This new investigation of the Brandenburg Concertos explores
musical, social, and religious implications of Bach's treatment of
eighteenth-century musical hierarchies. By reference to
contemporary music theory, to alternate notions of the meaning of
"concerto," and to various eighteenth-century conventions of form
and instrumentation, the book argues that the Brandenburg Concertos
are better understood not as an arbitrary collection of unrelated
examples of "pure" instrumental music, but rather as a carefully
compiled and meaningfully organized set. It shows how Bach's
concertos challenge (as opposed to reflect) existing musical and
Careful consideration of Lutheran theology and Bach's documented
understanding of it reveals, however, that his music should not be
understood to call for progressive political action. One important
message of Lutheranism, and, in this interpretation, of Bach's
concertos, is that in the next world, the heavenly one, the
hierarchies of the present world will no longer be necessary.
Bach's music more likely instructs its listeners how to think about
and spiritually cope with contemporary hierarchies than how to act
upon them. In this sense, contrary to currently accepted views,
Bach's concertos share with his extensive output of vocal music for
the Lutheran liturgy an essentially religious character.
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