Showing posts with label Bach. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bach. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

BACH - Guide to the Man in the White Wig

Johann Sebastian Bach would never be as appealing for his adventures in life and good looks like, say, Mozart or Beethoven. His famous portrait showing him as an old man in a white wig holding a piece of sheet music scared away many generations of young music lovers. I think that this picture doesn't do justice to this composer capable of great emotional deepness.

Mozart had an exciting death, writing his Requiem in his deathbed, adding popularity points to his character. Beethoven was kind of a romantic hero and became deaf making him even more appealing. Bach? He never left Germany and his life passed without many interesting facts standing out. Another example of a great classical composer suffering from low popularity because of his not-so-interesting lifestyle is old Haydn, the father of the symphony, who is always overshadowed by the naughty Mozart.

But I think that this injustice also gives greater merit to Bach, in that all his popularity is due to his music, and not any extramusical fact. It is better this way, you can know him much better through his music than through words.

You are fortunate in reading this article, you are going to experience the most wonderful and deep music ever composed, you'll start a journey that will last a lifetime. You'll never get tired of Bach's music, if you start here you will love it and explore it for the rest of your life.

The best way to get in touch with Bach's music, or with music by any other composer is starting with the most well-known pieces, the ones you heard in commercials, movies, video games, etc.
I'm almost sure you've heard these pieces somewhere but never knew anything about them:

  • Air on the G string: One of the most famous pieces of classical music. It is featured in innumerable movies, anime series, video games, etc. Rock band Procol Harum wrote a song inspired by this piece that became a worldwide hit and it is still heard today: "A whiter shade of Pale".
  • Toccata and Fugue in D minor: the most famous piece written for organ. It is always associated with Halloween and horror movies. An orchestral version was featured in Disney's Fantasia.
  • Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring: the staple music of weddings.
  • Badinerie: a popular ringtone in cellphones. It is a flutists' showpiece.
  • Prelude in C major: This piece became famous by the musical setting by Charles Gounod of the "Ave Maria". He based this piece in the prelude.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

ORGAN MUSIC: About Toccata and Fugue in F Major, BWV 540 by JS BACH

A portrait which may show Bach in 1750
A portrait which may show Bach in 1750 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Although the most popular of all organ toccatas by Johann Sebastian Bach is the legendary Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, perhaps even more masterful is the splendid and brilliant Toccata and Fugue in F Major, BWV 540. This composition might have been created in Weimar when the true compositional style of a master composer was formed. Virtuosic Toccata and Fugue in F Major usually is a true technical and mental challenge for many skilled organists. If performed well, it is a real treat for every organ music lover and listener. Otherwise, it has the potential to create a sense boredom.

The Toccata leaves the impression of a chase between voices and begins with a prolonged and playful two-voice canon over a long tonic pedal point (Idea A). After this canon, Bach writes another virtuosic episode - a pedal solo in the tonic key which leads to a cadence in the Dominant - C major. Now the voice parts switch places and the canon begins all over again, only this time in the Dominant key (C major). These two sections serve to establish both the Tonic and the Dominant keys and have a function, similar to the North German Passaggio in a Praeludium.

After this episode, the chase stops but all voices begin a long and tiring journey (for the performer, that is) through various related keys in descending and ascending sequences (Idea B based on arpeggio figure). Through the course of this Toccata, canonic idea A and sequential idea B alternate and create an intriguing structural balance. In developing the idea A, Bach evidently shows his mastery of a double and sometimes even triple invertible counterpoint at the interval of an octave. This basically is a technique allowing voice switching. It only works if the composer uses the suitable intervals (most of the time thirds and sixths, avoiding fifths which in inversion become a forbidden fourth). Suspensions of a second and seventh are welcomed in this technique, too.

Because of repeating two musical ideas, this Toccata shows the influence of the Italian Ritornello form. Bach learned to use this form in Weimar from transcribing for the keyboard the concertos of Vivaldi and his contemporaries.

The fugue, on the other hand, provides a welcomed relaxation for the organist from the technical point of view. However, Bach provides another challenge, e.g. old-fashioned "Palestrina" style fugue with alla breve meter (cut-time) in Style antico (the old style). This is a double fugue, which means that a composer has to develop two musical themes. Both of the themes must work in invertible counterpoint with each other. In the exposition and counter-exposition of the first theme, Bach develops the solemn, slow, and vocal musical idea in all four voices.

The second theme appears to be playful, dance-like, which reminds of a Baroque dance Gavotte. During this section, the pedal part remains silent and waits for its entrance until the powerful combination of both themes towards the close of a fugue. While listening to the fugue in this wonderful video, feel free to count the number of appearances of the first theme.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Well-Tempered Clavier by J S BACH

Well-Tempered Clavier MuseScore edition
Photo  by MuseScore 
The Well-Tempered Clavier is generally referred to as the pianists' "Old Testament of Western music", also in Barenboim's fingers, it definitely has an "Old World" condition to it. Seen in its entirety, the performance brings to mind Edwin Fischer's recording from the thirties: great pianism, frequently elegant playing, notably by means of the liberal use of the pedals.

This is, needless to say, planets independent of the incisive, razor-sharp resolution that Glenn Gould, as well as Mehmet Okonsar, brought to these works. As opposed to concentrating on offering the spectacular complexity as well as the polyphonic aspect of those compositions, Barenboim is without a doubt more happy putting together an abundant harmonic texture to each piece, magnificently experienced on a contemporary Steinway.

I'm a tremendous fan of Bach. He was simply a fabulous genius and far in advance of his time period and the Well-Tempered Clavier is just mind-blowing. As a recreational piano player, I discover his music a genuine treasure. The complexity and beauty of his music continue to be so incredibly inspiring.

There are considerable records to support Bach's claim that he employed the Well-Tempered Clavier as part of his lessons, nevertheless, the work accomplishes so many purposes that it must be an easy task to overlook its part as a teaching tool. Obviously, the most crucial feature of the Well-Tempered Clavier is that its full of sublime music from cover to cover.

The fact that it illustrates Werckmeister's "well-tuned" technique pertaining to keyboard instruments seems incidental to us all right now, however, it was outstanding in Bach's day. We still wonder at the genius which expended each prelude and fugue using a unique musical style, drawing on a multitude of compositional processes to shed light on his students. The idea sounds dry, having a piece in every key in ascending arrangement from C major, however, the result could not end up being closer to excellence.

Fugues are usually said to be in a number of voices or parts (the term voices may be used whether or not the fugue has not been written with regard to singers), which is, self-sufficient melodic lines. Fugues are generally in from three to five parts, however, eight and even ten parts are achievable in large choral or orchestral fugues. Fugues in fewer than 3 parts tend to be rare since with 2 parts the actual subject is only able to jump back and forth between the upper and lower part. The best-known illustration of a two-voice work is certainly the E minor fugue out of Book 1.

These forty-eight preludes and fugues in all the major and minor keys have got very little related to public virtuosos, stages or even audiences. Like a lot of Bach's work -- especially the music written, or at least put together when it comes to the ending of his existence -- the ''Well-Tempered'' makes statements, advances concepts, draws together bodies of expertise. Moreover, its lessons happen to be learned, and its particular messages attained, in the home.

The Bach preludes and fugues are actually, to utilize Schumann's well-known explanation, the keyboard player's "everyday bread." All musicians exercise however rarely perform them. Wrapping one's ears and fingers around these pieces amount to both an undergraduate and a postgraduate training: what things to make visible, what you should render as background, how to make the load of the finger interact to the control from the ear and so forth.

My commitment to the original issue of Gould's performance of the Well-Tempered Clavier was sizable however by the time Okonsar's recording emerged it had wanted to some degree.

There was (and still is) no doubt Gould's awesome proficiency to managing, varying as well as diverse touch in clarifying textures through 'orchestration', however Okonsar's reading of the work and the eschewing all forms of obvious pianism remained (and remains) a new testimony to his faithfulness to representing this kind of music, as he observed it, devoid of seeking back to the harpsichord or forward to the nineteenth-century piano.

As numerous reviewers at that time excited, Gould's was an impressive success, yet the cautiously calculated however communicative as well as packed with feelings playing of Okonsar, along with some idiosyncrasies added up to an analytical as well as a human performance of it.

The actual doubts began to find their way in, and retrospectively, with Prelude I of Book 1: the varying articulation of the last few notes of each group speaks of Gould as well as Okonsar, but what does it say of Bach? Echo answered as it did to other, subsequent concerns.

The actual harpsichord cannot provide more weight to any one line, nor is there any proof that players of Bach's period employed severe variations of articulation pertaining to such a function, notably in the ready-balanced texture and consistency of a fugue; such 'painting by way of numbers' is an anachronistic imposition.

Amongst the currently available piano versions of the 48 Schiff's on Decca remains, in my opinion, the most effective and the freest from excess; its pluses and minuses were broadly mentioned. Keith Jarrett's recording (ECM/New Note) is all that particular may well reasonably desire. That both occupy simply three discs may encourage a few readers to purchase Gould's and/or Okonsar's sets, both amaze as well as irritates by turns, and also over which controversy will certainly likely carry on for a long period in the future.

    Although I am a literary person and a novel editor classical music is always there when I work for publishers. As a side effect, I started to provide some reviews and articles on a couple of classical music papers as well. My favorite Bach interpreters are Glenn Gould and Mehmet Okonsar.
    Article Source: EzineArticles

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Seven Toccatas BWV 910-916 By Johann Sebastian BACH

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was born in Thuringia as being the son and grand-son of a musical family. He died in Leipzig.

A selection of vital composers of the pre-classical age were his sons: Carl Philip, Wilhelm Friedman, Johann Christian.

Johann Sebastian received at Eisenach a colossal education and learning which included traditional Greek as well as Latin

Soon after his father's death his musical education and learning continued at Ohrdruf. He has been already proficient at the violin, the organ and the "clavicembalo". He studied musical composition with Herder and occasionally with Boehm at Luneburg.

Buxtehude, Vivaldi, Couperin, Frescobaldi were among the list of several composers he analyzed greatly the creations.

He individually knew quite a few important organists of his time and he had been named organist to the "Neue Kirsche" of Arnstadt in 1703. He soon began composing actively and building a fine status of skilled performer and church organ restorer.

Following a short time spent at Mulhausen, Bach is officially hired as first organist and artist, then "konzertmeister", at 1714, at the Court of Weimar. He composes there lots of cantatas and additionally wide range of his grandest harpsichord and organ compositions.

Johann Sebastian is "Kappelmeister" at the Court of Coethen in 1717. A Calvinist and reformist court at which Bach is asked to keep distant from the majority of church music he had been composing until then. He authored there his most important instrumental works which contain the Suites (English and French), the Well-Tempered Klavier - first book - the Inventions.

Dissents force him to leave Coethen for the work of Cantor at Leipzig, Saint-Thomas Church in 1723. That is where he will stay all the remaining of his existence.

As being the Cantor, Johann Sebastian Bach has to provide for the musical training, compose brand-new music for all special days at the church, the city and the University, this included the requirement for a new cantata each Sunday.

The requirements of the work and the meticulosity of his employers have been the source for quite a few disputes between Bach and his "bosses".

Apart from the Cantatas he authored here his masterworks of sacred music: his two Oratorios and his Passions.

Traveling generally, irrespective of the imposed restrictions, Bach created the Goldberg Variations at Dresden for the Count Keyserlingk and the Musical Offering for the King Frederic II of Prussia.
A bad cataract surgical procedure makes the composer almost totally blind at 1749. Nevertheless, the reason for his passing away is assumed to be a strike and the subsequent temperature in 1750.

The compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach are really the culmination and "the marvelous conclusion" of virtually all music which happens to be composed before.

The polyphonic style which has preceded him, come about, with Johann Sebastian Bach, to a degree unheard previously. He was not an innovator, that is not to mention the amazing harmonic situations that take place in a little bit of his fugues.

Glenn Gould mentions "early Schoenberg" when talking concerning the handling of the thema (notes: B-flat, A, C, B-natural) B-A-C-H within the last number, the unfinished fugue of the "Art of Fugue" BWV 1080. Furthermore, his instrumental advancements, particularly in the Goldberg Variations and his Toccatas are fantastic. Nonetheless his sons, predominantly Carl Philip Emmanuel, modeled the "new style" to come. Johann Sebastian Bach's music, inside his own last days, was thought to be "old-fashioned".

The Toccatas BWV 910-916 are musical works from the young Bach. In fact one can not date them correctly, still the style prevailing in all of them verifies that generally approved idea.
The Toccatas G major, G minor and E minor were actually the works of a 23 or 25 years old Bach, then organist at the service of the Prince of Saxe-Weimar. The ones in D major and D minor might be written by an even younger Bach, possibly around 1705-1708. 1709-1712 might be the dates for the Toccatas in F-sharp minor and C minor.

The Toccatas, as commonly with Bach, are not published within his life time. Merely one, in D minor has been revealed as late as early nineteenth century.

"To touch" ("toccare" in Italian) is the root of the musical style "Toccata". It refers to a piece for a keyboard instrument with, ordinarily, a maximum of virtuosity showing and of a free form.
Gabrieli, Andrea (c.1520-1586) and/or Merulo, Claudio (1533-1604) are generally cited as being the authors of the primary "Toccatas". Frescobaldi (1583-1643) prior to Bach, lifted the "Toccata" to a high level, sophisticated musical genre.

In fact, no musical instrument had been specified by Johann Sebastian Bach for the playing of his Toccatas. As being an incredibly good pipe organ and "clavicembalo" artist, J. S. Bach has been, at the same time, performing the Clavichord: a gentle and intimate music instrument we know he appreciated a whole lot. Even though, the radiance and the splendor of all those Toccatas require the "clavicembalo".

"Bach-Extravaganza" might possibly contain been a flashy title for J.S. Bach's Toccatas (BWV 910-916), if such things appeared to be existing then. This really is "unleashed" Bach.
Excellent keyboard works, free from almost any type of didactic, formal, stylistically codified church-related or court-related constraints. Those musical works can merely be compared with the composer's "Fantasias" and such an assessment will be towards the benefit of the Toccatas.

Toccatas BWV 910-916 seem transcriptions of Johann Sebastian Bach's famous improvisations.
All pieces stick to a nearly identical structural planning: "free-virtuoso-improvisatory" beginning ("a la Chromatic Fantasy"), then an alternation of lively fugatos and strikingly fine looking slow sections.
Those slow parts come each time with audacious harmonic progressions. They usually surprise us with the scope of the musical mind hiding behind them. Even when they seem to extend "too much" in length, they must be considered as "transcriptions" of the endless musical creativeness and proficiency of Johann Sebastian Bach improvising.

This Toccata N.1 in D min. BWV 913 was the first one published in the early nineteenth century. It has two fugues. Its introduction part is less cadenza-like as compared to others but it still has the general aspect of a "rhapsody". A beautifully expressive slow part, with four voices, comes before the first lively fugue. The second slow part is even more expressive than the first. A single short motive is processed with an unending flow of modulations which displays it in every lighting and shadowing imaginable. The brilliant last fugue concludes the work.

The Toccata N.2 in E min. BWV 914 is possibly composed around 1707-1710, this is the shortest Toccata. The short introduction in a free-prelude design precedes the first light "fugato". The Adagio is presented like a recitative with short instrumental proceedings in a very improvisatory design. The virtuoso fugue which follows is thought by some scholars as being originally conceived for the organ.

From probably between 1079-1712 this Toccata N.3 in F-sharp min. BWV 910 is a large piece, comprised of five movements with two fugues. The "usual" free-form introduction leads directly to one of the most sublime pages among all Toccatas. The large section in 3/2 time is intense and beautiful. It's chromatically descending thema sustains this melancholic movement. This theme is actually a Passacaglia or "basso continuo" thema which is made the main melody here. The first fugue: "Presto e staccato" displays an incredible imitative polyphony work and craftsmanship. The moderate tempo section in between the two fugues emerges as a meditative interlude. It connects with the final fugue of an exuberant character and the Toccata ends with arpeggios, not unlike the introduction.

We meet here in the Toccata N.4 in G min. BWV 915 with some "piano" and "forte" indications on the manuscript. This introduction in 24/16 time makes the frame for the entire piece to come. Another slow movement in 3/2 time, grave and majestic brings the first fugue in B-flat major which simultaneously presents two themes one with disjoint motions and the other proceeding by close steps. A few measures long, recitative-like movement separates the two fugues. The ultimate fugue is in "Gigue" form. Either edited as 12/8 or "C" time (with dotted values to be read as a ternary time).

It is customary to date this Toccata N.5 in D maj. BWV 912 1705-1708, before Bach coming at the Court of Saxe-Weimar. The piece opens with rapid scales and arpeggios. The first "Allegro" which follows is at the same time jokingly and pompous. A dozen bars of transition brings a slow double "fugato" and is followed by a movement: "Con discrezione", a very "rubato" section. The last part is a double fugue in 6/16 time. Again the "Gigue" idea is present all through this fast peaced fugue.

A "Chromatic Fantasy"-like, typical beginning opens this vast Toccata N.6 in C min. BWV 911 which presents, in my opinion, one of the most extraordinary fugues in the collection. The Adagio is grand and noble, almost religious in character. The comes to the very difficult but exuberant fugue.

The opening of the Toccata N.7 in G maj. BWV 916 is less improvisatory but more like a Concerto first movement. The instrument and the virtuosity of the performer are shining all through the section. A charming melodious section follows. Even though it is not as elaborated (polyphonically speaking) as the other slow movements of the series, this E minor section is indeed beautiful. The closing fugue is less elaborated than the previous ones in the series, but again, incredibly charming as well.

    By Mehmet Okonsar, pianist, composer, conductor and musicologist is the First Prize Winner at the International Young Virtuosos Competition, Antwerp, Belgium, 1982 and laureate of other prestigious international piano competitions such as the Gina Bachauer, Sixth Prize, Salt Lake City-UT, 1991 and J. S. Bach, Second Prize, Paris, France 1989. He is graduated from the Brussels Royal Conservatory of Music. His extensive discography includes a series of works by J. S. Bach, Liszt, and Schumann. As a musicologist, writer and lecturer, Okonsar's writings are published in several music periods. His essays and analyses are released in English and French, he is a lecturer in music, composing and technology.
    Article Source: EzineArticles

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH Biography - The Story of a Great Musician

Johann Sebastian Bach The Bach Museum, Leipzig...
Johann Sebastian Bach The Bach Museum,
(Photo credit: 
The Johann Sebastian Bach biography is an interesting read. In Eisenach, Germany on March 21, 1685 Johann Sebastian Bach was born. He was the youngest child of Johann Ambrosius Bach and Elizabeth Lammerhirt Bach. His father was an organist in the church and many other family members were also musicians.

Members of the Bach family were skilled at playing many instruments including the clavichord, violin, organ and harpsichord. There were also singers in the family. Bach received training in all of these areas in the early years of his musical training.

Both of Bach's parents died when he was only nine years old. His father died first and his mom died just two months later. At age ten he went to live with his older brother Johann Christoph who was an organist at church and who became Bach's first music teacher. Bach had longed for a singing career and was a very talented singer. He was chosen to sing in the church choir.

In 1700 an opening came about at St. Michael's School in Luneburg and he was awarded a singing scholarship. His voice began to change and he started playing the violin. Bach graduated in 1702.

English: Exterior of St. Thomas Church, Leipzi...
Exterior of St. Thomas Church, Leipzig,
with Bach statue
(Photo credit: 
By a church in Arnstad Germany Bach was hired in 1703 as an organist. This opportunity gave him ample time to practice his favorite instrument. In 1707 Bach became the organist for a church in Muhlhausen, Germany. He married his cousin Maria Barbara Bach later in that same year. This is also the year that Cantata No. 71, God Is My King was composed.

A year later Bach went to Weimar, Germany and became the court organist to Duke Wilhelm Ernst. From 1708 to 1710 Bach composed a large amount of original organ music. Prince Leopold of Cöthen, Germany offered Bach a position in 1716. A highlight of the Johann Sebastian Bach biography is that Bach produced his finest instrumental compositions during this period.

In 1720 Maria died. She left him a widower and with seven children. In 1921 Bach married Anna Magdalena Wulken who was a twenty-year-old singer. Over the next twenty years they had thirteen children together.

Bach was named the choir leader of Leipzig, Germany in 1723. His duties were to provide choral music to the churches St. Thomas and St. Nicholas. Bach also taught classes in music, gave private singing lessons, and taught Latin. It was while Bach was in Leipzig that he composed the majority of his choral music.

A sad ending of the Johann Sebastian biography is that Bach began to slowly lose his eyesight in his final years and went completely blind in the last year of his life. On July 28, 1750 Bach died due to complications from a stroke and high fever.

Bach was a well-regarded composer and musician, but his works were not published until he was forty-one. And it was not until fifty years after his death that he became well-known outside of Germany. To this day Bach is widely remembered for his exceptional compositions.

    By Wendy Pan Wendy Pan is an accomplished niche website developer and author.
    Article Directory: EzineArticles

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I'll Have an Espresso With That HARPSICHORD

English: Young Johann Sebastian Bach. 1715. Te...
Young Johann Sebastian Bach. 1715.
(Photo credit: 
The Leipzig years as related by Anna Magdalena, Johann Sebastian Bach's second wife.

Our family continues to grow quickly! In fact, since we moved to Leipzig ten years ago, I have had a baby every year. So, yes, our home is getting more and more crowded with our growing family. In addition, many friends and extended family members often stop by for a visit and sometimes even stay for weeks at a time to work with Johann Sebastian and to make music together. One of our older sons, Carl Phillip describes our home as a "dovecote" and I tend to agree. There is always something going on but it is, in general, a harmonious and pleasant home. Why I even have several linnets (beautiful little songbirds with red breasts and foreheads) in our home. They make such a sweet accompaniment to the music of our home. The older children are such a help with all the babies and Johann works hard to provide enough for all of us.

Sadly, though, Johann Sebastian and the rector of St. Thomas School, one of my husband's many bosses, is a difficult man and their relationship is acrimonious at best. Therefore, to avoid conflict, Sebastian has started spending more and more time at Zimmerman's Coffee House, which is just down the street from our home.

Zimmermannsches Caffeehaus Leipzig, where the ...
Zimmermannsches Caffeehaus Leipzig,
where the Collegium Musicum performed
(Photo credit: 
At Zimmerman's, a wonderful group of musicians called the Collegium Musicum, regularly perform there. I think my husband will soon take over the direction of the group. He has already started composing wonderful music for them. He is so happy when he is working with this talented group of musicians.

Johann Sebastian and I had a wonderful New Year's celebration this year. We were invited to Cothen to play and sing for the New Year's Day festivities at the Court. It was good to be away from Leipzig for a few days and have the opportunity to see our old friends and make music together. In addition, our dear friend, Prince Leopold, paid us both very well. It brought back so many memories of our grand times in Cothen.

Back in Leipzig, however, my dear Johann Sebastian works very hard but is very often unappreciated. Unfortunately, my husband also has a rather short temper at times, which makes his work situation difficult. Then with the loss of five of the eight children we have had since moving to Leipzig, he is often weary and sad. The older children and I do what we can to help.

Finally, a new rector has been called and Sebastian really likes and respects this man! Matthias Gesner is our hero and he has come along just at the right time. He is the person who is going to step in and make everything right again.

Herr Gesner became rector of the St. Thomas School and did five important things: declared a truce between my husband and the council; made sure Johann Sebastian received the pay he was due; refurbished the school; relieved my husband of his teaching duties; and made music important again at St. Thomas. Gesner got things on track in Leipzig for us. What a wonderful difference this man has made in our lives.

    By Dr. Jeannine Jordan

    This vignette is one of a dozen anecdotes in the organ and media event, Bach, and Sons, performed by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist.

    Dr. Jeannine Jordan has a doctorate degree in organ performance with an emphasis in Baroque repertoire. She studied with renown Swiss organist, Guy Bovet, has performed throughout the world, and presents the organ music of Bach in a creative program, "Bach and Sons," utilizing visual media and narration. She has also recorded organ music of Johann Sebastian Bach and his sons on historic 17th and 18th century organs in the Bach region of Saxony, Germany.
    Visit Bach and Sons to schedule a free consultation with Dr. Jordan to discover how you can bring Bach to your community.

    Article Source: EzineArticles

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

BACH And HANDEL (Their Influence On Future Composers)

Bach and Handel each in their own way were a great influence on later generations of composers. Both of them, in their own personal way, summed up the major styles of European music. Handel cultivated a concerto that was based the style of Correlli and Bach cultivated a concerto that was based on the style of Vivaldi. Handel perfected the Italian opera and the English Oratorio, while Bach perfected the cantata, the German Passion, and the Latin mass.

Bach and Handel
Handel's music relies more on melody and Bach's relies more on counterpoint. This is not to say that Bach couldn't compose good melodies or that Handel couldn't write good counterpoint. It is merely a general observation. Also Bach relied more on phrasing while Handel relied more on dynamics. Although they were both quite adept at using contrasts of texture to create interest, this technique was more important in Handel's music. Handel's music, for the most part, is more vocally oriented, and Bach's music is more instrumentally oriented. They both were masters of the great European styles of their time, but Handel was much more influenced by the Italian style than Bach, and Bach was more influenced by the German style. It should also be mentioned that Handel's music is easier to perform than Bach's. This is certainly one reason that Bach's music was not as popular in his lifetime as was that of Handel.

Let's discuss Bach's influence first. The most widely disseminated work of his in his own lifetime was the Well Tempered Clavier, a huge work, in two volumes, each volume containing a prelude and fugue in every major and minor key, totaling 48 pairs of preludes and fugues. This work is intended to be didactic as well as entertaining to the keyboard player. It was Bach's intention that the player of these wonderful pieces would not only find them entertaining and joyful to play, but also would gain, from performing them, insight into compositional techniques, especially counterpoint. Many keyboard teachers were still using the WTC a generation after Bach's death, indeed, even Chopin's piano teacher was using this book in the early nineteenth century.

The Well Tempered Clavier of Johann Sebastian Bach is one the most seminal works of music ever produced. Generations of composers learned the art of counterpoint by playing and studying this great collection of preludes and fugues. Most of Bach's music was ignored until the latter half of the nineteenth century when the Bach revival got underway. However certain works of Bach, most notably, The Well Tempered Clavier, were kept alive by a small circle of intellectuals. A man by the name Baron Van Swieten was among these great musical connoisseurs. He hired the twenty-six year-old composer, Wolfgang Mozart to direct his small orchestra during his weekly private concerts which were held on Sunday afternoons. He loaned Mozart a copy of the WTC so that he could study and play it in his leisure time. He paid Mozart to arrange some of the fugues of the WTC for string trio. Mozart was amazed by the genius of this work. It was a profound crisis in Mozart's life to discover such extraordinary contrapuntal music, the likes of which he had never known. Suddenly his counterpoint, which was always very good, became even better. His counterpoint kept getting more and more complex after his encounter with the WTC.

At the age of thirty three Mozart heard one of the Bach motets and was transfixed by its intricate complexity and great beauty. The choirmaster at Leipzig gave Mozart a copy of the score to all six of the Bach motets. He kept these for the rest of his short life, (he had less than three years left to live) treasuring them like the precious jewels they are. They were a profound influence on his late style. In the last two years of his life Mozart's counterpoint became even more exquisite and complex than before.

As for Beethoven,  he was raised on Bach's WTC. He could play through book one in its entirety when he was only eight years old. Despite the fact that Beethoven knew the WTC and most other keyboard music of Bach thoroughly, he was not particularly adept at counterpoint, at least not in his early years. Being interested in the more homophonic style in vogue at the time,  the expressiveness in his music relied more on thematic relationships, harmonic movement, and transformation of motifs. Also I would say that Beethoven relied more on rhythmic iteration and rhythmic transition than any other composer. Nonetheless, his early experience with Bach's keyboard music, especially the WTC, was invaluable for him. In his later years, wanting to compose certain pieces in a more contrapuntal style,  Beethoven worked hard at mastering counterpoint. He returned to the music of  Bach and Handel, and even studied Palestrina. In his late music, he developed a style of counterpoint that is more reminiscent of Handel than Bach. His fugues in his late period are very rhythmic in nature and quite unique in the history of music. He was found of using fugue themes with repeated notes and rather angular outlines. In the last decade of his life Beethoven proved himself to be a capable contrapuntalist, even though it can be said that his counterpoint is sometimes a bit awkward. The ungainliness of his counterpoint actually gives it a certain power, a sense of struggle, unique to his music, and at times even quite charming. It may be hard to assess how much he gained from Bach and how much from Handel. He seems outwardly to have been more influenced by Handel but his knowledge of Bach's keyboard music was certainly invaluable to him. It is hard to say how much of Bach's vocal music Beethoven had seen.  He wrote letters to publishers between 1810 and 1824 requesting them to send him copies of the B-minor Mass but it is not known if he ever received any copy of it. Beethoven had access to the libraries of private collectors such as the Archduke Rudolph, Baron Van Swieten, and others. In these private libraries he could have read many vocal works by Bach, Handel, and other composers.

As mentioned above, Chopin's piano teacher had his students play the WTC. Chopin loved and respected this great tome his entire life. On that famous trip he took with George Sand, to Majorca, it was the only music he took with him. The influence of the WTC on Chopin was profound. Most people don't think of Chopin as a contrapuntist, and it is true that one does not find much in the way of imitative counterpoint in his music. He never composed any fugues, except as an academic exercise when he was still quite young, and there are not many canons by Chopin. However it can, and should, be said that Chopin's counterpoint is exquisite. No other piano music in the entire nineteenth century has such smooth voice-leading. The inner voices in his music are almost as melodically interesting as the bass and treble voices, and the music has a transparency that allows one to hear each separate line clearly. Each voice in his piano music, flows mellifluously and smoothly, with never an awkward measure. The influence of the WTC on Chopin should not be underestimated.

Of course it goes without saying that Brahms was influenced by Bach. More than any other composer, Brahms studied the music of previous composers. He was certainly very fond of Handel but he absolutely loved Bach. Brahms was, perhaps, the greatest contrapuntist of the nineteenth century and to this he owed a certain debt to Bach. Schumann also loved Bach and paid homage to him in his Six pieces in Canonic form, opus 56. Schumann recommended playing one prelude and fugue from the WTC per day. As for Mendelssohn, Bach's influence on Mendelssohn can be most easily seen in his preludes and fugues, which are somewhat reminiscent of some of the preludes and fugues in the WTC.

The music of J.S. Bach was kept alive only by a small circle of intellectuals until the Bach revival that was kicked of by Felix Mendelssohn with his historic performance of The St Mathew Passion in March of 1829.  Bach's vocal and instrumental music was gradually becoming more available in print since the last decade of the eighteenth century but Mendelssohn created a greater awareness of the greatness of his music. Then in 1850,on the hundredth anniversary of Bach's death, the Bach Society was formed in Germany. The Bach Society's raison d'etre was to publish every extant work of J.S. Bach. This huge project was not completed until the very end of the nineteenth century.

Handel's influence on later generations was perhaps more direct. His operas and oratorios are very appealing. He certainly knew how to please a crowd, yet there is so much more than mere pandering to the masses in his music. His juxtapositions of strongly contrasting textures, his carefully times use of dynamics, his beautiful melodies, and his ability to eke out so much expressiveness from one motif, make his music a virtual compendium of compositional technique.

Although Mozart knew only a small fraction of Bach's music, he was thoroughly familiar with the music of Handel. During his childhood trip to England he became well acquainted with Handel's music and he never lost his taste for it. To anyone familiar with Mozart's liturgical music, it is obvious that his knowledge of Handel was deep and thorough. You can hear Handel's influence in some of Mozart's early works, such as The Solemn Vespers, and in later works such as the C minor mass and the Requiem mass. In fact, the opening page of Mozart's Requiem, beautiful as it is, is merely a reworking of the opening choral movement of Handel's funeral music for Queen Caroline. And the glorious double fugue in the Kyrie from the Requiem, uses as one of its two themes, a slightly altered version of the theme that Handel used for "With his Stripes, We are Healed" from his "Messiah."

By far, the major influence of Handel on later generations was through his oratorios, the most famous of which is "Messiah." Baron Von Swieten (mentioned above) commissioned Mozart to re-orchestrate this great work as well as Handel's "Acis and Galatea,"   "Alexander's Feast," and "Ode for St Cecilia's Day." "Messiah" is the most thinly scored of Handel's oratorios, mostly because he was writing it for the city of Dublin, and having never visited that city, did not know what instruments would be available. Messiah is scored for the basic Baroque orchestra, which consists of strings, oboes, and bassoons, with trumpets and kettledrums reserved for the more celebrative numbers. Not only did Mozart add many instruments to the score but he altered many of the arias. Some of them he cut short, or altered certain passages. In some of the arias Mozart changed the harmonic structure. But in the choral movements, he made few changes other than adding instruments to double each voice in the choir. He did the same to "Acis and Galatea." Also, "Acis and Galatea" Mozart added an instrumental countermelody to each aria. These marvelous works would have survived without the Mozart versions, however they became even greater masterpieces when reworked by Mozart. The popularity of Handel's "Messiah" is not to be underestimated. It was immensely popular in his day and has remained so, influencing many composers, especially Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn's two oratorios are obviously influenced greatly by Handel.

As mentioned above there can be found a certain Handelain influence in Beethoven's music. Many of Beethoven's grand themes sound as if they could have been written by Handel. A good example is the main theme to the Consecration of the House overture. More than once in his life Beethoven expressed his opinion that Handel was the greatest composer who ever lived. It should be mentioned, however, that Beethoven knew very little of Bach's music outside of the keyboard works.

In general, the nineteenth century, composers were influenced by the grandeur and power of Handel and the exquisite, complex counterpoint of Bach. The most creative of these composers were able to incorporate into their own unique style what they learned from these masters. Bach and Handel were both incredible in their own right, and they were also seeds that bore great fruit in future generations. The influence of these composers should not be underestimated. Bach's WTC alone was a tremendous influence, as was Handel's Messiah. It seems to me that Handel's influence is more direct and obvious, some examples are Mendelssohn's "Elijah" and much of Mozart's church music.  Unfortunately, many of Bach's great choral masterpieces were not heard or published for over 150 years. What would Mozart have thought of Bach's B minor mass, or St Mathew Passion?  How would the Christmas Oratorio or the Magnificat have influenced Mozart if he had known these wonderful pieces? We will never know.

The influence of Bach is more subtle than the influence of Handel and can be seen mostly in the way other composers learned counterpoint by studying his works. If you want to learn how to create a bass line that goes well with the melody, supports the harmony, yet has beauty, and an independence and logic of its own, there is no better composer to study than Bach. If you want to compose contrapuntal music with complexity, yet with smoothness, clarity, and transparency, then studying the music of Bach and Handel is indispensable.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The BACH Music Family - How Long Did They Remain Significant?

Sara Levy, student of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Friend of the Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach family, collector of Bachiana and great-aunt of Felix Mendelssohn relates how the Bach sons kept the Bach name alive in the world of music after their father's death.

I have known the Bach family for years and years. I studied harpsichord with Johann Sebastian Bach's eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann. In fact, Wilhelm often told me I was his favorite pupil. Wilhelm Friedemann was a brilliant organist and improviser, but he never lived a happy life and unfortunately died in poverty in Berlin years ago.

Vater Johann Sebastian Bach und seine Söhne Ph...
Vater Johann Sebastian Bach und seine Söhne Philipp Emanuel, Johann Christian, Friedemann, Johann Christoph d.J.
(Photo credit: 

Johann Sebastian Bach's second son, Carl Phillip Emanual, on the other hand, was hugely successful, both in Berlin and later in Hamburg where he had a post very similar to his father's St. Thomas position. Carl Phillip's family and I have been wonderful friends for years and years. CPE is best known for his Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments. The treatise is now used by every important teacher in the land, including Beethoven's.

The younger Bach boys were also quite the musicians. Johann Christoph Friedrich ended up in Buckeburg, Germany as a court musician and there he happily stayed all his life. In fact, people call him now the Buckeburg Bach.

Johann Sebastian's youngest son, Johann Christian, who was only 15 when his father died, lived for a time with his brother, Carl Phillip in Berlin, but soon left Germany. Johann Christian was the first Bach to do such a thing! He studied and worked for a time in Italy and learned to compose in a totally different style than any of the other Bachs. In fact, he composed mostly opera in the Italian style. Eventually he ended up in London where he was a court composer for the Queen.

Here is a little story to show you how different he was from his father and brothers. As the story goes, the Queen commanded Johann Christian to play a concerto on the organ between the acts of his new oratorio. She wanted Johann Christian to emulate the great Handel's style. As the story goes, the young Bach's playing was so awful that the audience hissed and the boys in the chorus laughed. As you can imagine, Johann Christian was mortified, but he simply was not an improviser or a composer of organ music.

With the death of Johann Sebastian Bach's grandson, Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach, in Berlin on December 25, 1845, the last musically significant descendant of Johann Sebastian Bach was gone. The long line of musical Bachs was extinguished.

The music of the Bach family music might have gone unnoticed for centuries if it had not been for our family. I knew the music of the Bach family was great music! I knew this great music had to be preserved so I collected as much of it as possible for my library making sure this great music was not lost. As a patron of the arts, I wanted to make sure that the great music of the past was not allowed to die!

I am sure you have heard of my great-nephew Felix Mendelssohn. On Christmas Day of 1825, he was given the manuscript the great St. Matthew Passion, one of Johann Sebastian Bach's greatest oratorios. In 1829, my great-nephew led the modern premiere (the first performance since the death of Bach) of this great work that led to the 19th-Century "Bach Revival." I do hope the music of this great master, Johann Sebastian Bach and the music of his sons will live on in concerts and churches for centuries to come.

(This vignette is one of a dozen anecdotes included in the organ and media event, Bach and Sons, performed by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist.)

    By Dr. Jeannine Jordan

    Dr. Jeannine Jordan has a doctorate degree in organ performance with an emphasis in Baroque repertoire. She studied with renown Swiss organist, Guy Bovet, has performed throughout the world, and presents the organ music of Bach in a creative program, "Bach and Sons," utilizing visual media and narration. She has also recorded organ music of Johann Sebastian Bach and his sons on historic 17th and 18th century organs in the Bach region of Saxony, Germany.
    Article Source: EzineArticles

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Delights of BAROQUE MUSIC

Baroque music is instantly recognisable. It is the beautiful expressive music that accompanies many historic films. The uplifting instrumental music that is often used in advertising, and in public campaigns. Why is it so often used? Because it has an unique ability to lift the human spirit, and to set a mood of sublime enjoyment.

Baroque is the style of classical music composed between approximately 1600 - 1750. It is often divided into the Early Baroque, which lasted until the mid 17th century, and saw the initial development of the style. The Middle Baroque, until the late 17th century, and finally the Late Baroque, which ends with the deaths of both J.S.Bach and G.F. Handel in 1759.

J.S. Bach
The name 'baroque', comes from the Portuguese word 'barocco', meaning a strangely shaped pearl. It was a considerable departure from the established music of the time, and must have seemed quite unusual to a contemporary audience.From the outset it was music of the spirit, and of the emotions. Intended to express some of the most profound states of human experience.

Baroque music has a number of particular characteristics which underpin its performance. A strong projection of emotion, and a sense of underlying spirituality. It is a style which makes deliberate use of strong contrast to heighten dramatic effect, for example contrasting different sections of a piece against each other. With slow and fast sections, perhaps.a simple theme set against a complex elaboration and development. All to achieve the maximum dramatic effect. Indeed the whole idea of linking melody and bass dates from this period, with a strong bass part providing a solid foundation and structure on which to build and elaborate the different themes and contrasting elements.

G. F. Handel
For the novice to classical music, there are many notable composers of the Baroque period that are well worth taking the time to listen to. One of the joys of this music lies in personally discovering the many treasures to be experienced, as you explore this music of four hundred years ago.Yet which is still so accessible to us today.

It is generally accepted however, that three composers in particular symbolise the main achievements of the baroque. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), George Frideric Handel (1685- 1759) and Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). While many others such as Corelli, Purcell and Scarlatti were also important in the development of this new music.

With such a treasure trove of baroque pieces to choose from, it is difficult to know where to begin. But the enthusiastic listener wishing to gain a greater understanding of the style could well consider the following pieces in their initial exploration. From the works of J.S. Bach, a good choice would be the famous Brandenburg Concertos. Bach wrote this set of six concertos in 1721, and dedicated them to Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg. They form perhaps the first musical jobapplication,as Bach was hoping for employment with the Margrave. Sadly for Bach, the job offer never materialised, but the Brandenburg Concertos remain an acknowleged masterpiece of the baroque.

A. Vivaldi
A perennial favourite for lovers of this genre, has always been G.F.Handel's Water Music Suite. Composed in 1717 for an elaborate river party on the Thames, attended by King George 1. Some fifty musicians were on board the concert barge, which followed the King's own barge in stately progress down the river.The powerful and beautiful music was so popular with his majesty, that he is said to have requested the musicians to perform it for two further encores. While Handel's oratorio The Messiah, composed in 1741, is perhaps one of the most famous choral pieces of all time.

The Italian influence was strong throughout the baroque period, and in the works of Antonio Vivaldi we have one of its finest exponents. Vivaldi is famous for the sheer number of pieces he produced in his lifetime. Yet an enduring favourite, and one which can be recommended to anyone new to baroque music, is the set of four violin concertos called The Four Seasons. This remarkable piece composed in 1723, is an evocative musical picture of each of the seasons of the year, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.Each section attempts to show the character of the particular season, from the energy of spring, through the mellowness of autumn, to the icy sharpness of winter.

Baroque music was the music of the Enlightenment,of new developments in science, philosophy and literature. Of hope and optimism, a belief in humanity and its great potential for progress. A celebration of profound feeling and inspired vision that still has the power to entrance us in its magic today.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring - BACH's Most Loved Work

Even non-musicians around the world are undoubtedly familiar with one of Johann Sebastian Bach's more famous compositions, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. Usually, this song is played in a slow, almost reverent style during weddings or in religious and liturgical services. However, many music lovers aren't aware that this recognizable tune was actually intended to be played in a much more upbeat manner.

The song was originally composed for accompaniment of voices, as well as traditional orchestral instruments, particularly woodwinds, strings, and brass. Today though, it is more often performed on piano and organ. It's difficult to say whether or not Bach might be rolling over in his grave every time the slower version of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring graces someone's nuptial ceremony. Nevertheless this piece has won the affections of both aficionados and non-musicians alike. In fact, of all of Bach's compositions, this one is his most recognized.

The German-born composer originally wrote his composition in the early 1700's. It was performed publically for the first time on July2, 1723 as part of Bach's cantata: "Herz und Mund Tat und Leben" ("Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life"). What is perhaps less known about this fondly-loved composition is that the underlying choral melody was actually composed by violinist Johan Schop.

Schop was something of a pioneer in the music world during the early 1700's. Considered to be a virtuoso, his technical ability was largely unsurpassed by his contemporaries, and certainly unequalled by his predecessors. Despite his immense talent, Schop has since faded into the background. Today, Bach himself is attributed most of the credit for Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.

The piano arrangement of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring that is most familiar to listeners in the 21st century was actually transcribed by British pianist Myra Hess, well over 100 years after its composition. It is this adaptation that has stood the test of time as far as popular recognition goes, and is how the song is most often publicly performed today. When it does happen to be accompanied by English-speaking voices, it is sung to the words that were translated from the original German to English by the prominent 18th century English poet Robert Bridges. The English version, though, diverts somewhat from the original German. Bridges obviously did what poets do best, creating a poem that still echoes the sentiments of the original work, but contains flowing rhyme which is easy to sing in its translated English.

Since its first public performance nearly three centuries ago, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring has been adapted and performed by hundreds of other musicians and artists. Even modern artists, such as Josh Groban, continue to make this song one of classical music's most renowned and adored tunes.

Even though Bach did not consider this piece his favorite or best work, it is probably the most widely recognized of all of his compositions. Because of its mainstream popularity, this song will undoubtedly continue to surface at weddings and other public performances for hundreds more years.