I had the office to myself this morning so I was listening to Essential Classics presented by Rob Cowan on BBC Radio 3 earlier on. During the course of the programme he pointed out that Johann Sebastian Bach was not averse to a bit of recycling and gave the following example. I’m sure that everyone has heard of Bach’s Mass in B Minor (BWV232), which is widely regarded as one of the greatest works ever composed in the entire history of music.
However, although this work is often depicted as a kind of culmination of Bach’s career as a composer and it wasn’t completed until 1749 (the year before Bach’s death), many sections were in fact recycled from much earlier compositions.
For example, give a listen to this. It is the Aria Ach, bleibe doch, mein liebstes Leben from the Cantata Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen (BWV11), often called the Ascension Oratorio, which was first performed in 1735. Apart from the fact that it sets a different text in a different language – the B Minor Mass is a setting of the complete `Ordinary’ of the Latin mass – and there are one or two musical differences here and there, this is instantly recognizable as an earlier incarnation of the sublime Agnus Dei from the B Minor Mass..
Oh, and if you’ve got half an hour to spare you could watch this video of a sparkly and sprightly performance of the entire cantana.
p.s. It’s Bach’s birthday today: he was born on March 31 1685.Follow @telescoper