Although people of the Baroque era had no knowledge of records, radio or streaming platforms, this did not mean that the works of Italian composers were enjoyed only in Italy, while those of French artists were confined exclusively to the native population. The advent of music printing a few centuries earlier, the vibrant international contacts between music impresarios, the migration of musicians and the organisation of concert tours planned in great detail – all contributed to a situation where music was able to circulate not only between neighbouring cities and countries, but also travel across distant seas and oceans. New listeners often approached new music in ways that contrasted markedly with the reverential approach that prevails today. Supposedly finished works were sometimes treated quite freely – instead of adjusting the line-up of musicians to fit a particular work of music (out of respect for the composer’s intentions), it was music that had to be adapted to the needs of the performers, their skills and sometimes their imagination. Such far-reaching alterations could be introduced by both an accidental artist and the composer himself.
The programme of today’s concert only seemingly presents the oeuvre of a single author – Johann Sebastian Bach – and the line-ups included in the titles of the transcriptions are not necessarily the original ones. The Harpsichord Concertos in A Minor and D Major are Bach’s adaptations of two violin concertos by Antonio Vivaldi from the collection L’estro armonico. The remaining concertos featured in the programme are most likely Bach’s original works, although not in their original setting. Harpsichord Concerto in G Minor is an original adaptation of the composer’s earlier violin concerto. His Concerto for Two Harpsichords in C Minor is probably a remake of a concerto for violin and oboe which has not survived. The four counterpoints from Die Kunst der Fuge are surprising for a completely different reason – the original line-up for the piece is not known and some even suspect that it might have never been planned as such. Therefore, one of the unwritten rules of the Baroque reads as follows: you better not get used to anything and transcribe at will!