I'd give anything to hear some of the great composers of the past improvise. We know from eye-witness accounts of the time that Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven were extraordinary improvisers, and enjoyed sitting down and making up great music which was never written down. Or was it?
In May of 1747, the elderly Bach was invited to visit Frederick the Great of Prussia. The king gave Bach a musical theme to improvise upon. While this was about 150 years before the first recordings, Bach did go home later and write down a piece that was in the same style as his improvisation.
Let's close our eyes, imagine that we're at the Prussian court in the 18th century, and enjoy the sounds of J.S. Bach improvising on the harpsichord, just for us! Here's the link:
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