Léon Berben Ornamenting in the organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach
Het ORGEL 106 (2010), nr. 4, 32-38 [summary]

It is not customary nowadays, when performing organ music of Johann Seb. Bach, to add ornaments that are not written. Yet Walther describes such additions in his Praecepta der musicalischen Composition (Weimar 1708) as being a matter of course. In early 18th-century sources one encounters examples of compositions that are excessively ornamented, among them richly ornamented versions of Bach’s Canzona and Passacaglia. Later copies also include richly ornamented versions of Bach’s compositions. Both the early and the late sources tell how players ornamented in Bach’s time. That it is nowadays not considered to be in good taste to add ornaments that are not in the text is related to the fact that since the beginning of the 19th century Bach has been viewed as a sort of holy monument of German power and magnificence: it was impermissible to make any alterations, which meant also no additional ornaments. Recent publications on Bach’s ornamentation follow this tradition. In addition, there’s the debatable idea that the so-called Urtext editions contain the definitive versions of the compositions, whose authority is not to be questioned.