Academic journal article Studia Musicologica

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach through the Glasses of Hans Von Bülow

Academic journal article Studia Musicologica

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach through the Glasses of Hans Von Bülow

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)


In a letter of 15 October 1860, Hans von Bülow, German conductor, pianist and composer, wrote to his friend, the composer Joachim Raff:

As for my activities, I have been busy with some Tannhäuser arrangements, e.g. the overture for Paris; now, for the request of Friedländer, I do the revision of six sonatas by Ph. Em. Bach.1

The following day, on 16 of October, he reveals his feelings about the work in another letter to another composer friend, Felix Draeseke:

Now I am in the process of editing some of Ph. Em. Bach's keyboard sonatas. The work is very dry and puts me in a bad mood. - Work to earn wages.2

It seems that nearly two years after this Bülow was still at work with the sonatas. In June 1862 he wrote again to Joachim Raff:

Lately I could do some work, but unfortunately have not accomplished much. A selection of four-part (mixed) Lieder will appear shortly (Kahnt), then a revision of six Ph. Em. Bach sonatas, which I still fiddle with: a translation from the clavichord-like to the pianoforte-like.3

The result of the painstaking work was finally published in 1862 by Peters in Leipzig, with the following title: Sechs ausgewcihlte Sonaten /für Klavier allein / von / Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach / bearb. u. mit einem Voiwort / hrsg. / von / Hans von Bülow. The Preface, an extremely important document of the histori- cal/artistic thinking of Bülow's generation, deserves to be reproduced here in its entirety. (For the original German text see the Appendix.)


The undertaking to revive the keyboard compositions of Karl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714, Weimar - 1788, Hamburg), second son of the great Johann Sebastian Bach, most important forerunner of Haydn and Mozart, creator of the modern free keyboard style, is justified by the undisputed historical significance of his works as well as by the fact that the wider public, and the majority of the musi- cians do not in fact know these works. The present moment seems favourable to remedy this; the lively interest that accompanied the attempt to perform the orchestral suites [Orchestersuiten] of this master* by the Leipzig Konzertinstitut some years ago (although the true weight of the achie\>ements of the composer is not to be found in these works), and awoke a fter this success everywhere where good music is cultivated, reinforces the assumption, that the present volume might win general attention. To reach this goal as fully as possible, the best solution seemed to me to publish a careful selection of the works of the master: composi- tions which reflect the virtues and characteristics of his style in the most lively and concise manner I do not think in the least that only these six sonatas are worthy of publication; but neither would I hold a complete edition reasonable. The latter might satisfy the philological-antiquarian interest of the learned musi- cians 'par excellence '; but, as far as the manifold claims of the wider public are concerned, the overabundance of material might miss the purpose. I remember the unexpected failure of the Viennese complete edition of the keyboard works of Domenico Scarlatti, the plates of which are already melted down.** The selection, made by me, will provisionally suffice to demonstrate and prize the artistic individ- uality of the highly prolific composer in its most important and most brilliant aspects; a composer who in many of his works repeats, copies and rearranges his own ideas, as it is usual at a great productivity in a not vet wholly developed field.

No less is the editor convinced of the necessity of a 'revision ' [Bearbeitung] than of a selection, by which he means no more and no less than a translation, from the keyboard language of the 18th century into that of the 19th century, from the clavichord-like to the pianoforte-like, inasmuch as a barbaric expression like this is permissible.

I believe, that I shall not encounter the opposition of the experts in this respect; indeed, the carefully made procedure might even find approval. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.