schering indicates all the good modifications done by Bach. And this enjoyment to correct and make the original composition more supple, more equilibrate  (L'esthétique de Jean-Sébastien Bach, André Pirro Minkoff reprint Genève, 1973 (1ère édition de 1907), p 408)

Bach willingly changes  the subjects he accepts. Above all he enlarges them. The thin boughs he has collected, perhaps with an inattentive hand, are changed into marvellous trees. (L'esthétique de Jean-Sébastien Bach, André Pirro Minkoff reprint Genève, 1973 (1ère édition de 1907), p 429)

The fact that a great musicologist presents an important succession of borrowings (who is in fact a plagiarism) as a patronising of a superior mind allows to see the importance of the Bach cult. Certainly, the use of themes coming from other composers are not peculiar to Bach, but they reach in this composer a crucial point. Remark we do not know any borrowings important in Vivaldi. The Cantor would be more often a compilator than a creator. More generally, the importance of the problem of authenticity in Bach is so important that the musicologist Carl de Nys thinks it is difficult to judge the instrumental work of this composer :

Waiting to see the papers of this matter [the matter of the "Chromatic Fantasia"] and others matters (the famous matter of the concertos peculiarly, which the most careful do not dare assert to-day they are written by Bach), matters not yet make public by the editors of  the «Neue Bach-Ausgabe»), we must draw a careful description of the instrumental composer (Histoire de la musique tome 1 Des origines à Jean-Sébastien Bach Encyclopédie de la Pléïade, Gallimard, Paris, 1977, p 1916).

Now, since these lines of Carl de Nys (published in 1977), the problem of authenticity - that we do not consider here precisely - has evolved rather unfavourably for the Cantor. Do we know really to-day the total importance of borrowings, transcriptions or manipulations in the work of Bach ?


Another cause, very strong, could have be important to involve Bach's celebrity : it is the religious role of his works. This role must not be underrated, but it shows an interest who is not purely musical. Thus, the success of Bach religious music cannot alone give a proof of the purely musical interest for his work. Thanks to his important religious vocation, Bach should appears as the composer who is liked by the traditional public, a public who rather dislikes the expression of passions or the liberty of  virtuosity. So, he would have brought satisfaction to a public searching lack of expression and uniformity. It is the judgment of the composer and musicologist Alberto Savinio who thinks that the success of ancient music is a collective manifestation  of cowardice.

There is more depth, in the skolion of Sekeilos than in the whole colossal work of Bach. And it is this lack of depth in Bach, his ingenuous seriousness, which makes his charm and represents the attraction he has on the middle-class. ( La boîte à musique Ed Fayard, 1989, p 29)

To-day, the middle-class listens to the Art of Fugue as it listened yesterday to the Traviata. Why? Because the lover-music have had an indigestion of human passions, and to-day they search peace of the heart, a game that goes beyond feeling. They look for this austere sleep of brains which is given by the Bach music (La boîte à musique Ed. Fayard 1989, p 32).

Of course, it is an personal opinion very hypothetical of this musicologist, who contrast to the general opinion.


The success - relative - of Bach works in the public would be explained, on, the other hand, by the influence of medias manipulated by the Intellectuals. If ideally the demand creates supply in actual market, we cannot be ignorant that the ideological causes can invert this phenomenon. The importance of Bach in comparison with Vivaldi in the books (sometimes 10 to 1) does not seems equal in the sales of recording, not so important for Bach., thus it seems a certain manipulation of the musical opinion.

Vivaldi was one of the most sold composer in the years 1960 and his title The four seasons has obtain the record of sale during many years.

We can see the importance of the influence of the mass-medias in some popularising books. The book of Ulrich Michels Guide illustré de la musique 1990, for example, in which Bach has 9 times more represented than Vivaldi, is in most libraries in France.

Michels, Ulrich,, Guide illustré de la Musique, Fayard, 1990, book translated from the German, initial title : "Atlas sur musik"

It is the same for the book of  J.J. Soleil et J. Lelong, Les oeuvres-clés de la musique Bordas, 1991, other popularising book, which advised for 16 masterpieces of Bach and only 2 for Vivaldi. This book, on the other hand, despises most of masterpieces, nevertheless famous which do not correspond with the intellectual criterion of the authors (particularly the Concerto of Grieg, the Concerto n°2 of Rachmaninov).


Another cause can explain the actual success of Bach, it is the importance of illusion in the musical judgment. It is necessary to consider sociology, especially the Durkheim theory. According to this sociologist, when the African prostrates himself in front of his totem, it is not essentially because of a peculiar characteristic of this totem, but because it is the object of a collective manifestation which united the group. In itself, the totem is neutral and cannot involve an emotional stimulation. This thesis, in the absolute, denies any value to an artistic masterpiece. If, as we think, it cannot be applied to the whole works of music (although there is no proof), we can think that the ideological cause, as in the Durkeim theory, is present in the genesis of the notoriety of a composer (rather about a particular masterpiece), according to varied ways. If we consider the existence of a Bach cult, Bach is, more than another, the composer to whom we can most apply the durkheimian criticism. So, the illusion would be explained, about Bach as about numerous other composers, by the influence of a celebrated name, when the bound of celebrity is established. After, the autosuggestive phenomenon would happen: common musical effects on the work lead the conditioned listener real emotions as epiphenomenon of cerebral sensibility. These emotions, in intensity, in quality, would not of course be compared to emotions induced by a genius masterpiece. How many admirers of Well-Tempered Clavier would consider this work as genial if it have been presented under the name of an unknown composer? And before the time when authenticity was doubtful, the Bach desattributed masterpiece have not seemed lower than the Bach authentic masterpiece. This fact seems to show that Bach is not fundamentally higher than the others composers, at least not for certain works. It is a real natural experience in double blind, as the same done by scientists in medicine.

This argument is true also for all the celebrated composer, that would show generally that the well known composers are not fundamentally higher than the unknowns.

We would think that the admirers of Four seasons or than the Concerto n°1 of Tchaïkovski are not more sincere than admirers of  Art of the Fugue, but the circumstances in which theses masterpieces have become celebrated seem to show a deep difference. It appears that the Four seasons and the Concerto n°1 have obtained their celebrity essentially thanks to the success of concert and recording because these composers (Vivaldi and Tchaïkovski) have never had the support of the musical institutions and medias (shown by the little place they have in music books). Especially Tchaïkovski must acquire his celebrity against the criticism of musicographers (scornful criticism against virtuosity, sentimentality...). That is shown in the book of Rebatet:

In harmony, he is almost as academic as his friend Saint-Saëns. [...] It would be useful situate Tchaïkovski for the popular public who takes delight in him, to explain to this public the distance which separates the talent of the Russian, sentimental conservative, from the first Mahler symphonies [...], without searching a higher comparison. It is to specify this notion that we have given a little place to Tchaïkovski which historically he would not have had. (Rebatet, Lucien, Une histoire de la musique, Laffont, Paris, 1969, p 460). And about the Fantasy-Concertos, then the melodies : Chattering and cavalcade in the emptiness, with a bad way almost indecent.; except 3 or 4, a hundred of melodies in which his bad literary taste and his superficial sensitiveness do the most insipid union. (p. 460).

The book of Lucien Rebatet has been issued another time in France (Laffont, Paris, 1999) 30 years after his first issue. An issue in Spanish also exists ((Una historia de la musica, Omega, 1977), that show the importance of the current of thinking he represents. The independent authors, who are not inclued in a university structure, like Lucien Rebatet, do not hesitate to assert value judges. The book of Lucien Rebatet, without musicological value, seems to have a great sociologic meaning because it reveals openly the dominant ideology of its time. It is probably the most emblematic book which represents what we could name the ideal of the superior music-lover of the 20th century.


An important feature in Bach's works, as often in the polyphonicals works in the 17th century, is the complex rules of composition, and also a cabalistic or esoteric content whose musical significant is doubtful. The difference with the purely lyric content of Vivaldi's work, who create only musicals effects, is striking. The musicologist Charles Rosen writes about the Art of the Fugue that this masterpiece must be learned at the time when it is played. It would be a score for eyes and not for ears. The importance and the real role of secret codes, hermeneutic symbols in art have been often denounced. We can suppose in fact than this conceptual order is not intuitively perceived. This criticism reduce the credibility of the Cantor. All the efforts which were done to show the depth of Bach thanks to numerology on the contrary would show his superficiality.

Thus, at the end of this analysis, Bach is contested by the double knowledge of recent musicology and sociology.


It is symptomatic to remark the considerable efforts of the musicographers to present Bach as a modern composer, an innovator, and so show his superiority, speech invalidate by the musicographic analysis. Curiously, the authors continue to assert the modernity of Bach in terms general and idealist and they recognize objectively his archaism when they consider the musical works.

Generally, the same authors who flatter Bach provide objective arguments against elogies they have lavished. These arguments - on which our article is mainly founded - can consequently be exonerated of any partiality against Bach.

Roland de Candé recognizes that some have tried to show that Bach was a innovator while he is essentially a man turned toward the past, toward the polyphonic writing and the choral, but the same musicologist consider Bach to a pioneer on the superior level, believing the subject of his own critic

Certain have liked to show Bach as a revolutionary composer : it is to know nothing about his real genius. Bach distrusts news forms...Candé, Roland de, Nouveau dictionnaire de musique, 1986, Seuil, p 45)

.The biggest confusion often appears in the notices about Bach because it is difficult to conciliate the ideological necessities and the musicological reality.

This conflict between ideology and objective analysis appears yet in the 19th century. Fétis, and others authors, remark mistakes in Bach contrapuntic writing, but these noticed flaws do not destroy the obligated dogma  of the Bach perfection.

As,in this quotation of P. Druilhe in his History of music (1957):

If the musician, who writes especially for the church and the courts, innovates little, however he gives to each form a perfection and an extensiveness never reached before he. Though its depth, its mastery, his interior lyrism, the art of Bach, ahead of his time, prepares all modern music, and representes its most important basis. (Druilhe, Paule - Histoire de la musique - Librairie Hachette, paris, 1957, p 74)

The notice about Bach in the Dictionary of the music (Albin Michel, Paris, 1998) seems very characteristic of the growing difficulty which exists to-day, about Bach, in the books and compels musicographers to exert dialectic acrobatics to maintain the dogma of  the greatness of Bach.

The notice of G. von Dadelsen in the Dictionary of the music of Honneger (1995), contents the sames contradictions, in amazing lines :

The work of Bach is not in its place into its time. He uses traditional forms without being turned toward the past and uses elements of style and modern techniques  without being an innovator himself and without participating to the at elaboration of gallant and sensitive style. (Dictionnaire usuel de la musique Honneger, Bordas, Paris, 1995)

So, the music history of the Dictionnaire encyclopédique Quillet:

Arrived at the good time, heir of all acquisitions of past and at the same time completely warped towards future, he has, with genius, used all the resources of polyphony and has arranged it in harmonist yet entierely modern. [...] After him, the style of writing in the music is not that it was during 4 century (Dictionnaire encyclopédique Quillet - Librairie Aristide Quillet, Paris, 1969 - p4461):

And the same dictionary asserts:

With Handel, Saxon as he, Bach is the founder of all the music named modern (Dictionnaire encyclopédique Quillet - Librairie Aristide Quillet, Paris, 1969 - p552)

The biographies are often the pilling up of stratums accumulated during the musical historiography, stratums whose elements can contradict themselves without embarrass the authors.

It appears so, on the musicologic level, that the harmonic boldness of Bach was only interpretation mistake consecutive to confusion  between the horizontal writing and the vertical writing, fact known by those who consider Bach as a superior composer.

The criterium of the harmony does not permit to prove what commentators call his "harmonic boldness", making him the precursor of the modern revolutions (Candé, Roland de - Jean-Sébastien Bach - Seuil, Paris, 1984 - p 294)

 It appears rather than these novelties would be attributed to Scarlatti or Vivaldi. Frédéric Platzer in his Abrégé de musique recognizes that the harmonic language of Vivaldi, very rich, has stayed identical until Schumann.

The very rich and curious vivaldian harmony exists, with alternation of parts very tonal and others on chromatisms added to tritons of series of reduced sevenths, as romantics used (a century later ((Platzer, Frédéric Agrégé de l'Université- Abrégé de musique - Ellipses, Paris, 1999 - p 213

The would-be modernity of Bach, the boldness some assign to him appear hardly in keeping with the image of the man given by his biography (according to the biographers), a laborious, religious, traditional man, who does not search originality, an image which is not in keeping with the image of an artist and opposed to the image high in colours of Vivaldi.

In the same time, to contradict the criticism of coldness about intellectuual scores and especially to make Bach ahead of his time, the musicographers have tried to show he was, nevertheless his formalism, a romanticist, and there was a peculiar warmth in his counterpoint. This tendency showed Bach in accordance with the new music conception considered as superior in 19th century: to create a deep emotion, touch the soul and not to represent a conceptual order perceived by intelligence or as a sensual pleasure, superficial, old obsolete conceptions

According to Belinda Cannone, it is in the second half of the 18th century with Coquéo, Chastellux, Estève... that appears the new music conception as expression of emotion unattainable by mind against the old conception named gothic (La Harpe, Marmontel, d'Alembert). People want that the music give emotion and mind is not considered p 124 (Cannone, Belinda - Philosophies de la musique (1752-1780) - Aux amateurs du Livre, Paris, 1990).

Eugène Vuillermoz see Bach in accordance with this conception in his Histoire de la musique (1973) :

We do not talk of the intense emotion of his passions, in his Mass or his motets, but we can talk about this secret throb we perceive in his instrumental work, we can talk about this human tepidness which warms his preludes and fugues  (Histoire de la Musique, Fayard, 1973, p 140)

In L'esthétique de Jean-Sébastien Bach (1907) A. Pirro absolutely wants to demonstrate that Bach was a passionate romanticist, this fact explaining why Bach was misunderstood by his contemporaries:

The excessive boldness and the multiple strenght of his wild themes gave to his works an exaggerated character who seemed intolerable. (Pirro, André - L'esthétique de Jean-Sébastien Bach, Genève : Minkoff 1973, 1ère édition 1907, p 505).

This interpretation of this musicologist is very amazing if we know that Bach, during his life, according to biographers, was considered by everyone as an old wig, a traditionalist whose musical personality was dull (20).

Bach was a traditionalist, good counterpoint teacher and excellent player, but not more...(Challey, Jacques, Les Passions de Jean-Sébastien Bach, PUF, Paris, 1963)

André Pirro write also about the Well-Tempered Clavier :

Bach composes a tumultuous music which talks about storms and desperation. (Pirro, André - L'esthétique de Jean-Sébastien Bach, Genève : Minkoff 1973, 1st publishing 1907), p 390)

And, to conclude, he asserts :

Then the readers will recognize, under the severe dress of the Cantor, the expressive musician, the wild and vehement forerunner of Beethoven and Richard Wagner. (Pirro, André - L'esthétique de Jean-Sébastien Bach, Genève : Minkoff 1973, 1ère édition 1907, p 508)

Nevertheless, we think that the conventional language of Bach - considered by Pirro as the beginning of romanticism - is shown by Joseph Samson in Monde et vie intérieure (1951).

Melodic or rythmic forms are used by Bach to evoke joy, anger, pain, sorrow... he created  a vocabulary he used all his life : conventional language all esoteric, who will be elucidated only thanks an extramusical exegesis. (note Samson, Joseph, Monde et vie intérieure, Éditions du Vieux Colombier Paris 1951, p 126)

The speech has not changed to-day. About Art of fugue, Marc Vignal write in a book issued in 2001.

This didactic score with extraordinary writing has such a great expressive beauty (Dictionnaire de la musique Larousse, 2001 on the direction of Marc Vignal 900 p. 1 volume - p. 43 notice Bach)

Against the most elementary musicological evidences and to support the title of Father of music of the Cantor, some popularising books continue to assert the importance of Bach in establishing the tonal music. So in The New Encyclopaedia Britannica (Chicago, last copyright 1992): In the works of both Handel and Bach changes in technique reached a culmination with clear establishment of the tonal system, allowing for modulation from one key to another, primarily as a device for formal organisation (vol 24, p. 559)

The relative prudence of certain musicologists to denounce in 20th century the excess of the Bach veneration can be explained by the natural weight of tradition, but also, we think, by a certain terrorism of thinking generally bound to religion or ideology.

Some have recently tried to change the religious perception of the composer. Religious intellectuals to-day, as a reply to the criticism of  miserabilism and masochism towards Christianity have tried to enhance the value of joy in the evangelic message. Bach did not escape at this necessary ideological revisionism. Some critics praise to-day the jubilation which, according to them, exists in the masterpiece of the Cantor. So, for them, the austere lutherian is more jovial than Vivaldi, the profane Venitian. The difference is probably that the joy of Vivaldi is of course superficial. Some, so, in spite of historic reality , would impose a Neue Bach Bild,  denying the importance of the religious vocation of the Cantor. Such a variation in comparison with the aesthetic philosophy of Forkel two centuries before can amaze.

On the other hand, the conception Bach had of his musical activity seems close to the polyphonic tradition of the 16e century, in which the music does not have artistic intention. It would be the exploitation of a know-how linked to the instruments, to the musical theory... which involve a teaching, an activity. The moderns biographers of Bach said that Bach, the artisan, consider the music as a technique than an art. His works have more often a didactic motivation than artistic, the practical role joining the religious role. It is what showed the musicologics works about Bach which Ulrich Michels so evokes.

Bach does not consider his creation work as a romanticist, as a masterpiece, but as an artisanaly art, which needs application, efforts, which allows to both learn and teach, all in the world of God. His profane and religious musics are not contradictory, but have the same ground basis. (Michels, Ulrich,, Guide illustré de la Musique, Fayard, 1990, p 363, book translated from the German, initial title: Atlas sur musik)


During the 19th century, then during the 20th century, it seems that Bach would became the crystallization point of a philosophy in which musical pleasure is despised. The search of a musical depth (real or supposed), more intellectual than sensitive is prefered. After the recognition of art as soul expression unattainable to mind at the end of the 18th century, it seems that the strength representing intellect in the society impose undergroundly, with Bach particularly and the condemnation of virtuose-composers, the restauration of the predominance of mind on soul. This predominance will be continued openly by the recognition a century after of atonal music which relies on theories liberated of feeling and emotion. We find the succession opposition-take-over which desnotes the working of the mind. So, the philosophers would oppose to the importance of emotion which go beyond their understanding. However, concealing the intellectual reality of the Bach music, they try to show on the emotional level his works are better than the works of composers typically lyrics. They divert then the prestige attached to the music conception as expression of the soul. This quotation of Arnold show it.

Bach is different from Vivaldi especially in his concerto for harpsichord where the instrument allows a counterpoint more complicated and less pure. Although several are transcriptions of works for violin or obeo, the harmonic possibilities of the harpsichord allow a total contrast with the tutti and increase the range of emotions beyond the Italian models. (Université d'Oxford -Dictionnaire encyclopédique de la musique - Robert Laffont, 1988 - in notice Concerto, p 482)

Identically, in this quotation of Encyclopédia universalis :

In all his enterprises, he [Bach] never failed and, exept any pages of youth very little irregular, he raised his art to a point of maturity and stability without comparison. More, all his work is preserved, by a miracle, of scholastic. (Encyclopédia universalis Dictionnaire de la musique Les compositeurs - Albin Michel 1998 - p 35)

The ultimate point of this dialectic scheme is reached when musicographers accuse the more lyric composers of negative characteristics belonging logically to their favourites. So, for example, Saint-Saëns, pianist-composer, lover of virtuosity, author of many concertos (whose structure is heterodox) and symphonic poems - is considered as an academic composer although Bach using essentially polyphonic writing, author of fugues and chorals is considered as a warm composer whose works contain an intense emotion. So, some do not hesitate to consider the pure emotive composer Tchaïkovski as an academic composer. So Robert Bernard remarks:

He [Vivaldi] has had the condescending contempt of musicologists who, wihout publishing it, consider him for an simple amateur, and for the same reason which has led to an contempt of Stendhal, Dostoïevski, Moussorgski or Gauguin (Bernard, Robert - Histoire de la musique Nathan, Paris, 1974) - p. 270)

And Marcel Marnat write about Prete Rosso:

He does not have  this heaviness which establishes the geniality more than all other qualities. (Marnat, Marcel - Vivaldi - Seghers, Paris, 1965 )

This attempt of diversion of Art by the philosophers is not new. We join, it seems, the antimusical reaction which, according to the commentators, has grown in France during the 17th century and until the 18th century for the instrumental music.

This reaction is analysed by Belinda Cannone, quoting the abot Noël-A. Pluche (Spectacle de la nature - 1746 ) who blames music for giving pleasure without instruction : What he often call of "pervert the right use of sounds" seems to him an insult to the reason : how can we claim to "satisfy Man with a long suite of sounds without sense"? (Cannone, Belinda - Philosophies de la musique (1752-1780) - Aux amateurs du Livre, Paris, 1990 - p.25.

Music will be considered as a respected art after it has been considered as a superficial occupation. When music has been respected and consider as art, the opponents, who cannot contest it, appropriate it to pervert it, favouring composers who appear more intellectuals and disfavouring composers who are preferred by the public. It is the phase of distortion following the take-over. So, according to our thesis, philosophers, and with them critics, societies of concert, all the traditional intelligentsia, have joined their efforts to deny the works of true genius and impose composers according to their ideology. It would have been diversion of the art by the Intellectuals, a phenomenon of which the Bach cult would be the most particular expression. The Bach veneration is inscribed in a more general process: the appropriation of Art by intellectuals who want to control it. This deviation is to divert people from works which are not in accordance with intellectualism and traditionalism.

This substitution of the real masterpieces by false masterpieces without artistic content (according to our theory) would be the normal evolution of an artistic field toward sclerosis during the decadent period until the form of an economic parasitic exploitation. It will bi the case with the artificial importance given to the atonal music in the second half of 20th century.

We can remark that at the same time begins the discredit of virtuosos-composers of the 19th century (whose violinistic school during 17th and 18th was the announcement with Biber, Westhof, then Tartini, Vivaldi, Locatelli, Jarnovic, Viotti...). The virtuosos-composers were scorned and denounced, particularly by those who flatter Bach (21) as show these quotations of Bragard and Picolli.

Pretexting to do variations, the virtuosos have dishonoured a venerable form than Bach and Beethoven have stamped by their genious [...] It [the concerto] take delight in displaying whose vanity hide the indigent think and lack of poetry... Le feuillet musical for lovers of concert fascicule VIII, under the direction of Roger Bragard, Editions Dereune, Bruxelles,  Bragard, Le feuillet musical, p 2). And this jugde of Piccoli : For push beyond the derision, these works, mimicing the lyric decadent drama inflate themselve with a pretentious pathos, to invit the violonist to take advantageous behaviour of great tenor (Piccoli, Georges, Trois siècles de l'histoire du violon - Delrieu, Nice, 1954 - pp 97-98)).

Eckhardt van den Hoogen denounces the manipulation of which, according to him, the virtuosos-composers were victim :

... these artists who have been relegated by the experts to the column "superfluous" in hope they stay "forever" and they do not endanger by exposine it, the modification of history they have done with many efforts (note: Eduard KünnekeKoch international GmbH, 1997, p. 15).

So we remark that in the 20th century, the major successes of classical music were obtain by composers ignored by books on music history (for example Carl Orf with Carmina burana, Rodrigo with the Concerto de Aranjuez) while their protégés (Boulez, Varese, Schönberg) have considerable notices.

The history of music of Larousse (2000) concedes 113 lines to Boulez and 0 to Rodrigo and 0 at Orf. We recall that this book conceded 80 lines to Vivaldi, therefore a fraction  of 1,4 to the advantage of Boulez upon Vivaldi).

Nevertheless, these composers favoured never can write a score capable to attract the public. It is the credibility of the musical historiography methods which can be contested. The enormous work of exegesis and critic which was accumulated on a composers'work as an intellectual cancer, do we think, never can prove it value, neither it specifically musical interest and does not prove it really historic importance as art masterpiece.


With this general philosophic interpretation, and to return to Bach, we must add the hypothesis of an interpretation based upon individual psychology of the composer. The fight between intellect and intuition we have shown in society exists in the composer himself too, in Bach, but in many other composers. Liszt, a pure and intuitive artist, contested at the end of his life his musical conception established on virtuosity prefering a mystic and austere thought. Following the same mental evolution Falla, Scriabine, Albeniz, Stravinski... would limit themselves into an idealist or formalist mind, denying the creative bubbling of their youth. The only peculiarity of Bach's would be a very early dryness after a stage of opening (stage of Weimar) while his most formal works were written at the end of his life.

Many musicographers generally interpret this evolution as a deepening of thought and condemn the works written during youth as errors (except for Bach who, of course, never makes errors). This attitude would be an another diversion allowing to deny the real masterpieces. Nevertheless, we can relativize this severe judgment on Bach, considering perhaps that a well known composer has often written a few number of really genial masterpiece.

At the end of this article, we must specify that all the sociological phenomenons we have tried to analyse about Bach (cult of personality, dogma of infaillibility, illusion theory...) are not specific to this composer. They can be applied, more or less, we think, to all composers considered as great composers.

The exaggerated praises, particularly with religious vocabulary, also exist about Mozart designated the divine Mozart. On the other hand, the arise of Beethoven seems due mainly to extra-musical causes according Tia Denora (Beethoven et l'invention du génie in Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales Musique et musiciens n° 110 décembre, Le Seuil, 1995). The composer would obtain fame thanks to his personal efforts, and above all thanks to the Vienna aristocracy who would have done a real promotional.

Nevertheless, it appears that this phenomenon is particularly important about Bach. This remark justifies the parallelism we have developed into the two composers, Vivaldi and Bach. The initial aim is not to enhance the value of one composer to the other, but to make our analysis more demonstrative.

Is Bach a great composer ? The answer to this question depends on a judgment of value, which is subjective. It depends also on the authenticity of certain works, a fact about which we have no certitude. The whole facts established above (ideological pressure in emergence and support of Bach notoriety, very numerous borrowings, desattributilons of famous works, absence of innovation, use of ancient style incompatible with expression, low success in lifetime, success make in 19th and 20th century by partisan saturation medias coverage by Intellectuals) represent, we think, an overwhelming acknowledgment permitting to contest the historic importance it was given at this composer and inciting to the bigger reservation on the interest of a great number of his works.



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