The truth of Musical Expression, According to Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

A musician cannot move without being moved himself; it is indispensable that he himself feel the emotions he wishes to arouse in his audience; he must make them understand his own sensitivity to them to be able to share it. (III-13)

This final quotation is emblematic of Carl Philip Emanuel Bach; clearly his viewpoint went against that of his contemporary Denis Diderot, who held that actors must make the public feel emotions they do not feel, and therefore base their art on distancing. This would have been unthinkable for Bach, for whom sincerity was essential to convince and to move.

Although Baroque music is enjoying a renaissance of popularity – it floods the record business and concert halls – it is curious to observe that it still has difficulty emancipating itself from certain received ideas. The concept of “table music”, supposedly played in the background for an inattentive prince; musical works published by the dozen for dilettantes; thousands of opera seria that we imagine as victims of the epoch’s vain ideas, and its public’s superficial taste… It has become difficult today to persuade oneself that works from the 18th century truly sought out expressive depth. All things considered, no composer is better suited to brush aside this erroneous vision than Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.