A little careful reasoning soon enabled us to identify the real author of this touching Arioso. The owner of the nose (obviously a long one, though not too long) was a remarkable man. The musical style was that of a remarkable man; the remarkable man had a long nose; ergo the remarkable man must be John Sebastian. Bach’s residence in Leipzig, the Thomas School, was but a stone’s throw from the quarter, known as the Brühl, which was mainly peopled by Jews. The song is evidently a musical expression of strong protest, addressed to some friend who had offended Sebastian’s strong Anti-Semite views by suggesting that his nose was of the length and type so familiar in the adjoining street.
from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 2001