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Originally appearing in Volume V03, Page 130 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SUMMARY OF BACH'S WORKS No attempt is here made at chronological sequence. The changes in Bach's style, though clear and important, are almost impossible to describe in untechnical language; nor are they of such general interest as to make it worth while to expand this summary by an attempt to apportion its contents among the Arnstadt-Muhlhausen period, the Weimar period, the Cothen period (chiefly remarkable or instrumental music and comparatively uninteresting in its easy-going choral music), and the last period (1733–1750) in which, while the choral works became at once more numerous and more terse (e.g. Jesu, der du meine Seele) the instrumental music, though never diffuse, shows an increasing preference for designs on a large scale. (Compare, for example, the second book of the Wohltemperirtes Klavier, 1744, with the first, 1722.) I.—CHURCH MUSIC A. With Orchestra 190 church cantatas: besides several which are only known from fragmentary sets of parts. Of the 190, 40 are for solo voices, about 6o (including some solo cantatas) are more or less founded on chorales, and the rest, though almost invariably containing a chorale (for congregational singing), are practically short oratorios and frequently so entitled by Bach himself. 3 wedding cantatas: the Easter oratorio (exactly like the above-mentioned oratorio-cantatas; and the Christmas oratorio (six similar cantatas forming a connected design for performance on six separate days). The Passions according to St Matthew and St John. Funeral ode for the Duchess Eberhardine (now known to be arranged from portions of the lost Passion according to St Mark). 4 short masses (i.e. Kyrie and Gloria only) mainly compiled from church cantatas. Mass in B minor. Magnificat in D. A few other ecclesiastical Latin choruses. A. Orchestral 7 clavier concertos arranged from violin concertos and other sources. 3 concertos for two claviers (two being arranged from concertos for two violins). 2 concertos for three claviers. The 6 Brandenburg concertos, for various combinations. 2 violin concertos, and a colossal torso of a concerted violin-movement forming the prelude to a lost church cantata. r concerto for two violins. 4 orchestral suites. (The symphony in F in the same volume 'of the B. G. is only an earlier version of the first Brandenburg concerto.) B. Chamber Music 3 sonatas for clavier and flute; a suite and 6 sonatas for clavier and violin, 3 for clavier and viola da gamba; 2 trios with figured bass; 2 flute-sonatas and a violin suite with figured bass; 6 sonatas (i.e. 3 sonatas and 3 partitas) for violin alone; 6 suites for violoncello alone. C. Clavier and Organ Music Bach's own collections are: I. Das wohltemperirte Klavier for clavichord: two books each containing 24 preludes and fugues, one in each major and minor key; with the object of stimulating tuning by " equal temperament " instead of sacrificing the euphony of remoter keys to that of the more usual ones. 2. Klavier-Ubung (chiefly for harpsichord) in four books comprising: (i) 15 two-part inventions and 15 three-part symphonies. (ii.) 6 partitas. (iii The " Goldberg " variations. 4 duets, and an important collection of organ choral-preludes, with the " St Anne " prelude and fugue in E flat. (iv.) The Italian concerto and French overture. 3. The 6 " French " and 6 " English " suites. The other clavier works fill two Jahrgange of the B.-G. Bach's collections of organ music are (besides that included in the third part of the Klavier- Cbung) :—(1) 6 sonatas. (2) 4 groups cf 6 organ preludes and fugues. (3) Das Orgelbiichlein, a collection of short choral-preludes carefully planned—all the blank pages of the autograph being headed with the titles of the chorales intended for them—but not half executed. (The projected whole would have been a larger volume than the Wohltemperirtes Klavier). (4) i8 larger chorale-preludes, including Bach's last composition. (5) The 6 ' Schubler " chorales, all arranged from movements of cantatas. Besides these there are the three great independent toccatas and the Passacaglia. The remaining choral-preludes fill one Jahrgang, and the other organ works two more. D. Unclassified Two important instrumental works cannot be classified, viz, Das musikalische Opfer, the volume of compositions (two great fugues, various puzzle-canons, and a splendid trio for flute, violin and figured bass) on the theme given to Bach by Frederick the Great; and Die Kunst der Fuge, a progressive series of fugues on one and the same subject, written in open score as if entirely abstract studies, but all (except the extreme contrapuntal tours de force) in admirable clavier style and of great musical value. IV.—LAST WORKS A. Choral J. N. Forkel's statement that Bach wrote 5 Jahrgdnge of church cantatas (i.e. enough to provide one for each Sunday and holy day for five years) would indicate that some 8o are lost, but there is reason to believe that this is a great exaggeration. Not more than six or seven cantatas are known to be lost, by the evidence of fragments, text-books, &c. Forkel also says that Bach wrote five Passions. Besides the great Matthew and John Passions there is in an indisputable Bach auto-graph one according to St Luke; but it is so worthless that the best plea for its authenticity offered by responsible critics is that only a personal interest could have induced Bach to make a copy of it. It The lost Passion according to St Mark must, judging by the movements preserved in the Trauer-Ode, have been larger than that according to St John. Was there a genuine Lucas-Passion ? If so, Forkel's report of five Passions would be explained. Several lost secular works are partly preserved in those portions of the Christmas oratorio of which the sources are not definitely kno",n, but which, like the other duplicated numbers, are fair copies in the autograph. B. Instrumental Three violin concertos and one for two violins; known only from the wonderful clavier versions. Most of the first movement of the A major sonata for clavier and flute which was written in the spare staves at the bottom of a larger score. Some of these have been cut off. V.—ARRANGEMENTS OF WORKS BY OTHER COMPOSERS Arrangements for harpsichord alone of 16 concertos, generally described as by Vivaldi, but including several by other composers. 4 Vivaldi concertos arranged ,for organ. Many of these arrangements contain much original matter, such as entirely new slow movements, large cadenzas, &c. Concerto in A minor for 4 claviers and orchestra, from Vivaldi's B minor concerto for 4 violins. This, though the most faithful to its original, is the richest and most Bach-like of all these arrangements, and is well worth performing in public. 2 sonatas from the Hortus Musicus of Reinken, arranged for clavier. (The ends of the slow movements are Bach.) Finishing touches to cantatas by his uncle Johann Ludwig Bach. Also a very characteristic complete " Christe eleison " inserted in Kyrie of Johann Ludwig's. VI.—DOUBTFUL AND SPURIOUS WORKS Bach's autographs give the name of the composer on the outside sheet only. He was constantly making copies of all that interested him; and where the outside sheet is lost, only the music itself can tell us whether it is his or not. The above-mentioned Passion according to St Luke is the chief case in point. The little music-books he and his second wife wrote for their children are full of pieces in the most various styles. and the editors of the Bach-Gesellschaft have not completely identified them, even Couperin's well-known Les Bergeries " escaping their scrutiny. A sonata for two claviers by Bach's eldest son, Wilhelm Friedermann, was detected by the editors after its inclusion in Jahrgang xliv. The second of the 3 sonatas for clavier and flute is extremely suggestive of Bach's sons, but Philipp Emanuel ascribes it to his father. However, he might easily have docketed it wrongly while arranging copies of his father's works. It has a twin brother (B.-G. ix. Anhang ii.) for which he has not vouched. Four absurd church cantatas are printed for conscience' sake in Jahrgang xliii. More important than these, because by no means too obviously ridiculous to deceive a careless listener, is the well-known 8-part motet, Lob, Ehr' and Weisheit (blessing and glory and wisdom). A closer acquaintance shows that it is really very poor stuff ; and it was finally crowned with absurdity by the discovery that its composer was a contemporary of Bach,—and that his name was Wagner. The beautiful motet, Ich lasse dick nicht, has long been known to be by one of Bach's uncles (Johann Christoph). EDITIONS Almost the only works of Bach published during his lifetime were the instrumental collections, most of which he engraved himself. Of the church cantatas only one, Gott ist mein Kdnig (written when he was nineteen, but a very great work), was published in his lifetime. Of modern editions that of the Bach-Gesellschaft is, of course, the only complete one. It is, inevitably, of very unequal merit. Its first editors could not realize their own ignorance of Bach's language; their immediate admiration of his larger choruses seemed to them proof of their competence to retain or dismiss details of ornamentation, figured bass, variants between score and parts, &c., without always stopping to see what light these might shed on questions of tempo and style—especially in the arias and recitatives, which they regarded as archaic almost in direct proportion to the depth of thought really displayed in them. In the 9th Jahrgang Wilhelm Rust introduced scholarly methods, with the happiest results. The Wohltemperirtes Klavier (Jahrgang xiv.) was edited by Kroll, who also made his text accessible in the Edition Peters (which till then had only Czerny's—an amazing result of corrupt tradition, still widely accepted). Kroll's and Rust's volumes are far the best in the B. G. On Rust's death the standard deteriorated ; his immediate successor seems more interested in reprinting in full an early version of a work of which Rust had given only the variants, than in digesting his own materials (Jahrgang xxix.) ; and in his next volume (Jahrgang xxx. p. 109) the bass and violin are a bar apart for a whole line. The last ten volumes, however, are again satisfactory. and in Jahrgang xliv. the French and English suites are re-edited. Part of the B minor mass was also worked over again; and Kroll's text of the Wohltemperirtes Klavier was supplemented by the evidence of the British Museum autograph. The Steingraber edition of the clavier works, edited by Dr Hans Bischoff, is incomparably the best, giving all the variants in footnotes and clearly distinguishing the extremely intelligent nuances and phrasing signs of the editor from the rare but significant indications of Bach himself. Nor does this wealth of scholarship interfere with the presentation of a straightforward, single text; though in addition there is every necessary explanation of the ornaments and kindred matters. We have seen no other editions that distinguish Bach's text from the editor's taste—the disappointing publications of the Neue Bachgesellschaft 1 by no means excepted. We may remark that the older vocal scores of cantatas in the Edition Peters are, though unfortunately but a selection, far better than the complete series issued by Breitkopf and Hartel in conformity with the Bach Gesellschaft, and therefore accepted as authoritative (see INSTRUMENTATION). The English vocal scores published by Novello are generally very good though covering but small ground. The Novello score of the Christmas oratorio contains a fine analytic preface by Sir George Macfarr'n.
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