Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Dreyfus, Laurence. “J. S. Bach’s Concerto Ritornellos and the Question of Invention.” The Musical Quarterly 71, no. 3 ([Summer] 1985): 327-58.

Musical “invention,” a term borrowed from classical rhetoric, signifies a mental process that precedes the act of composing. It entails the “invention of ideas” (die Erfindung der Gedanken). The concept and application of such an invention are best perceived in the process of the ritornello principle, in which the initial idea plays a prominent role in the elaboration of the work as a whole. J. S. Bach’s ritornellos from the Allegro movements of his concertos are modeled after Vivaldi’s, especially those of Op. 3. However, Bach elaborated certain procedures of his model and made his ritornellos into a system for working out his “inventions.” Most characteristically, Bach’s ritornello falls into three sections: the Vordersatz (opening statement), the Fortspinnung (spinning out), and the Epilog (ending phrase). His ritornello procedure does not rely on tutti-solo contrast; rather, it is characterized by rearranging and transforming these three distinct sections from discrete sets of motives into thematic material with specific harmonic functions.

Works: Johann Sebastian Bach: Violin Concerto in E Major, BWV 1042 (331-36), Oboe Concerto in D Minor, BWV 1059R (336-42), Concerto for Four Harpsichords in A Minor, BWV 1065 (343-36), Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047 (346-50), “Overture in the French Style,” BWV 831, from Clavier-Übung II (350-56).

Sources: Vivaldi: Concerto for Four Violins in B Minor, Op. 3, No. 10 (343-46).

Index Classifications: 1700s

Contributed by: Tong Cheng Blackburn

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