A guest post from Ralph Locke:
I’ve been reading vol. 2 of Taruskin’s Oxford History (for my own purposes and pleasure, in the paperback edition), and visiting your blog occasionally. I recently “caught up” with you–finished W. F. Bach, C. P. E. Bach, and J. C. Bach yesterday and began Pergolesi this morning.
I was therefore startled to see Zach’s essay on ugliness in J. S. Bach, since it discusses the preceding chapter (7) and thus might have been posted earlier.
I found it provocative to be reminded by Zach – now with Enlightenment- and commerce-oriented entertainment in my ears and mind – of Taruskin’s ideas about intentional ugliness in J. S. Bach, especially in the (not at all commercially oriented) sacred vocal music.
And Zach’s audio-clips help make Taruskin’s descriptions of Bach’s music about groaning in worldly slime (etc.) vivid indeed!
In any case, the chronological back-turning turns out to be relatively slight (or non-existent): Pergolesi’s La serva padrona was composed in 1733–less than a decade after most of Bach’s cantatas and while Bach was still continuing to compose music of ineffable . . . ugliness.
The same is true of course about Bach’s sons: they were composing in one or another new manner while Dad was still very much alive and active.
There may be simple, practical reasons why this discussion of J. S. Bach got posted after Mark’s essay on W. F. Bach. Still, the surprising juxtaposition ended up reminding me that (as Taruskin occasionally points out) widely divergent compositional and expressive trends can flourish simultaneously–often in different social and cultural contexts, or practiced by composers of different generations who may have known each other’s music and liked it, or hated it.