Johann Sebastian Bach was a member of a family that had for generations been occupied in music. His sons were to continue the tradition, providing the foundation of a new style of music that prevailed in the later part of the eighteenth century. Johann Sebastian Bach himself represented the end of an age, the culmination of the Baroque in a magnificent synthesis of Italian melodic invention, French rhythmic dance forms and German contrapuntal mastery.
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Born in Eisenach in , Bach was educated largely by his eldest brother, after the early death of his parents. At the age of eighteen he embarked on his career as a musician, serving first as a court musician at Weimar, before appointment as organist at Arnstadt. Thomas, with responsibility for the music of the five principal city churches. Bach was to remain in Leipzig until his death in As a craftsman obliged to fulfil the terms of his employment, Bach provided music suited to his various appointments.
It was natural that his earlier work as an organist and something of an expert on the construction of organs, should result in music for that instrument. In Leipzig he began by composing series of cantatas for the church year, later turning his attention to instrumental music for the Collegium musicum of the University, and to the collection and ordering of his own compositions.
Known as the Organ Mass , corresponding as it does, in part, to the movements of the Mass, the work is framed by the Prelude and Fugue in E flat major, BWV , the fugue known to English audiences as the St. Anne Fugue, because of the resemblance of the opening of the fugal subject to the well known Croft hymn-tune of that name usually coupled with the words O God, our help in ages past.
The dotted rhythms of the Prelude make an impressive opening, with its concerto grosso contrasts of dynamics. The elaboration of the Kyrie, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit Kyrie, God, the Father eternal has the cantus firmus in the upper part, prefigured in the earlier entry of tenor, alto and bass in a quicker diminution of the chant.
What in vocal terms would have been a threefold Kyrie is followed, in due liturgical form, by a treatment of the Christe eleison, Christe, aller Welt Trost Christ, trust of all the world. Light and dance-like, it is the closest in form to Bach's Two Part Inventions , of which it most closely resembles the last, No.
The bass accompaniment in detached quavers of the subject does not appear in the upper part and is not developed. With very little modulation or chromaticism, the novelty of BWV lies in the development of the semiquaver passagework. Apart from a contrasting middle section in E minor, the tonality throughout is resolutely that of G major. The use of broken chords recalls the writing in the first movements of the sixth trio sonata for organ BWV and the third Brandenburg Concerto BWV BWV is a fugue in strict counterpoint in the key of A minor, bars long.
The 8 bar subject starts in minims with a second harmonic half in slow quavers. Bach introduced further "modern" elements in the semitone drops in the subject and later motifs bars 4 and Although all entries of the subject are either in A minor tonic or E minor dominant , Bach adds chromaticism by flattening notes in the subject and sharpening notes during modulating passages. Despite being a rigorous composition with carefully devised invertible counterpoint, i. There are three episodes which move between different keys and combine three new pairs of motifs, either 2 bars, 4 bars or 8 bars long, in highly original and constantly changing ways.
The first episode starts in bar 18 below with the first pair of new motifs, the upper one characterised by an octave drop:. The third pair of motifs, which allows significant modulation, appears for the first time in the second half of the second episode and is derived from the second half of the subject and countersubject:. His comments represented a change in contemporary musical aesthetics: Bach's musical contributions, however, could only be properly assessed at the beginning of the 19th century, when his works became more widely available: From onwards a small group of ardent supporters became active in Berlin , keen to preserve his reputation and promulgate his oeuvre.
The group centred around his son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach , who in at the age of 24 had been appointed court harpsichordist at Potsdam to Frederick the Great , then crown prince before his accession to the throne in Bach remained in Berlin until , when he was appointed Kapellmeister in Hamburg in succession to Georg Philipp Telemann. His brother Wilhelm Friedemann Bach moved to Berlin in , although not to general acclaim, despite his accomplishments as an organist. Other prominent members of the group included Bach's former pupils Johann Friedrich Agricola , court composer, first director of the Royal Opera House in Berlin and collaborator with Emanuel on Bach's obituary the Nekrolog , , and more significantly Johann Philipp Kirnberger.
Kirnberger became Kapellmeister to the court in and music teacher of Frederick's niece, Anna Amalia. Not only did Kirnberger build up a large collection of Bach's manuscripts in the Amalien-Bibliothek , but with Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg he promoted Bach's compositions through theoretical texts, concentrating in particular on counterpoint with a detailed analysis of Bach's methods. The first of the two volumes of Marpurg's "Treatise on fugue" Abhandlung von der Fuge , — cites the opening segment of the six-part fugal chorale prelude Aus tiefer Noth BWV as one of its examples.
Kirnberger produced his own extensive tract on composition Die Kunst des reinen Satzes in der Musik "The true principles for the practice of harmony" , twenty years later, between and In his treatise Marpurg had adopted some of the musical theories on the fundamental bass of Jean-Philippe Rameau from his Treatise on Harmony in explaining Bach's fugal compositions, an approach which Kirnberger rejected in his tract:.
Rameau filled this theory with so many things that had no rhyme or reason that one must certainly wonder how such extravagant notions can have found belief and even champions among us Germans, since we have always had the greatest harmonists among us, and their manner of treating harmony was certainly not to be explained according to Rameau's principles. Some even went so far that they preferred to deny the soundness of a Bach in his procedure with respect to the treatment and progression of chords, rather than admit that the Frenchman could have erred.
This led to an acrimonious dispute in which both claimed to speak with Bach's authority.
Chorale prelude: "Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist", BWV | Reid Concerts
Bach, Capellmeister in Hamburg, thinks of the excellent work of Mr. Marpurg, is shown by some passages from a letter that this famous man has written to me: Marpurg towards you is execrable. Through Bach's pupils and family, copies of his keyboard works were disseminated and studied throughout Germany; the diplomat Baron van Swieten , Austrian envoy to the Prussian court from to and afterwards patron of Mozart , Haydn and Beethoven , was responsible for relaying copies from Berlin to Vienna.
The reception of the works was mixed, partly because of their technical difficulty: Sie gefallen mir nicht". Because of its high price, this edition did not sell well: Bach was still trying to dispose of copies. Before , there are very few reports of performances of Bach's works in England or of manuscript copies of his work.
Later that year in a letter to Christoph Daniel Ebeling , the music critic engaged in translating this work into German, Burney made one of his first references to Bach:. I was no less surprised than pleased to find Mr. It was, however, only in the following year, during his tour of Germany and the Low Countries , that Burney received a copy of the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier from C.
Bach in Hamburg; according to his own reports, he was only to become familiar with its contents over thirty years later. The book contains the first English account of Bach's work and reflects the views commonly held at the time in England. Burney compared the learned style of Bach unfavourably with that of his son, whom he had visited:.
How he formed his style, where he acquired all his taste and refinement, would be difficult to trace; he certainly neither inherited nor adopted them from his father, who was his only master; for that venerable musician, though unequalled in learning and contrivance, thought it so necessary to crowd into both hand all the harmony he could grasp, that he must inevitably have sacrificed melody and expression.
Had the sone chosen a model, it would certainly have been his father, whom he highly reverenced; but as he has ever disdained imitation, he must have derive from nature alone, those fine feelings, that variety of new ideas, and selection of passages, which are so manifest in his compositions.
All the present organ-players of Germany are formed upon his school, as most of those on the harpsichord, clavichord and piano forte are upon that of his son, the admirable Carl. As it is known that at the time Burney knew hardly any of Bach's compositions, it appears that his opinions of Bach came second-hand: In Germany Burney's book was not well received, infuriating even his friend Ebeling: Later that year, to Fanny's horror, the Queen requested that Fanny show her copy to her daughter Princess Elizabeth.
The book was viewed by both the King and Queen, who accepted Fanny's hastily invented explanations of the markings; she similarly managed to excuse herself when Princess Elizabeth later read all the marked passages assuming them to be Fanny's favourites. Burney was aware of George III's preference for Handel when in he wrote in his account of the Handel Commemoration that "in his full, masterly and excellent organ- fugues , upon the most natural and pleasing subjects, he has surpassed Frescobaldi, and even Sebastian Bach, and others of his countrymen, the most renowned for abilities in this difficult and elaborate species of composition.
Writing anonymously in the Allgemeine Deutsche Bibliothek in , C. Bach angrily responded that "there is nothing to be seen but partiality, and of any close acquaintance with the principal works of J. Bach for organ we find in Dr. Burney's writings no trace. The very terms of Canon and Fugue imply restraint and labour. Handel was perhaps the only great Fughuist, exempt from pedantry. He seldom treated barren or crude subjects; his themes being almost always natural and pleasing.
Sebastian Bach, on the contrary, like Michel Angelo in painting, disdained facility so much, that his genius never stooped to the easy and graceful. I never have seen a fugue by this learned and powerful author upon a motivo , that is natural and chantant ; or even an easy and obvious passage, that is not loaded with crude an difficult accompaniments.
An active correspondent with both of Bach's sons in Berlin, he published the first detailed biography of Bach in , Bach: For Patriotic Admirers of True Musical Art , including an appreciation of Bach's keyboard and organ music and ending with the injunction, "This man, the greatest orator-poet that ever addressed the world in the language of music, was a German!
Let Germany be proud of him! Yes, proud of him, but worthy of him too! Among his criticisms of Bach in the s, Scheibe had written, "We know of composers who see it as an honour to be able to compose incomprehensible and unnatural music. They pile up musical figures. They make unusual embellishments. Are these not truly musical Goths!
In his entry for "harmony" in the influential Dictionnaire de Musique , Jean-Jacques Rousseau , a fierce critic of Rameau, described counterpoint as a "gothic and barbaric invention", the antithesis of the melodic galante style. In , Johann Wolfgang von Goethe gave a fundamentally different view of "gothic" art that would achieve widespread acceptance during the classical-romantic movement.
Chorale prelude: "Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist", BWV 674
In his celebrated essay on the cathedral in Strasbourg , where he was a student, Goethe was one of the first writers to connect gothic art with the sublime:. The first time I went to the minster I was full of the common notions of good taste. From hearsay I respected the harmony of mass, the purity of forms, and I was the sworn enemy of the confused caprices of Gothic ornament.
Under the term gothic, like the article in a dictionary, I threw together all the synonymous misunderstandings, such as undefined, disorganized, unnatural, patched-together, tacked on, overloaded, which had gone through my head. How surprised I was when I was confronted by it! The impression which filled my soul was whole and large, and of a sort that—since it was composed of a thousand harmonizing details—I could relish and enjoy, but by no means identify and explain.
How often have I returned from all sides, from all distances, in all lights, to contemplate its dignity and magnificence. It is hard on the spirit of man when his brother's work is so sublime that he can only bow and worship. How often has the evening twilight soothed with its friendly quiet my eyes, tired-out with questing, by blending the scattered parts into masses which now stood simple and large before my soul, and at once my powers unfolded rapturously to enjoy and understand. In , Johann Friedrich Reichardt , since the successor to Agricola as Capellmeister in the court of Frederic the Great, quoted this passage from Goethe in the Musicalisches Kunstmagazin to describe his personal reactions to the instrumental fugues of Bach and Handel.
He prefaced his eulogy with a description of Bach as the greatest counterpuntalist "harmonist" of his age:. There has never been a composer, not even the best and deepest of the Italians, who so exhausted all the possibilities of our harmony as did J. Almost no suspension is possible that he did not make use of, and he employed every proper harmonic art and every improper harmonic artifice a thousand times, in earnest and in jest, with such boldness and individuality that the greatest harmonist, if called upon to supply a missing measure in the theme of one of his greatest works, could not be entirely sure of having supplied it exactly as Bach had done.
Had Bach had the high sense of truth and the deep feeling for expression that animated Handel, he would have been far greater even than Handel himself; but as it is, he is only much more erudite and industrious. The unfavourable comparison to Handel was removed in a later reprinting in , following adverse anonymous remarks in the Allgemeine Deutsche Bibliothek.
Reichardt's comparison between Bach's music and the Gothic cathedral would often be repeated by composers and music critics. His student, the writer, composer and music critic E. Hoffmann , saw in Bach's music "the bold and wonderful, romantic cathedral with all its fantastic embellishments, which, artistically swept up into a whole, proudly and magnificently rise in the air. Another musician in C. Bach's circle was his friend Carl Friedrich Christian Fasch , son of the violinist and composer Johann Friedrich Fasch , who, on the death of Kuhnau in , had turned down the post, later awarded to Bach, of kantor at the Thomaskirche , where he himself had been trained.
He briefly succeeded Agricola as director of the Royal Opera in for two years. Three years later in , Fasch started an informal group in Berlin, formed from singing students and music lovers, that met for rehearsals in private homes. In , with the introduction of a "presence book", it became officially known as the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin and two years later was granted its own rehearsal room in the Royal Academy of Arts in Berlin. As a composer, Fasch had learnt the old methods of counterpoint from Kirnberger and, like the Academy of Ancient Music in London, his initial purpose in founding the Sing-Akademie was to revive interest in neglected and rarely performed sacred vocal music, particularly that of J.
Bach, Graun and Handel. The society subsequently built up an extensive library of baroque music of all types, including instrumental music. More significant for the 19th-century English Bach revival was the presence of a younger generation of German-speaking musicians in London, well versed in the theoretical writings of Kirnberger and Marpurg on counterpoint but not dependent on royal patronage; these included John Casper Heck c — , Charles Frederick Baumgarten — and Joseph Diettenhofer c c Heck in particular promoted fugues in his treatise "The Art of Playing the Harpsichord" , describing them later as "a particular stile of music peculiar to the Organ than the Harpsichord"; in his biographical entry for Bach in the s in the Musical Library and Universal Magazine , he gave examples of counterpoint from Bach's late period Canonic Variations , Art of Fugue.
Cooke knew them through the Royal Society of Musicians and had himself published a version of Art of Fugue. Calcott corresponded with Kollmann about the musical theories of the Bach school. In , he was one of the founding members of the Concentores Society , a club with a limited membership of twelve professional musicians, dedicated to composition in counterpoint and the stile antico. Forkel and Kollmann corresponded during this period: No complete authorized English translation was produced at the time. The son of a mason, he himself had been brought up as a master mason, but had cultivated his musical interests in secret, eventually taking composition classes with Fasch.
He had been linked to the Sing-Akademie for years and had acquired a reputation as one of the foremost experts on Bach in Berlin. In , he started a correspondence with Goethe on the aesthetics of music, particularly the music of Bach, which was to last until both friends died in Although Goethe had a late training in music, he considered it an essential element in his life, arranging concerts at his home and attending them elsewhere. In , he wrote:.
On this occasion I recalled the good organist of Berka; for it was there, in perfect repose without extraneous disturbance, that I first formed an impression of your great maestro. I said to myself, it is as if the eternal harmony were conversing with itself, as it may have done in God's breast before the creation of the world; that is the way it move deep within me, and it was if I neither possessed or needed ears, nor any other sense—least of all, the eyes.
The organ is Bach's own peculiar soul, into which he breathes immediately the living breath. His theme is the feeling just born, which, like the spark from the stone, invariably springs forth, from the first chance pressure of the foot upon the pedals. Thus by degrees he warms to his subject, till he has isolated himself, and feels alone, and then an inexhaustible stream passes out into the ocean. Zelter insisted on the pedals as the key to Bach's organ writing: Zelter was instrumental in building up the Sing-Akademie, broadening their repertoire to instrumental music and encouraging the growing library, another important repository for Bach manuscripts.
Zelter had been responsible for Mendelssohn's father Abraham Mendelssohn becoming a member of the Sing-Akademie in As a consequence, one of the major new forces behind the library became Sara Levy , the great-aunt of Felix Mendelssohn , who had assembled one of the most-important private collections of 18th-century music in Europe. An accomplished harpsichordist, Sara Levy's teacher had been Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and she had been a patroness of C.
Bach , circumstances which gave her family close contacts with Bach and resulted in his music enjoying a privileged status in the Mendelssohn household. Felix's mother Lea, who had studied under Kirnberger, gave him his first music lessons. In , Zelter was appointed as the composition teacher of Felix and his sister Fanny ; he taught counterpoint and music theory according to the methods of Kirnberger.
Bach , who had himself studied musical theory under Zelter. Bach was organist of the Marienkirche, Berlin , which had an organ built in by Joachim Wagner. Mendelssohn's organ lessons were conducted on the Wagner organ, with Fanny present; they commenced in and lasted for less than two years. It is probable that he learnt some of J. Bach's organ works, which had remained in the repertoire of many Berlin organists; his choice would have been limited, because at that stage his pedal technique was still rudimentary. In autumn the twelve-year-old Mendelssohn accompanied Zelter on a trip to Weimar , stopping on the way in Leipzig where they were shown the cantor's room in the choir school of the Thomaskirche by Bach's successor Schicht.
They stayed two weeks in Weimar with Goethe, to whom Mendelssohn played extensively on the piano each day.
All Mendelssohn's music lessons stopped by summer when his family left for Switzerland. In the s, Mendelssohn visited Goethe four more times in Weimar, the last time being in , a year after his resounding success in reviving Bach's St Matthew Passion in Berlin, with the collaboration of Zelter and members of the Sing-Akademie. On this last trip, again by way of Leipzig, he stayed two weeks in Weimar and had daily meetings with Goethe, by then in his eighties.
He later gave an account to Zelter of a visit to the church of St Peter and St Paul where Bach's cousin Johann Gottfried Walther had been organist and where his two eldest sons had been baptized: One day Goethe asked me if I would not care to pay a compliment to craftsmanship and call on the organist, who might let me see and hear the organ in the town church. I did so, and the instrument gave me great pleasure The organist gave me the choice of hearing something learned or for the people But it was not much to be proud of. He modulated around enough to make one giddy, but nothing unusual came of it; he made a number of entries, but no fugue was forthcoming.
When my turn came, I let loose with the D minor toccata of Bach and remarked that this was at the same time something learned and for the people too, at least some of them. But see, I had hardly started to play when the superintendent dispatched his valet downstairs with the message that this playing had to be stopped right away because it was a weekday and he could not study with that much noise going on.
Goethe was very much amused by this story. In , Mendelssohn was appointed director of the Gewandhaus Orchester in Leipzig , a post he held until his death in at the age of He soon met other Bach enthusiasts including Robert Schumann , one year his junior, who had moved to Leipzig in Having been taught piano by J. Kuntsch, organist at the Marienkirche in Zwickau , Schumann's seems to have started developing a deeper interest in Bach's organ music in In his diary he recorded sightreading the six organ fugues BWV — for four hands with Clara Wieck , the twelve-year-old daughter of his Leipzig piano teacher Friedrich Wieck and his future wife.
Schumann later acknowledged Bach as the composer who had influenced him most. One of the main contributors was his friend Carl Becker , organist at the Peterskirche and in the Nikolaikirche. Schumann remained as editor-in-chief until , the year in which Mendelssohn became the founding director of the Leipzig Conservatory. Schumann was appointed professor for piano and composition at the conservatory; other appointments included Moritz Hauptmann harmony and counterpoint , Ferdinand David violin and Becker organ and music theory.
One of Mendelssohn's regrets since was that he had not had sufficient opportunity to develop his pedal technique to his satisfaction, despite having given public organ recitals. Mendelssohn explained later how difficult gaining access to organs had already been back in Berlin: The English organist Edward Holmes commented in that Mendelssohn's recitals in St Paul's Cathedral "gave a taste of his quality which in extemperaneous performance is certainly of the highest kind August saw the fruits of Mendelssohn's labour: The proceeds from the concert were to go towards a statue of Bach in the vicinity of the Thomaskirche.
Most of the repertoire in the concert had been played by Mendelssohn elsewhere, but nevertheless as he wrote to his mother, "I practised so much the previous eight days that I could barely stand on my own two feet and walked along the street in nothing but organ passages.
In the audience was the elderly Friedrich Rochlitz , founding editor of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung , a journal that had promoted the music of Bach: Rochlitz is reported to have declared afterwards, "I shall depart now in peace, for never shall I hear anything finer or more sublime. At about the same time the publishing house of Peters in Leipzig produced an edition of Bach's complete organ works in nine volumes edited by Friedrich Griepenkerl and Ferdinand Roitzsch.
In , while Robert was recovering from a nervous breakdown and a few months prior to the completion of his piano concerto , the Schumanns rented a pedalboard to place under their upright piano. As Clara recorded at the time, "On April 24th we got on hire a pedal-board to attach below the pianoforte, and we had great pleasure from it. Our chief object was to practice organ playing.
But Robert soon found a higher interest in this instrument and composed some sketches and studies for it which are sure to find high favour as something quite new. Before composing any of his own fugues and canons for organ and pedal piano, Schumann had made a careful study of Bach's organ works, of which he had an extensive collection. The project was completed in It was published in , with Becker as editor. Like Schumann, perhaps even more so, Brahms was deeply influenced by Bach's music. Three months after Brahms' visit, Schumann's mental state deteriorated: From its inception, Brahms subscribed to the Bach-Gesellschaft, of which he became an editor in An organist himself and a scholar of early and baroque music, he carefully annotated and analysed his copies of the organ works; he made a separate study of Bach's use of parallel fifths and octaves in his organ counterpoint.
Brahms' Bach collection is now preserved in the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna , of which he became musical director and conductor in In , a year before he died, Brahms composed his own set of eleven chorale preludes for organ, Op. Like Schumann, who turned to Bach counterpoint as a form of therapy in during his recovery from mental illness, Brahms also viewed Bach's music as salutory during his final illness. As Brahms' friend and biographer Max Kalbeck reported: He complained about his situation and said 'It's lasting so long.
The piano remained closed: He pointed to the piano, where on the music stand, which stood on top of the closed cover, lay a score of Bach. Max Reger was a composer whose dedication to Bach has been described as a "monomaniacal identification" by the musicologist Johannes Lorenzen: During his life, Reger arranged or edited of Bach's compositions, including arrangements of 38 organ works for piano solo, piano duet or two pianos, starting in At the same time he produced a large number of his own organ works.
Already in , the organist and musicologist Heinrich Reimann , reacting to modernist trends in German music, had encouraged a return to the style of Bach, stating that, "Beyond this style there is no salvation Bach becomes for that reason the criterion of our art of writing for the organ. The original intention was a sonata in three movements: In the final version, Reger inserted an intermezzo a scherzo and trio as the third movement and expanded the adagio to contain a central section on the Lutheran hymns Aus tiefer Not and O Haupt voll Blut und Bunden.
In , Reger sent a copy of the suite to Brahms, his only contact. In the letter he asked permission to dedicate a future work to Brahms, to which he received the reply, "Permission for that is certainly not necessary, however! I had to smile, since you approach me about this matter and at the same time enclose a work whose all-too-bold dedication terrifies me! It has a similarly dense texture of six parts, two of them in the pedal. The suite was first performed in the Trinity Church, Berlin in by the organist Karl Straube , a student of Reimann. According to a later account by one of Straube's students, Reimann had described the work as "so difficult as to be almost unplayable," which had "provoked Straube's virtuosic ambition, so that he set about mastering the work, which placed him before utterly new technical problems, with unflagging energy.
In , Straube was appointed organist at the Thomaskirche and in the following year cantor; he became the main proponent and performer of Reger's organ works. Apart from prevailing musical tastes and the difficulty in acquiring manuscript copies, a fundamental difference between the design of English and German organs made Bach's organ output less accessible to English organists, namely the absence of pedalboards.
Handel's principal works for organ, his organ concertos Op. Until the s, most church organs in England did not have separate pedal pipes and before that the few organs that had pedalboards were all pull-downs , i. Pedalboards rarely contained more than 13 keys an octave or exceptionally 17 keys an octave and a half. Pull-down pedalboards became more common from onwards. It is for this reason that the Bach awakening in England started with clavier compositions being played on the organ or organ compositions being adapted either for piano duet or for two or sometimes three players at an organ.
The newfound interest in Bach's organ music, as well as the desire to reproduce the grand and thunderous choral effects of the Handel Commemoration , eventually influenced organ builders in England. By the s, after a series of experiments with pedals and pedal pipes starting around in the spirit of the industrial revolution , newly constructed and existing organs started to be fitted with dedicated diapason pipes for the pedals, according to the well-established German model.
The organ in St Paul's Cathedral commissioned in from Father Smith and completed in , with a case by Christopher Wren , had exceptionally already been fitted with a key pedalboard two octaves C-c' of pull-down German pedals in the first half of the 18th century, probably as early as , on the recommendation of Handel.
The four-manual "monster" organ in Birmingham Town Hall , constructed in by William Hill, had three sets of pedal pipes connected to the pedalboard, which could also be operated independently by a two-octave keyboard to the left of the manual keyboards. Hill's experiment of installing gigantic foot pedal pipes, some currently still present, was only partially successful, as their scale did not permit them to sound properly.
The organist, composer and music teacher Samuel Wesley — played a significant role in awakening interest in Bach's music in England, mostly in the period — In early Wesley visited Charles Burney in his rooms in Chelsea where he played for him from the copy of Book I of the '48' that Burney had received from C. As Wesley later recorded, Burney "was very delighted In the introduction, after commenting that Bach fugues were "very difficult of execution, profoundly learned and highly ingenious", he described their "prevailing style" as "the sublime".
In , the E flat fugue had been arranged for organ or piano duet by Jacob and was even performed bair y three players two years later on the organ in St. James, Bermondsey, where the pedal could be played on a supplementary keyboard. It had also been used for auditions for organists: Wesley's son Samuel Sebastian Wesley himself played it in , when seeking employment unsuccessfully. By , pedal technique on the organ had developed sufficiently in England that the composer and organist Elizabeth Stirling — could give concerts in St Katherine's, Regent's Park and St. In the same year Wesley and his daughter were invited to the organ loft of Christ Church, Newgate for a Bach recital by Felix Mendelssohn.
As Mendelssohn recorded in his diary,. Old Wesley, trembling and bent, shook hands with me and at my request sat down at the organ bench to play, a thing he had not done for many years. The frail old man improvised with great artistry and splendid facility, so that I could not but admire. His daughter was so moved by the sight of it all that she fainted and could not stop crying and sobbing. Prior to the concert, he confided in a letter to his mother:.
Ask Fanny, dear Mother, what she would say if I were to play in Birmingham the Bach organ prelude in E flat major and the fugue that stands at the end of the same volume. I think she will grumble at me, but I think I would be right all the same. The prelude especially would be very acceptable to the English, I would think, and both in the prelude and in the fugue one can show off the piano, pianissimo, and the whole range of the organ—and it is not a dull piece either in my view! Wesley died the following month.
Mendelssohn made a total of 10 visits to Britain, the first in , the last in His first visit, when he stayed with his friend the pianist and composer Ignaz Moscheles , had been a resounding success and Mendelssohn had been embraced by all strata of British musical society. On his fourth trip to Britain in he was accompanied by his father and heard the seventeen-year-old pianist-composer William Sterndale Bennett performing his first piano concerto.
A musical prodigy like Mendelssohn, at the age of 10 Sterndale Bennett had entered the Royal Academy of Music , where he had been taught by Crotch. He was also an accomplished organist, familiar with the works of Bach. After brief appointments as organist, he subsequently practised on the organ in Hanover Square Rooms, later surprising his son with his mastery of the harder pedal passages on a pedal-piano. Mendelssohn immediately invited him to Germany. Reportedly when Sterndale Bennett asked to go as his student, Mendelssohn replied, "No, no, you must come to be my friend.
There he made friends with Schumann, who became his soul mate and drinking partner. Sterndale Bennett made only two further trips to Germany during the lifetimes of Mendelssohn and Schumann, in — and , although he retained their friendship and helped arrange Mendelssohn's visits to Britain. He became a firm proponent of Bach, organising concerts of his chamber music in London. He was one of the founders in of the original Bach Society in London, devoted to the performance and collection of Bach's works, principally choral. In , he staged the first performance in England of the St.
Matthew Passion in the Hanover Square Rooms. Already in , Mendelssohn had become friends with Thomas Attwood , who had studied with Mozart and since had been organist of St Paul's Cathedral. Through Attwood Mendelssohn gained access to the organ at St Paul's, which was suitable for Bach, despite the unusual alignment of the pedalboard. In , however, during a recital at St Paul's, just before playing to Wesley, the air supply to the organ had suddenly been interrupted; in a later account, that he had to retell annoyingly often, Mendelssohn related that George Cooper, the sub-organist,.
Three or four clerics appeared and tore into the beadle furiously in front of all the people, threatening him with dismissal. Cooper's son , also called George, became the next sub-organist at St Paul's. Mendelssohn's eighth visit occurred in after the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne. Her husband Prince Albert was a keen organist and, under his influence, the music of Bach started to be performed at royal concerts. On the second of his two invitations to Buckingham Palace , Mendelssohn improvised on Albert's organ and accompanied the queen in two songs by Fanny and himself.
Between these two visits, he once more performed the St Anne prelude and fugue, this time before an audience of 3, in Exeter Hall in a concert organized by the Sacred Harmonic Society. In London there were few church organs with German pedal boards going down to CC: Peter's, Cornhill , where Mendelssohn frequently performed solo recitals.
One of the main names in organ building in England in the second half of the 19th century was Henry Willis. The manner in which the organ for St. George's Hall, Liverpool was planned and constructed marks the transition from what Nicholas Thistlethwaite calls the "insular movement" of the s to the adoption of the established German system. Planning formally started on the organ in He worked in consultation with a panel of university professors of music, who often disagreed with his eccentric suggestions.
When Wesley tried to argue about the range of manual keyboards, justifying himself by the possibility of playing octaves with the left hand, he was reminded by the professors that the use of octaves was more common among pianists than first-rate organists and moreover that when he had been organist at Leeds Parish Church, "the dust on the half-dozen lowest keys on the GG manuals remained undisturbed for months. The completed organ had four manual keyboards and a thirty key pedalboard, with 17 sets of pedal pipes and a range from CC to f.
The instrument had unequal temperament and, as Wesley had stipulated, the air supply came from two large underground bellows powered by an eight horse-power steam engine. Among the innovations introduced by Willis were the cylindrical pedal-valve, the pneumatic lever and the combination action , the latter two features being adopted widely by English organ builders in the second half of the 19th century.
The organ was inaugurated in by William Thomas Best , who later that year was appointed resident organist, attracting crowds of thousands to here his playing. In , he had the organ retuned to equal temperament. In France, the Bach revival was slower to take root. Before the late s, after the upheaval caused by the French revolution , Bach was rarely performed in public concerts in France and it was preferred that church organists play operatic arias or popular airs instead of counterpoint. One exception was a public performance in the Paris Conservatoire in December , repeated two years later in the Salons Pape, of the opening allegro of Bach's concerto for three harpsichords BWV , played on pianos by Chopin , Liszt and Hiller.
Berlioz later described their choice as "stupid and ridiculous", unworthy of their talents. Charles Gounod , having won the Prix de Rome in , spent three years in the Villa Medici in Rome , where he developed a passionate interest in the polyphonic music of Palestrina. He also met Mendelssohn's sister Fanny, herself an accomplished concert pianist and by then married to the artist Wilhelm Hensel: Gounod described her as "an outstanding musician and a woman of superior intelligence, small, slender, but gifted with an energy which showed in her deep-set eyes and in her burning look.
At the end of his stay in , the twenty-five-year-old Gounod had become a confirmed Bach devotee. In , after a seven-month stay in Vienna, with a letter of introduction from Fanny, Gounod spent 4 days with her brother in Leipzig. Mendelssohn played Bach for him on the organ of the Thomaskirche and conducted a performance of his Scottish Symphony by the Gewandhaus orchestra , specially convened in his honour. Bach and Palestrina figured strongly in his repertoire. In the late s and s a new school of organist-composers emerged in France, all trained in the organ works of Bach.
In the aftermath of the French revolution , there had already been a revival of interest in France in choral music of the baroque and earlier periods, particularly of Palestrina, Bach and Handel: Along with the Conservatoire de Paris , it became one of the main training grounds for French organists.
The change in traditions can be traced back to the inauguration in of the organ for St Eustache , built by Doublaine and Callinet. The German organ virtuoso Adolf Friedrich Hesse was invited with five Parisians to demonstrate the new instrument. While impressed by his pedal playing, French commentators at the time gave Hesse mixed praise, one remarking that, while he might be the "king of the pedal He always seems to be the minister of an angry God who wants to punish.
Two Belgian organist-composers, Franck and Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens , participated in the inauguration in of the new organ at St Eustache. At the same time Lemmens had published 18 installments of an organ manual for the use of "organistes du culte catholique", giving a complete introduction to the Bach tradition of organ playing, henceforth adopted in France. The French composer, organist and virtuoso pianist Charles Valentin Alkan and Lemmens gave concerts on it, including performances of Bach's toccatas, fugues and chorale preludes for organ.
Alkan's repertoire included the St Anne prelude as well as several chorale preludes. There were further indications of changes in taste in France: He regarded the preludes, fugues, toccatas and variations as virtuosic pieces for concert performance; and the chorale preludes as too Protestant in spirit for inclusion in a Catholic mass. The last two decades of the 19th century saw a revival of interest in Bach's organ music in France. Attracting huge crowds—the concert hall could seat 5, with sometimes an extra 2, standing—the concerts continued until the turn of the century.
Guilmant programmed primarily the organ music of the two composers whom he referred to as "musical giants", Bach and Handel, still mostly unknown to these mass audiences, as well as the works of older masters such as Buxtehude and Frescobaldi. It was not without its detractors: Of all the great musicians, the greatest, that is to say he without whom music itself would not exist, the founder, the patriarch, the Abraham, the Noah, the Adam of music, Johann Sebastian Bach, is the most tedious.
How many times, crushed under these four-square merciless rhythms, lost amid this algebra of sound, this living geometry, smothered by the answers of these interminable fugues, one wants to close one's ears to this prodigious counterpoint The chorale preludes of Bach were late to enter the French organ repertoire. It was Charles-Marie Widor , Franck's successor on his death in , who introduced the chorale preludes as a fundamental part of organ teaching there, where Bach's other organ works already provided the foundation stone.
Widor believed that the music of Bach represented. At the reopening of the class at the beginning of , there occurred an event of considerable importance to our artistic development. I mean the discovery of Bach's chorale preludes. I mean "discovery", and this is not an exaggeration, as you may judge for yourselves.
At the first class in performance, Widor remarked with some surprise that since his arrival at the Conservatoire not one of us had brought in one of the celebrated chorales. For my part I was acquainted with three of them, published in Braille for the edition Franck had prepared for our school. They had seemed to me to have no technical difficulties and I had paid no further attention to them.
My classmates did not even know that they existed. On looking through the music cabinet where there were several books in the Richault edition, we discovered three volumes, two of preludes and fugues and one of chorale preludes, the latter completely untouched, its leaves uncut. The most overwhelming parts of the giant's organ works were suddenly revealed to us.
We set to work on them at once, and for three months nothing else was heard in class. We all played chorale preludes at the examination in January, and the surprise of the jury was no less great than our own had been. Why didn't I know about that forty years ago? It ought to be the Bible of all musicians, and especially of organists.
On Widor's recommendation, Guilmant succeeded him as professor of organ in the conservatory in From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. In Verlegung des Authoris. Boyd , p. An Inspiration of the Heart? Renwick Lester , p.
Ach GOtt vom Himmel sieh darein, herzeuget. Williams , p. Geck , pp. Most Bach scholars have taken this to be an indication that it was intended for keyboard performance. Marshall , p. Williams , pp. Mendel , pp. Butler , pp. Kassler , pp. Terry , pp. Sponheuer , pp. Applegate , pp. Stinson Frisch , p. Thistlethwaite Bicknell Plumley , pp. Stinson Little Kassler Thistlethwaite , p. Smith , pp. Ochse Website Archived at the Wayback Machine.
The author has given here new proof that in this kind of composition he excels many others in experience and skill. No-one can surpass him in this sphere, and very few indeed will be able to imitate him. This work is a powerful argument against those who have ventured to criticize the music of the Court Composer. Luther, however, had written a greater and a smaller catechism.
In the former he demonstrates the essence of the faith; in the latter he addresses himself to the children. Bach, the musical father of the Lutheran church, feels it encumbent on him to do likewise; he gives us a larger and smaller arrangement of each chorale The larger chorales are dominated by a sublime musical symbolism, aiming simply at illustrating the central idea of the dogma contained in the words; the smaller ones are of bewitching simplicity.
Wir glauben all an einen Gott. Vater unser im Himmelreich. Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam. Aus tiefer Noth schrei ich zu dir. Jesus Christus, unser Heiland. Problems playing this file? The same theme recurs in three connected fugues, but each time with another personality. The first fugue is calm and majestic, with an absolutely uniform movement throughout; in the second the theme seems to be disguised, and is only occasionally recognisable in its true shape, as if to suggest the divine assumption of an earthly form; in the third, it is transformed into rushing semiquavers as if the Pentacostal wind were coming roaring from heaven.
These two chorales—German versions of the Kyrie and Gloria of the mass—have here a peculiar importance as being substituted in the Lutheran church for the two first numbers of the mass, and sung at the beginning of the service in Leipzig. The task of glorifying in music the doctrines of Lutheran christianity which Bach undertook in this set of chorales, he regarded as an act of worship, at the beginning of which he addressed himself to the Triune God in the same hymns of prayer and praise as those sung every Sunday by the congregation.
O Lord the Father for evermore! We Thy wondrous grace adore; We confess Thy power, all worlds upholding. Who of life and light the fountain art, With faith sustain our heart, That at the last we hence in peace depart. This technique of beginning and ending on the dominant chord can still be used nowadays, especially in those movements in which a concerto, symphony or sonata does not come to a full conclusion This type of ending awakens a desire to hear something additional. Almost invariably Bach uses the melody to express the adoration of the Angelic hosts, and in scale passages pictures the throng of them ascending and descending between earth and heaven.
Also the costs run too high. To God on high all glory be, And thanks, that He's so gracious, That hence to all eternity No evil shall oppress us: His word declares good-will to men, On earth is peace restored again Through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Father, Thy kingdom lasts always, Not frail, nor transitory: Thy power is endless as Thy praise, Thou speak'st, the universe obeys: In such a Lord we're happy.
He in soul and body feeds us, All we want His hand provides us, Through all snares and perils leads us, Watches that no harm betides us; He cares for us by day and night, All things are governed by His might. Our Father in the heaven Who art, Who tellest all of us in heart Brothers to be, and on Thee call, And wilt have prayer from us all, Grant that the mouth not only pray, From deepest heart oh help its way. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: Faith sees therein a red flood roll, With Christ's blood dyed and blended, Which hurts of all kinds maketh whole, From Adam here descended, And by ourselves brought on us.
When in the arrangement of the chorale "Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam" an unceasing figure of flowing semiquavers makes itself heard, it needs no skilled critic of Bach's works to find in this an image of the river Jordan. Bach's real meaning, however, will not reveal itself thoroughly to him until he has read the whole poem to the last verse, in which the water of baptism is brought before the believing christian as a symbol of the atoning Blood of Christ.
The chorale prelude on baptism, "Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam", The small version of the chorale prelude Is not this the case of a very literal observation? Do we not believe that we see waves rising and falling, with the faster waves tumbling over the slower waves? And is not this musical imagery addressed more to the eye than the ear?
Bend down Thy gracious ear to me, Let my prayer come before Thee! If Thou rememberest each misdeed, If each should have its rightful meed, Who may abide Thy presence? It is significant of Bach's manner of feeling that he should choose this chorale for the crowning point of his work. For it cannot be questioned that this chorale is its crowning point, from the ingenuity of the part-writing, the wealth and nobility of the harmonies, and the executive power which it requires. Even the Northern masters had never attempted to write two parts for the pedals throughout, though they had first introduced the two-part treatment of the pedals, and Bach did them full justice in this piece.
Dieser Tisch auch dir nicht gilt, So du selber dir helfen willst. Christ Jesus, our Redeemer born, Who from us did God's anger turn, Through His sufferings sore and main, Did help us all out of hell-pain.
Who unworthy thither goes, Thence death instead of life he knows. Is it well with thee? No physician th' whole man will, He makes a mockery of his skill.