On 7th May, 1747, in the City Palace at Potsdam (a town near Berlin), J. S. Bach stood before Frederick II, King in Prussia. Bach's specific competence was his mastery in counterpoint and his mastery on keyboard instruments. For this he was famous. Counterpoint and keyboard coincided in the fugue. So it suggested itself that the King presented a theme or subject on which Bach was meant to improvise a fugue. According to common opinion, the three-part ricercar, published in the Musical Offering, is a revised record of the fugue Bach improvised in presence of the King. This published ricercar, especially its formal design, seems rather strange. However, the peculiarities of the piece are not due to any insufficiency in improvisation, but to the extraordinary situation in which it originated. This is the crucial question: How does a composer and player of Bach's rank meet a sovereign of Frederick's rank? How is the relationship between compositional technique and social context defined? Undeniably, the social context did have a share in the composition of the piece. The essay aims at disclosing the conversation Bach and Frederick held on a social topic by musical means.
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