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CPE Bach on the criticism of music

August 24, 2008

CPE Bach published these thoughts on the criticism of music in response to an article in The European Magazine that alleged he had criticized the music of Haydn.

My code of conduct has never allowed me to write against anyone; thus I am particularly astonished by a passage recently printed in England in The European Magazine, in which I am falsely, crudely, and shamefully accused of having criticized the good Herr Haydn. To judge from the news reaching me from Vienna, and even from members of the Esterhazy musical establishments, who have recently visited me, I have reason to believe that this worthy gentleman, whose work still gives me a great deal of pleasure, is as much my friend as I am his. According to my principles every master has his own particular merit, and praise or criticism do not alter this. It is the music alone which offers the best praise or criticism, and therefore I refrain from judging anybody.

Hamburgischer unpartheyischer Correspondent, no. 150, 1785.
Quoted in: Ottenberg, Hans-Günter, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (trans. PJ Whitmore), OUP, 1987, ISBN 0 19 315246 0, p.179.

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