Did you know? Musical Analysis

The Gershwins: classical or Jazz?

The Gershwins: classical or Jazz?

“I can’t think of a more vital and beloved American composer in need of authoritative and sympathetic performing editions than George Gershwin. His music IS American music.”

—Loras John Schissel
Senior Musicologist,
Music Division of the United States Library of Congress
Editorial Board Member, George and Ira Gershwin Critical Edition

George Gershwin (1898–1937) is one of the world’s most popular and successful composers of the 20th century in any genre—a status that is both compliment and curse. In his too brief but prolific career, George Gershwin composed a long list of popular songs, many written for Broadway and for Hollywood films. He worked with the early 20th century’s top lyricists, though his most brilliant collaborations were with his brother Ira Gershwin (1896–1983), with whom he enjoyed a unique and prolific partnership. Together they have long been honored as two of the leading contributors to the “Great American Songbook.”

George Gershwin created some of music history’s most cherished melodies, not only in song, but also in works for orchestra, such as the jazz-inspired Rhapsody in Blue, and in what is arguably the most significant American opera, Porgy and Bess (with lyrics co-written by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward, on whose book the opera is based).

Ira Gershwin is celebrated for his genius with words, crafting hundreds of lyrics that are clever, funny, moving—or all of the above. Adept at implementing new lyrical styles, playing with timing and incorporating unusual word combinations, he was the first lyricist to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize (in 1932 for Of Thee I Sing).

Ira Gershwin was born as Israel Gershowitz on the Lower East Side of New York City, and George Gershwin was born Jacob Gershwine in Brooklyn, New York. Their Jewish immigrant parents, from St. Petersburg, had joined the American melting pot seeking better opportunity. George took immediately to the piano bought originally for Ira and studied piano with Charles Hambitzer.

George later studied composition with Rubin Goldmark and modernist Henry Cowell. George’s skills at the keyboard were admired by African American stride pianists such as Luckey Roberts and James P. Johnson. After George began making a name for himself in the music business, he encouraged Ira to try his hand at writing lyrics. Ira wrote his first song in 1918, launching both his songwriting career and the remarkably successful partnership with his brother.

Perhaps more than any other American composer, George Gershwin integrated a range of musical genres, most notably blending classical music with jazz, blues and popular music phrasings. Influenced by his on-the-job songwriting and performing experience working in New York City’s Tin Pan Alley as a “song-plugger,” George created musical compositions distinguished by their playful and engaging melodies and seemingly spontaneous inflections. He infused popular song with enriched classical harmonies and imbued symphonic and operatic works with the improvisational energy and rhythmic vitality of jazz. His music, according to U-M musicology professor Mark Clague, reflects the power of the American cultural melting pot: A blend of sonic dialects and styles at the heart of democracy.

Because of his tragic and unexpected death due to an untreatable brain tumor, George Gershwin simply did not live long enough to give proper consideration to his musical legacy. Aaron Copland, by contrast, lived to be 90 years old, and his work has been published in accurate and authoritative editions. Following George’s death, Ira continued—after a three-year hiatus—to write lyrics with many talented composers. The George and Ira Gershwin Critical Edition and the U-M Gershwin partnership will at last give the Gershwins’ musical work the editorial attention their artistic stature requires.

George Gershwin biography

George Gershwin, original name Jacob Gershvin, (born September 26, 1898, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.—died July 11, 1937, Hollywood, California), one of the most significant and popular American composers of all time. He wrote primarily for the Broadway musical theatre, but important as well are his orchestral and piano compositions in which he blended, in varying degrees, the techniques and forms of classical music with the stylistic nuances and techniques of popular music and jazz.

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The best of Gershwin

Track List

0:00 Cuban Overture 11:20 Piano Concerto In F – Andante Con Moto, Adagio 22:34 Porgy & Bess 36:09 3 Preludes For Piano – Prelude #1 37:36 3 Preludes For Piano – Preludes #2 41:48 3 Preludes For Piano – Prelude #3 43:03 Girl Crazy (Selections) 48:53 They Can’t Take That Away From Me 51:53 Rhapsody In Blue

Performers: Cuban Overture: Richard Hayman & His Symphony Orchestra Piano Concerto In F – Andante Con Moto, Adagio: Kathryn Selby & CSO Porgy & Bess: Richard Hayman & His Symphony Orchestra 3 Preludes For Piano – Prelude #1: Leon Bates 3 Preludes For Piano – Preludes #2: Leon Bates 3 Preludes For Piano – Prelude #3: Leon Bates Girl Crazy (Selections): Slovak State Philharmonic Strings They Can’t Take That Away From Me: Richard Hayman & His Symphony Orchestra Rhapsody In Blue: Richard Hayman & His Symphony Orchestra

Games' music

Final Fantasy XV – Somnus (Dreaming of the Dawn – FFXV Piano Collections)

Final Fantasy XV – Somnus (Dreaming of the Dawn – FFXV Piano Collections) with sheet music

final fantsy free sheet music & pdf scores download
Bach meets The Beatles J.S. Bach

Bach meets the Beatles – Variations in the style of Bach – “Imagine” (Aria)

Bach meets the Beatles – Variations in the style of Bach – “Imagine” (Aria) Improvised by John Bayless, piano

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Phenomenal piano playing in its own right, quite apart from anything else. Unlike many of the “Baroque Beatles” discs this one really works on many levels. There is the fun of spotting and identifying quotes from Bach; and if you listen “blind” (i.e. without looking to see which Beatles song is being used as the basis for a piece) it can be fun trying to place the song. There are chorales, fugues, gigues among other forms and the whole disc is full of real invention. Whether you love Bach or the Beatles (or, or of course, both), you’ll enjoy this. Only one puzzle remains: why have I never previously heard of John Bayless? He is a true virtuoso.

Games' music

Persona 5 Life Will Change ペルソナ5: 人生は変わる with sheet music 楽譜

Persona 5 Life Will Change ペルソナ5: 人生は変わる with sheet music 楽譜

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Best Classical Music

Mozart Piano sonata K 545 3rd mov. with sheet music

Mozart Piano sonata K 545 3rd mov. with sheet music

mozart sheet music pdf
Did you know?

Keith Jarrett Confronts a Future Without the Piano

The pathbreaking musician reveals the health issues that make it unlikely he will ever again perform in public.

keith jarrett sheet music

The last time Keith Jarrett performed in public, his relationship with the piano was the least of his concerns. This was at Carnegie Hall in 2017, several weeks into the administration of a divisive new American president.

Mr. Jarrett — one of the most heralded pianists alive, a galvanizing jazz artist who has also recorded a wealth of classical music — opened with an indignant speech on the political situation, and unspooled a relentless commentary throughout the concert. He ended by thanking the audience for bringing him to tears.

He had been scheduled to return to Carnegie the following March for another of the solo recitals that have done the most to create his legend — like the one captured on the recording “Budapest Concert,” to be released on Oct. 30. But that Carnegie performance was abruptly canceled, along with the rest of his concert calendar. At the time, Mr. Jarrett’s longtime record label, ECM, cited unspecified health issues. There has been no official update in the two years since.

But this month Mr. Jarrett, 75, broke the silence, plainly stating what happened to him: a stroke in late February 2018, followed by another one that May. It is unlikely he will ever perform in public again.

“I was paralyzed,” he told The New York Times, speaking by phone from his home in northwest New Jersey. “My left side is still partially paralyzed. I’m able to try to walk with a cane, but it took a long time for that, took a year or more. And I’m not getting around this house at all, really.”

Mr. Jarrett didn’t initially realize how serious his first stroke had been. “It definitely snuck up on me,” he said. But after more symptoms emerged, he was taken to a hospital, where he gradually recovered enough to be discharged. His second stroke happened at home, and he was admitted to a nursing facility.

During his time there, from July 2018 until this past May, he made sporadic use of its piano room, playing some right-handed counterpoint. “I was trying to pretend that I was Bach with one hand,” he said. “But that was just toying with something.” When he tried to play some familiar bebop tunes in his home studio recently, he discovered he had forgotten them.

Mr. Jarrett’s voice is softer and thinner now. But over two roughly hourlong conversations, he was lucid and legible, aside from occasional lapses in memory. He often punctuated a heavy or awkward statement with a laugh like a faint rhythmic exhalation: Ah-ha-ha-ha.

Mr. Jarrett in 1975, when he performed what would become “The Köln Concert” — a sonorous, mesmerizing landmark that still stands as one of the best-selling solo piano albums ever made.
Mr. Jarrett in 1975, when he performed what would become “The Köln Concert” — a sonorous, mesmerizing landmark that still stands as one of the best-selling solo piano albums ever made.Credit…Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Raised in the Christian Science faith, which espouses an avoidance of medical treatment, Mr. Jarrett has returned to those spiritual moorings — up to a point. “I don’t do the ‘why me’ thing very often,” he said. “Because as a Christian Scientist, I would be expected to say, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan.’ And I was doing that somewhat when I was in the facility. I don’t know if I succeeded, though, because here I am.”

“I don’t know what my future is supposed to be,” he added. “I don’t feel right now like I’m a pianist. That’s all I can say about that.”

After a pause, he reconsidered. “But when I hear two-handed piano music, it’s very frustrating, in a physical way. If I even hear Schubert, or something played softly, that’s enough for me. Because I know that I couldn’t do that. And I’m not expected to recover that. The most I’m expected to recover in my left hand is possibly the ability to hold a cup in it. So it’s not a ‘shoot the piano player’ thing. It’s: I already got shot. Ah-ha-ha-ha.”

IF THE PROSPECT of a Keith Jarrett who no longer considers himself a pianist is dumbfounding, it might be because there has scarcely been a time he didn’t. Growing up in Allentown, Pa., he was a prodigy. According to family lore, he was 3 when an aunt indicated a nearby stream and told him to turn its burbling into music — his first piano improvisation.

Broad public awareness caught up with him in the late 1960s, when he was in a zeitgeist-capturing group led by Charles Lloyd, a saxophonist and flutist. The brilliant drummer in that quartet, Jack DeJohnette, then helped Miles Davis push into rock and funk. Mr. Jarrett followed suit, joining an incandescent edition of Davis’s band; in live recordings, his interludes on electric piano cast a spell.

keith jarrett sheet music

Mr. Jarrett soon hit on something analogous in his own concerts, allowing improvised passages to become the main event. He was a few years into this approach in 1975, when he performed what would become “The Köln Concert” — a sonorous, mesmerizing landmark that still stands as one of the best-selling solo piano albums ever made. It has also been hailed as an object lesson in triumph over adversity, including Mr. Jarrett’s physical pain and exhaustion at the time, and his frustration over an inferior piano.

That sense of overcoming intransigent obstacles is an enduring feature of Mr. Jarrett’s myth. At times over the years, it could even seem that he set up his own roadblocks: turning concerts into trials of herculean intensity, and famously interrupting them to admonish his audience for taking pictures, or for excessive coughing. ANew York Times Magazineprofile in 1997 bore a wry headline: “The Jazz Martyr.” The following year, Mr. Jarrett announced that he’d been struggling with the consuming and mysterious ailment known as chronic fatigue syndrome.

Mr. Jarrett in Berlin in 1972. His concerts became known as feats of herculean intensity, marked by his admonishments of the audience.
Mr. Jarrett in Berlin in 1972. His concerts became known as feats of herculean intensity, marked by his admonishments of the audience.Credit…Binde/Ullstein Bild, via Getty Images

While regaining strength, he recorded a series of songbook ballads in his home studio (later released as the touching, exquisite album “The Melody at Night, With You”). Then he reconvened his longtime trio, a magically cohesive unit with Mr. DeJohnette and the virtuoso bassist Gary Peacock.

Their first comeback concert, in 1998, recently surfaced on record, joining a voluminous discography. It captures a spirit of joyous reunion not only for Mr. Jarrett and his trio partners but also between a performing artist and his public. He titled that album “After the Fall”; ECM released it in March 2018, unwittingly around the time of his first stroke.

Loss has shrouded Mr. Jarrett’s musical circle of late. Mr. Peacock died last month, at 85. Jon Christensen, the drummer in Mr. Jarrett’s influential European quartet of the 1970s, died earlier this year. Mr. Jarrett also led a groundbreaking American quartet in the ’70s, and its other members — the saxophonist Dewey Redman, the bassist Charlie Haden, the drummer Paul Motian, all major figures in modern jazz — have passed on, too.

Faced with these and other difficult truths, Mr. Jarrett hasn’t exactly found solace in music, as he once would have. But he derives satisfaction from some recordings of his final European solo tour. He directed ECM to release the tour’s closing concert last year, as “Munich 2016.” He’s even more enthusiastic about the tour opener, “Budapest Concert,” which he briefly considered calling “The Gold Standard.”

AS HE BEGINS to come to terms with his body of work as a settled fact, Mr. Jarrett doesn’t hesitate to plant a flag.

“I feel like I’m the John Coltrane of piano players,” he said, citing the saxophonist who transformed the language and spirit of jazz in the 1960s. “Everybody that played the horn after he did was showing how much they owed to him. But it wasn’t their music. It was just an imitative thing.”

Of course, imitation — even of oneself — is anathema to the pure, blank-slate invention Mr. Jarrett still claims as his method. “I don’t have an idea of what I’m going to play, any time before a concert,” he said. “If I have a musical idea, I say no to it.” (Describing this process, he still favors the present tense.)

Beyond his own creative resources, the conditions of every concert are unique: the characteristics of the piano, the sound in the hall, the mood of the audience, even the feel of a city. Mr. Jarrett had performed in Budapest four times before his 2016 concert at the Bela Bartok National Concert Hall, feeling an affinity he ascribes to personal factors: His maternal grandmother was Hungarian, and he played Bartok’s music from an early age.

“I felt like I had some reason to be close to the culture,” he said.

A galvanizing jazz artist, Mr. Jarrett (shown here in 1973) has also recorded a wealth of classical music.
A galvanizing jazz artist, Mr. Jarrett (shown here in 1973) has also recorded a wealth of classical music.Credit…Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The embrace of folkloric music by Bartok and other Hungarian composers further nudged Mr. Jarrett toward a dark quality — “a kind of existential sadness, let’s say, a deepness” — powerfully present in the concert’s first half. The second half, as admirers of “The Köln Concert” will appreciate, features a few of Mr. Jarrett’s most ravishing on-the-spot compositions. Those ballads, like “Part V” and “Part VII,” spark against briskly atonal or boppish pieces, gradually building the case for a mature expression that might not have been possible earlier in his career.

Part of that evolution has to do with the structure of Mr. Jarrett’s solo concerts, which used to unfold in long, unbroken arcs but now involve a collection of discrete pieces, with breaks for applause. Often the overarching form of these more recent concerts is only apparent after the fact. But Budapest was an exception.

“I saw this one while I was in it, which is why I chose that as the best concert on that entire tour,” Mr. Jarrett said. “I mean, I knew it. I knew something was happening.”

The crucial factor, he acknowledged, was an uncommonly receptive audience. “Some audiences seem to applaud more when there’s something crazy going on,” he said. “I don’t know why, but I wasn’t looking at that in Budapest.”

Given that Mr. Jarrett has made all but a small portion of his recorded output in front of an audience, his cantankerous reputation might best be understood as the turbulent side of a codependent relationship. He put the matter most succinctly during a Carnegie Hall solo concert in 2015, when he announced, “Here’s the big deal that nobody seems to realize: I could not do it without you.”

Mr. Jarrett in rural New Jersey, where he still lives, in 1982.
Mr. Jarrett in rural New Jersey, where he still lives, in 1982.Credit…Norman Seeff

As he renegotiates his bond with the piano, Mr. Jarrett faces the likelihood of that other relationship — the one with the public — coming to an end.

“Right now, I can’t even talk about this,” he said when the issue came up, and laughed his deflective laugh. “That’s what I feel about it.”

And while the magnificent achievement of “Budapest Concert” is a source of pride, it’s not hard to see how it could also register as a cosmic taunt.

“I can only play with my right hand, and it’s not convincing me anymore,” Mr. Jarrett said. “I even have dreams where I am as messed up as I really am — so I’ve found myself trying to play in my dreams, but it’s just like real life.”

Download Keith Jarret’s sheet music from our Library.

Music Concerts

Keith Jarrett Solo Concert at Budokan, Tokyo, Japan, Dec. 12, 1978

Keith Jarrett Solo Concert at Budokan, Tokyo, Japan, Dec. 12, 1978

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1976年11月の日本ツアーで行った8公演すべてを録音し、後に10枚組レコード『サンベア・コンサート』としてリリースしたキース。 以後ソロを封印していた彼が、1978年12月12日、日本のファンのために一夜限りのコンサートをジャズ演奏家としては当時会場としては異例の日本武道館で行いました。

Keith who recorded all eight performances performed in the Japanese tour of November 1976 and released as a 10-disc set “San Bear Concert” later. Since then, he had sealed solo, on December 12, 1978, he performed a night-long concert for Japanese fans as a jazz musician at an unusual Nippon Budokan as a venue at that time.

収録曲 Tracklist:

1.Improvisation 1 (00:00)

2.Improvisation 2 (43:40)

3.My Song (1:14:50)

Keith Jarrett’s sheet music is available from our Library.

Best Classical Music

New Piano Piece by Mozart Discovered: Allegro in D K626 (with free sheet music download)

Today is W.A. Mozart’s 265th birthday and Salzburg and Austria celebrate this with the world premiere of one of his compositions: Allegro K626b/16

At Sheet Music Library (PDF) we celebrate by releasing the score of the composition, the recently discovered piano piece “Allegro in D K626b/16“.
Download it for free below and celebrate Mozart yourself by playing the piece today!

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A hidden treasure

So, how could this manuscript have hidden from public attention? Evidently, after passing from the estate of Mozart’s youngest son into the collection owned by Austrian civil servant and amateur musician Aloys Fuchs, it was mistakenly given away and vanished off the musical map. Owned by an antiquarian book and art dealer in Vienna in the 1880s, the manuscript was brought to auction in 1899. By this time The Köchel catalogue – listing the composer’s works – started mentioning it even though the manuscript itself kept going in and out of auction houses.

In 2018, the ‘unknown’ Allegro was offered for sale to the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation on behalf of the family of its owner, a French-Dutch engineer who had bought the manuscript from a dealer in Paris in the late 1920s. The Foundation’s staff and experts from the USA and Germany confirmed that the unattributed piano piece was undeniably by Mozart.

The Allegro in D major, K. 626b/16 fills the front and back of a single sheet of music paper in oblong format. The handwriting is hasty, but error-free. The undated composition stems in all likelihood from the first months 1773, according to the Mozarteum Foundation; it thus originated either during Mozart’s third journey to Italy or immediately after his return to Salzburg. Peculiarities of style suggest that this three-part dance movement is not an original piano piece, but a keyboard arrangement in Mozart’s own hand of an unknown orchestral work.

Free download!

Free download now the score and play the piece today to celebrate Mozart’s 265th birthday!

The World Premiere in Saltzburg

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A facsimile edition of the Allegro in D, complete with extensive introduction and bibliography, has been published by Mozarteum Foundation Salzburg and pianist Seong-Jin Cho will perform the piece in the official world premiere in Saltzburg on 27 January.

Pianist Seong-Jin Cho is the unique performer in the Great Hall of the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation which is also the opening day of the Foundation’s first virtual Mozartwoche festival. Cho plays a stimulating selection of works by the Great Master, including the Piano Sonata No. 12, the Allegro in C Major and 94 seconds of an Allegro in D-major, performed for the very first time.

“The Allegro in D major K. 626b/16 is a highly attractive and charming piano piece, that adds yet another facet to the affectionate relationship of Mozart to his sister. How wonderful, that we are now able to participate in this relationship after such a long period of time.”
— Dr. Ulrich Leisinger, director of research of the Mozarteum Foundation,

“The rediscovery of this new work by Mozart is a real gift, not just for the Foundation but for friends of the Mozartwoche all over the world! We are very pleased to be able to fulfil the mission of the Foundation in such wonderful style, together with Seong-Jin Cho and Deutsche Grammophon, our aim being to enable people of all ages to find out more about Mozart’s music, life and personality.”
— Dr Johannes Honsig-Erlenburg, President of the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation

“It is a great honour to be invited to give the premiere of a formerly unknown work by Mozart, in the city where he was born and where it may have been written,”
— Seong-Jin Cho, pianist

To watch on YouTube for learning the piece.


Read more at the press page:

Watch a recording of the official world premiere that will by published here 27 January at 18.00 GMT:
DG YouTube channel

Best Classical Music J.S. Bach Musical Analysis

The Creative Development of J.S. Bach (Vol. 2)

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The Creative Development of J.S. Bach (Vol. 2) 1717-1750 Sheet Music Library


In Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen Bach seems to have found in many ways the ideal patron. The prince was not only a good bass singer but also played the violin, viola da gamba, and harpsichord. And in 1713, after his return from a grand tour during which he acquired published copies of much French and Italian music, he took advantage of the dissolution of the Berlin court Capelle under Friedrich Wilhelm I by employing six musicians (and later a seventh) who had been made redundant. By late 1717, when Bach took up his appointment as Capellmeister, Leopold had increased the number of musicians at the Cöthen court to sixteen, of whom about half were players of the front rank.

There were disadvantages for Bach at Cöthen, however. Since it was a Calvinist court, there was no opera—such an enterprise, had it existed, could hardly fail to have attracted Bach’s interest. Furthermore, the Calvinism of the ruling prince meant that there was no regular opportunity for Bach to compose and perform church music, though he did so at least once for the prince’s birthday1 and might have done occasionally at the Lutheran Agnuskirche, which Bach and his family attended.2 As for secular vocal music, one of Bach’s regular duties was to perform a cantata every year for the prince’s birthday and another for New Year’s Day, though very few of these works survive.

In the field of instrumental music Bach’s situation was considerably more advanta-geous. In moving from Weimar to Cöthen he had risen from the second-rank post of Concertmeister to the top-rank post of Capellmeister. And as such he directed an instrumental ensemble that few German courts could rival. In addition, the reigning prince was clearly passionate about music and no doubt gave his brilliant Capellmeister all the support he needed. In this favorable atmosphere Bach was able to compose some of his greatest keyboard and instrumental music, much of it never to be exceeded in later years:

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The place of composition shows that there were overlaps at both ends of the Cöthen period. Only the first of the English Suites can be securely dated within the Weimar period; the remainder most likely originated during the early Cöthen years. The small manuscript books Bach dedicated to his eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann and his second wife Anna Magdalena, though begun in Cöthen, continued to be filled in after the move to Leipzig in 1723. And two of Bach’s most important collections, the Violin and Harpsichord Sonatas and the French Suites, were left finished when he moved away from Co¨then in 1723, with the result that he had to return to them in the early Leipzig years.

The keyboard collections were partly designed for teaching purposes. Tuition, which comprehended keyboard playing and composition alike, began in Bach’s own family circle and then spread outwards towards the private instruction of individual students. Thus, the Clavierbüchlein of 1720 and 1722, representing the domestic phase, included drafts of preludes destined for The Well-Tempered Clavier, of the Inventions and Sinfonias (then called ‘praeambula’ and ‘fantasias’), and of the French Suites. Later, fair copies were made of the first two of these collections, representing the public phase, and, like the Orgelbu¨chlein, revived from the Weimar years, they were furnished with title pages that clarified their didactic purpose. These title pages reveal the holistic nature of Bach’s musical philosophy: he is concerned not only with education but with pure delectation.

Thus, The Well-Tempered Clavier and the Aufrichtige Anleitung, as the fair copy of the Inventions and Sinfonias is entitled, are written not only for ‘those desirous of learning’ (‘denen Lehrbegierigen’) but for ‘those already skilled’ (‘als auch derer in diesem studio schon habil seyenden beson-derem ZeitVertreib’) and for ‘lovers of the clavier’ (‘denen Liebhabern des Clavires’). In addition, these title pages are concerned with issues of playing and composition alike. The Orgelbu¨chlein gives ‘instruction in developing a chorale in many different ways’ (‘Anleitung gegeben wird, auff allerhand Arth einen Choral durchzufu¨hren’), but also ‘in acquiring facility in the study of the pedal’ (‘anbey auch sich im Pedal studio zu habilitiren’). And the Aufrichtige Anleitung on the one hand shows how ‘to play clearly in two [and three] voices’ (‘mit 2 Stimmen reine spielen zu lernen, sondern auch . . . mit dreyen obligaten Partien richtig und wohl zu verfahren’) and how ‘to arrive at a singing style of playing’ (‘eine cantable Art im Spielen zu erlangen’), but, on the other hand, how ‘to have good ideas [and] develop them well’ (‘gute inven-tiones nicht alleine zu bekommen, sondern auch selbige wohl durchzufu¨hren’) and how ‘to acquire a strong foretaste of composition’ (‘einen starcken Vorschmack von der Composition zu u¨berkommen’).

In 1720 Bach suffered the heavy blow of the sudden death of his first wife Maria Barbara. It might have been partly for this reason that in November of that year he sought a new start in different surroundings, travelling to Hamburg as a candidate for the post of organist at the Jacobikirche. During the same visit, perhaps, Bach’s obituary (by C. P. E. Bach and J. F. Agricola) informs us that ließ sich daselbst, vor dem Magistrate, und vielen andern Vornehmen der Stadt, auf der scho¨nen Catharinenkirchen Orgel, mit allgemeiner Verwunderung mehr als 2 Stunden lang, h¨oren. Der alte Organist an dieser Kirche, Johann Adam Reinken, der damals bey nahe hundert Jahre alt war, ho¨rete ihm mit besondern Vergnu¨gen zu, und machte ihm, absonderlich u¨ber den Choral: An Wasserflu¨ssen Babylon, welchen unser Bach, auf Verlangen der Anwesenden, aus dem Stegreife, sehr weitla¨uftig, fast eine halbe Stunde lang, auf verschiedene Art, so wie es ehedem die braven unter den Hamburgischen Organisten in den Sonnabends Vespern gewohnt gewesen wahren, ausfu¨hrete, folgendes Compliment: Ich dachte, diese Kunst wa¨re gestorben, ich sehe aber, daß sie in Ihnen noch lebet.

(he was heard for more than two hours on the fine organ of St. Catherine’s before the magistrate and many other distinguished persons of the town, to their general astonishment. The aged organist of this church, Johann Adam Reinken, who at that time was nearly a hundred years old, listened to him with particular pleasure. Bach, at the request of those present, performed extempore the chorale An Wasserflu¨ssen Babylon at great length (for almost half an hour) and in different ways, just as the better organists of Hamburg in the past had been used to do at the Saturday vespers. Particularly on this Reinken made Bach the following compliment: ‘I thought this art was dead, but I see that in you, it still lives.’)

In the event Bach decided not to take the Hamburg post; and circumstances at Cöthen in any case soon changed for the better. Bach hired the young soprano Anna Magdalena Wilcke for the court in the summer of 1721, and he and she were married later in the same year (on 3 December). Only about a week after the wedding Prince Leopold also married. His bride, Friederica Henrietta of Bernburg, was unfortunately quite uninterested in music. Bach described the situation nearly ten years later in a letter to his former school friend Georg Erdmann:

die mutation, so mich als Capellmeister nach Co¨then zohe. Daselbst hatte einen gna¨digen und Music so wohl liebenden als kennenden Fu¨rsten; bey welchem auch vermeinete meine Lebenszeit zu beschließen. Es muste sich aber fu¨gen, daß erwehnter Serenißimus sich mit einer Berenbur-gischen Princeßin verma¨hlete, da es den das Ansehen gewinnen wolte, als ob die musicalische Inclination bey besagtem Fu¨rsten in etwas laulicht werden wolte, zumahln da die neu¨eF¨urstin schiene eine amusa zu seyn
([a] change in my fortunes . . . took me to Co¨then as Capellmeister. There I had a gracious prince, who both knew and loved music, and in his service I intended to spend the rest of my life. It must happen, however, that the said serenissimus should marry a princess of Berenburg, and that then the impression should arise that the musical interests of the said prince had become somewhat lukewarm, especially as the new princess seemed to be unmusical)6
For this and other reasons Bach sought the post of Cantor and Music Director at Leipzig, which had become vacant upon the death of Johann Kuhnau on 5 June 1722. Telemann and Graupner in turn were both chosen to fill the post by the Leipzig authorities, but neither could gain release from their current employment. Mean-while, Bach performed his audition cantatas Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn (BWV 23) and Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwo¨lfe (BWV 22) in the Thomaskirche on Quinquages-ima (Estomihi) Sunday, 7 February 1723. According to the local press, Bach’s music was ‘amply praised …by all knowledgeable persons’.7 After Graupner had declined the post, it was offered to Bach, who was elected on 22 April 1723. Bach and his family moved to Leipzig on 22 May, and his official duties began on the First Sunday after Trinity (30 May), when he performed his inaugural cantata before the Leipzig public, Die Elenden sollen essen,BWV 75. According to a Leipzig chronicle,8 its performance was regarded as a ‘great success’.
Leipzig, the second city of Saxony after the capital Dresden, had long been renowned for its trade and commerce, for its fairs, which took place three times a year, at New Year, Easter, and Michaelmas, and for its university, which had been founded in 1409. At this lively, thriving city Bach had a prominent post as ‘Cantor et Director Musices’—above all, he was responsible for music at the four main Leipzig churches. The pupils at the Thomasschule, where Bach taught, were divided into four cantorates, which provided the music at the four churches. At those with modest musical provision, the Neue Kirche and the Peterskirche, the two less able cantorates sang, and Bach was able to delegate their direction to others. The two leading cantorates, however, alternated on Sundays between the two principal churches, the Thomaskirche and the Nicolaikirche. The second cantorate had to sing relatively simple cantatas by composers other than Bach. The first cantorate, on the other hand, which had long been celebrated throughout Lutheran Germany—Schu¨tz’s Geistliche Chormusik had been dedicated to it—was given the task by Bach of

introduction 7
performing only his own exceptionally demanding compositions (this was not in his contract—compositions by others would have sufficed). As a result, during much of his first three or four years in Leipzig, while he was engaged in building up a new repertoire of church music, Bach composed a new cantata virtually every week, not to mention the task of having the performing parts copied and undertaking the neces-sary rehearsal. Only occasionally did the revival of an older composition from the Weimar years give him some respite. The reward for such diligence was the regular performance of his church works on Sundays and feast days at the Thomaskirche or the Nicolaikirche before a congregation of well over 2,000 people.9 The services concerned were without question the biggest musical events in Leipzig at the time.
Like his predecessors Schelle and Kuhnau, Bach was also responsible for the Old Service at the Paulinerkirche, the university church, which involved performing a cantata on the three High Feasts—Christmas, Easter, and Whit—as well as at the Reformation Festival (31 October). On these occasions Bach gave a repeat per-formance of the cantata that had already been performed that day in the Thomas-kirche or the Nicolaikirche.
The Kirchenstu¨ck, or cantata, as cultivated by Bach, was usually based on a biblical dictum or chorale text (most often from the Reformation period), whose theme, related to the Gospel or Epistle of the day, was then expounded in free verse. Generally, Bach would set the biblical or chorale text as an opening chorus of large dimensions, whereas the free verse would be set, in accordance with Neumeister’s reforms,10 as alternating recitative and arias. This ‘modern’ Italianate element, derived from opera and secular cantata, was thus wedded to the old German ecclesiastical element of dictum and chorale. The latter provided a foundation of sermon-like authority, whereas the more subjective, free-verse element allowed individual members of the congregation to relate the overall theme, or aspects thereof, to their own personal experience. Bach’s setting of the ecclesiastical texts would no doubt appeal to the church authorities; to what extent his pseudo-operatic treatment of the free verse did is a moot point,11 though it is interesting to note that on the occasion of his election, one of the councillors, Dr Steger, while voting for Bach, added that ‘he should make compositions that were not theatrical’.12 Furthermore, it was a condition of Bach’s appointment that in church he should ‘die Music dergestalt einrichten, daß . . . sie nicht opernhafftig herauskommen, sondern die Zuho¨rer vielmehr zur Andacht aufmuntere’ (‘so design the music that it should not create an operatic impression, but rather incite the listeners to devotion’).

According to the obituary by C. P. E. Bach and Agricola,14 Bach wrote five cycles of cantatas for the whole church year, each of which would have numbered some fifty-nine compositions. Only three cycles survive in a virtually complete state, however, and all three originated during Bach’s first few years in Leipzig, when his enthusiasm for the project must have been at its height. They are:

Cycle IV might have originated in 1727–8 (see Part I Ch. 4), but very few cantatas from this period have been transmitted. Of Cycle V (1728–9) only eight cantatas survive.15 The texts are drawn from a complete set for the whole church year by Bach’s regular librettist Picander, who stated in his preface of 24 June 1728 that they were to be set to music by Bach. The fate of the remaining settings is not known. In general Bach’s lost cantatas, which might have numbered over 100, were probably for the most part inherited by W. F. Bach, who according to Forkel16 later had to sell them off. Occasionally, for various reasons, Bach resorted to the performance of cantatas by respected contemporaries. In the period 1724–5 he performed Telemann’s cantata Der Herr ist Ko¨nig (TVWV8:6); and in the early Trinity period of 1725 (Third to Sixth Sunday, 17 June to 8 July) a series of five Telemann cantatas might have been performed in the two main Leipzig churches, perhaps during Bach’s absence.17 In the following year Bach’s Meiningen cousin Johann Ludwig Bach provided him with a printed cycle of cantata texts, Sonntags- und Fest-Andachten (Meiningen, 1704) and with the scores of at least some of his own settings of these texts. Bach and assistants wrote out the parts and performed no fewer than eighteen of Johann Ludwig’s settings between 2 February (Feast of the Purification) and 15 September (Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity).18 Bach seems to have been so impressed with the librettos (and perhaps with Johann Ludwig’s settings) that he set seven of them himself during the latter half of this period, from Ascension Day, 30 May, onwards: BWV 43, 39, 88, 187, 45, 102, and 17.
On Good Friday of the same year, 19 April 1726, Bach revived an anonymous setting of the St Mark Passion (Hamburg, 1707) that he attributed, perhaps wrongly, to Reinhard Keiser. Bach had already performed this work in 1713, during his Weimar period. Its 1726 revival was the first of several Bach performances of Passions by other composers during the Leipzig years (see Part II Ch. 1 and Part III Ch. 1). Not long afterwards he might have performed Telemann’s setting of the Brockes Passion, for a copy from the 1720s was apparently in the library of the Thomasschule, Leipzig till the end of the Second World War.19 As for his own settings, the obituary informs us that he wrote five Passions, but only two survive: the St John and the St Matthew (of the St Mark Passion, first performed in 1731, only Picander’s libretto is extant). In Leipzig, according to J. C. Rost, sexton of the Thomaskirche, ‘on Good Friday of the year 1721, in the Vespers service, the Passion was performed for the first time in concerted style’,20 in a setting by Bach’s predecessor Johann Kuhnau. Bach continued this practice, and in musical terms the performance became the biggest event in the entire church calendar. The St John Passion was first performed on 7 April 1724, in the context of Cycle I, and then revived in a modified form—significantly including several elaborate chorale arrangements—on 30 March 1725, during the chorale-cantata cycle (Cycle II). The St Matthew Passion was first performed at Good Friday Vespers (11 April) 1727 and revived in 1729, though it did not acquire its definitive form till 1736. There is much in Bach’s two great oratorio-Passions—the seventeenth-century Lutheran genre to which he adhered—that could be described as dramatic or even theatrical, though we do not hear of objections raised by the clergy or members of the congregation. However, it is clear from the following account, published in Leipzig only a few years after the first performance of the St Matthew Passion, that strongly antagon-istic feelings were raised by Passion music in an operatic style:
When in a large town [such] Passion music was done for the first time . . . many people were astonished and did not know what to make of it. In the church pew of a noble family, many ministers and noble ladies were present, who sang the first Passion chorale out of their books with great devotion. But when this theatrical music began, all these people were thrown into the greatest bewilderment, looked at each other, and said, ‘What will come of this?’ And an old widow of the nobility said, ‘God save us, my children! It’s just as if one were at an opera comedy!’
The Leipzig opera had closed in 1720, before Bach’s arrival in the city, but other forms of secular music were frequently heard, in some cases performed by the Collegium musicum (music society) that had been founded by Telemann in 1701. Bach took over the directorship of this organization in 1729, but it is not unlikely that he was able to avail himself of its resources even before then. At any rate during the 1720shewas already composing and performing a good deal of secular music that anticipates the Collegium musicum period: drammi per musica (the equivalent of one-act operas), such as Der zufriedengestellte Aeolus (Aeolus Placated), BWV 205 (1725), Vereinigte Zwietracht,BWV207 (1726), and Die Feier des Genius (The Celebration of Genius), BWV 249b(1726); the Trauer-Ode (Mourning Ode), or Tombeau de S. M. la Reine de Pologne,BWV198 (1727); the solo cantata Von der Vergnu¨gsamkeit (On Contented-ness), BWV 204 (1727/8); and the wedding cantata Vergnu¨gte Pleißenstadt,BWV216 (1728). He also composed birthday cantatas for courts with which he had strong connections from of old: the pastoral cantata Entfliehet, verschwindet, entweichet, ihr Sorgen,BWV249a, for Weißenfels (1725) and Steigt freudig in die Luft,BWV 36a, for Cöthen (1726).
During these early Leipzig years, despite the huge demands made upon him by church music, Bach also engaged in concert activities outside the church. This is clear from an account by Ernst Ludwig Gerber, who informs us that in 1724 his father Heinrich Nicolaus ‘hatte . . . manche vortrefliche Kirchenmusik und manches Conzert unter Bachs Direktion mit angeho¨rt’ (‘had heard much excellent church music and many a concert under Bach’s direction’.)23 Music that he might have performed at this time includes the ouverture-suites in C and D, BWV 1066 and 1069, the Violin Concerto in E, BWV 1042, the Brandenburg Concertos, and perhaps the lost originals of some of the harpsichord concertos. At the same time Bach maintained contact with the court of Co¨then and the Saxon capital Dresden. He gave two extremely well-received organ recitals at the Sophienkirche, Dresden, in 1725. And in 1724, 1725, and 1728, alongside his second wife Anna Magdalena who was an able soprano, he gave guest performances in Co¨then in his capacity as Honorary Capellmeister. His first keyboard Partita (BWV 825) was dedicated to Prince Leopold’s newborn son in 1726; and finally he undertook the sad duty of composing and performing the prince’s funeral music in March 1729.
As we have seen, alongside his teaching duties at the Thomasschule, Bach under-took much private tuition in keyboard playing and composition—it is clear that he regarded the two as inseparable. For this purpose he made use of the two great collections that had been completed at Co¨then, The Well-Tempered Clavier I and the Aufrichtige Anleitung (the Inventions and Sinfonias). In addition, the French Suites were completed in the early Leipzig years and became popular among Bach’s pupils, and the English Suites now became available for teaching purposes. Prominent pupils, such as Bernhard Christian Kayser,24 Heinrich Nicolaus Gerber, and Johann Caspar Vogler, made their own copies of these works or selections from them. The very act of copying might have given them insight into the compositional techniques involved in their creation, while they no doubt gained practical knowledge of the music by learning to play it at the keyboard from their own copies. According to E. L. Gerber,
his father Heinrich Nicolaus studied Bach’s music under the composer in the order: Inventions, suites, Well-Tempered Clavier.
In 1725 Bach began a new Clavierbu¨chlein for his wife Anna Magdalena, entering two new keyboard suites at the start as a form of dedication. In revised versions these two compositions were later included in the set of six keyboard partitas that Bach published in separate instalments between 1726 and 1730, and then reissued in a collected edition as the First Part of the Clavieru¨bung (Leipzig, 1731). These partitas return to the large scale and considerable technical demands of the English Suites; and, like them, they were not primarily intended for teaching purposes. Instead, they were composed, according to the title page, ‘denen Liebhabern zur Gemu¨ths Ergoet-zung’ (‘for music lovers, to delight their spirit’);26 in other words, for the skilled amateur or connoisseur. By publishing these works one by one in the late 1720s, Bach made tentative steps towards one of the great projects of his later Leipzig years—the dissemination of his keyboard works in print in order to bring them to a far wider audience than he had hitherto been able to command.

The Well-Tempered Clavier I and other keyboard works

These two works represent the summit of Bach’s achievement in the free-fantasy style that he cultivated mainly in his earlier years. In the D minor composition, fugue might have been present from the outset; in the G minor, it was added at some later stage.1 But in both cases the fantasy element forms the main content of the work and defines its character. While neither work can be securely dated, an origin in the Co¨then (D minor) and Leipzig years (G minor) seems most likely.2
The Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor, BWV 903, one of Bach’s most extraordinary keyboard works, exists in three versions, though substantial changes are confined to the fantasia—the fugue seems to have remained largely unaltered. Nota-tional and stylistic features of the early version, BWV 903a, suggest an origin in the Co¨then period, around 1720.3 An intermediate version, transmitted by J. T. Krebs and S. G. Heder, is of uncertain date. The final, definitive version, copied by Agricola while he was a student of Bach’s, perhaps dates from the 1730s.

It has been observed that the work is not found in copies by Bach’s early Leipzig pupils, which suggests that the composer might have kept it to himself at first and not used it regularly for teaching purposes till the 1730s; or else he might have returned to it then after a long interval. If so, a possible use of the work might have been as a virtuoso showpiece in Collegium musicum concerts.
In spite of its singular qualities, highlighted in Forkel’s oft-quoted remark that ‘this fantasia is unique and never had its like’, the Chromatic Fantasia may be viewed as the culmination of Bach’s writing in pseudo-improvisatory style for the harpsichord (according to the title pages of some of the chief sources,6 it is specifically written ‘pour le clavecin’).

Not only is it a brilliant, virtuoso showpiece, with which Bach must have dazzled his first audiences, but it is also a chromatic and enharmonic tour de force. It exhibits a fully chromatic command of the keyboard and of the resources of tonality, of the kind that Bach is said to have displayed in his improvised fantasies. ‘When he played from his fancy,’ Forkel informs us, ‘all the 24 keys were in his power; he did with them what he pleased.’

The chromatic element in the great fantasia is progressively intensified in the course of its three paragraphs and coda. The first paragraph is an extended passaggio that half-closes in the tonic at b. 20. The second (bb. 21–49) introduces arpeggiando chords in alternation with further passaggi. The third (bb. 49–74) modulates to the furthest reaches of the tonal system and back within the context of an instrumental recitative (so designated)—a style of writing that Bach had attempted before (in BWV 912a and 922) and would also have encountered in the slow movement of Vivaldi’s ‘Grosso Mogul’ Concerto (RV 208), which he transcribed for organ (BWV 594). The modulations of the fantasia’s recitative produce the effect of astounding, spon-taneous strokes of genius, despite the careful tonal planning that clearly underlies the passage. We encounter here the contradiction that lies at the heart of the pseudo-improvisatory style from Frescobaldi to Bach—that great art has to be deployed in order to conjure up the impression of spontaneity. In the coda (b. 75), the treble descends chromatically through an octave, while the rich, full chords of the accompaniment simultaneously undergo their own fully chromatic descent—total chromaticism prevails. Yet the entire coda is underpinned by a tonic pedal. We thus meet the further contradiction here that, at the point in the fantasia where Bach’s chromaticism is most explicit, it is also most firmly grounded in the home key.

By its very nature, the great fantasia is quite athematic. In comparable earlier cases, however (BWV 912a, 922, etc.), Bach had often introduced music structured around a 14 definite theme as a counterbalance to the improvisatory freedom that otherwise prevailed. This was no doubt the raison d’eˆtre for the fugue that follows the fantasia, whether or not it was part of the original conception—the different key signatures of fantasia and fugue (the one without flat, the other with) might be signs of separate origin. Certain aspects of the fugue seem to represent the opposite pole from free fantasy: the clearly articulated subject, with its sequential headmotive (a recurring feature of Bach’s Weimar fugues) and its inversion halfway; the use of a well-defined, regular countersubject; the substantial element of reprise, an import from concerto form; and the clear division of the modulatory phase into sharp-side and flat-side zones (as in the fugues from BWV 542 and 894, etc.).

On the other hand, certain other features of the fugue make it seem a perfectly natural and consistent outcome of the fantasia that precedes it. The most obvious of these is, of course, the chromatic nature of the sequential headmotive. No less significant, however, is the tonally unstable character of the subject, its refusal to settle into a clearly defined key till after the halfway point. To this we must add the bold, unprepared 7th that bursts upon the scene at the answering entry of the subject (b. 9) and the inexactness of that answer due to the dotted rhythm that opens it, which is later taken up in an episodic sequence (bb. 72–5). Finally, during an E minor subject entry (b. 90) the three-part fugal texture suddenly explodes into an eight-part dominant-9th chord (b. 94)—among the sharpest dissonances known to Bach—which recurs with climactic effect during the last stages of the fugue (bb. 135–9 and 158).

If the Chromatic Fantasia in D minor represents the ne plus ultra of Bach’s free-fantasy works for harpsichord, the Fantasia in G minor (BWV 542 no. 1) occupies a similar position among his organ works. The two works differ, however, in the role played by fugue. Whereas that of the D minor composition was either present from the outset or else added at a very early stage, there is no incontrovertible evidence that the pairing of fantasia and fugue in the G minor work goes back to Bach at all.8 The G minor Fantasia is very clearly articulated into five paragraphs as follows:

Unlike the Chromatic Fantasia, this composition incorporates a fully structured element within itself, namely the triple-counterpoint episodes b and b1, which alternate with writing in improvisatory style. The overall form is rondeau-like, not only in its contrasting episodes and (admittedly, very free) returns, a1 and a2, but also in its key structure, returning repeatedly to the tonic. In addition, whereas the Chromatic Fantasia is entirely through-composed, this work incorporates significant elements of reprise, even within its free passages. Thus paragraph 5 recapitulates much of para-graph 3 in reverse order and in different keys (bb. 36–8 = 21–3; 44–6 = 15–17). To a far greater extent than in the Chromatic Fantasia, then, improvisatory freedom is here checked and modified by structural restraint, which would be consistent with a later dating for this composition.

The links that can be established with the harpsichord work are, however, no less obvious than the differences. Among them are the totally athematic character of the improvisatory-style passages, and the recurring ‘sigh’ figure, whether it takes the form of single appoggiaturas (D minor Fantasia) or multiple suspensions (G minor). Again, while only the harpsichord work is actually termed ‘chromatic’, the term might have been quite aptly applied to the organ work too: some of its most intense and mysterious passages of all are built on the basis of a chromatic ascent (pedals: bb. 20–3, 36–8; manuals: bb. 31–4). Among the most obvious resemblances between the two pieces are the startlingly abrupt, seemingly spontaneous modulations to unrelated keys, brought about by enharmonic change or by the changing tonal function of pivot notes. In stylistic terms the organ fantasia shares with its harpsi-chord counterpart two different species of improvisatory-style writing, namely pas-saggio (para. 1) and instrumental recitative (paras. 3 and 5). But the incorporation of these rhapsodic elements within the highly structured overall framework of the G minor Fantasia suggests, as has already been noted, a later date of origin than that of the D minor—perhaps Leipzig (1720s?) rather than Cöthen. Improvisatory freedom is now no longer possible except in conjunction with tight control.

Prelude, fugue, and invention

A new approach to keyboard music is clearly evident in Bach’s Co¨then and early Leipzig years. In their initial or early stages new compositions were often entered into small manuscript keyboard books called ‘Clavierbüchlein’ (equivalent, in name at least, to ‘Orgelbüchlein’), dedicated to Bach’s eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann or to his second wife Anna Magdalena.

Family members were thus the first to benefit from Bach’s newest ideas. As his compositions developed, they would be copied by pupils from Bach’s immediate circle, such as Heinrich Nicolaus Gerber, who could then profit from them in their keyboard and composition studies. Finally, a definitive autograph fair copy would be produced, from which (at least indirectly) large the well-tempered clavier i etc. numbers of copies could be made, allowing dissemination of the work over a more extensive area. In its final form the work would consist of a standard set of six compositions, as in the suites or violin solos, or a multiple of six, as in the twenty-four Preludes and Fugues or the thirty Inventions and Sinfonias. Collecting together compositions in sets of six or more was, of course, customary at the time, but for Bach around 1720 it had a special significance: a new desire—no doubt linked to the arrival of full creative maturity—to be fully comprehensive and exhaustive in his approach to any keyboard form, whether it be dance suite, prelude and fugue, or the newly devised ‘invention’.

The early exposure of family and pupils to these compos-itions is closely bound up with their very conception: they are designed not simply for pure delectation but as composition models and keyboard studies. These aims cannot be dissociated from each other: they are entirely integrated within the fabric of each composition.

Among the first items in the Clavierbu¨chlein for W. F. Bach are five praeludia or praeambula, BWV 924, 926–8, and 930, all but one of which were entered by J. S. Bach in 1720,9 the year in which the book was dedicated to his son (the exception is BWV 927, which was entered by W. F. Bach in 1722/6). The first two preludes are numbered 1 and 2, and are in the keys of C major and D minor, which suggests that Bach might originally have planned a set of preludes in ascending key order. The five existing preludes, clearly designed specifically for the musical education of the young Wilhelm Friedemann, proceed from the simplest type, the arpeggiation of a chord sequence; hence the first two pieces, BWV 924 and 926, may be described as arpeggiated preludes. The other three preludes are also built on arpeggiated chords, but this material is now used thematically in sequence (BWV 927), motivically in imitation (BWV 930), or as the thematic material of a miniature ritornello design within an overall ABA1 structure (BWV 928).

The preludes thus offer an instructive course of progressively increasing difficulty. That it was partly intended as a composition course is suggested by the three praeludia in the key order C, D, e (BWV 924a, 925, and 932) that W. F. Bach entered in the book in 1725/6 in imitation of his father. J. S. Bach’s preludes were clearly intended for keyboard instruction too, however, hence the ornamentation, which refers back to the ‘Explication’, a table of ornaments that Bach wrote out in imitation of D’Anglebert and Dieupart; hence, too, the four-bar cadenza in the D minor Prelude (BWV 926,bb.39–42) and the fingering that Bach supplied throughout the G minor (BWV 930).

Some months later, probably in 1721, W. F. Bach, with the help of his father, started copying into the Clavierbüchlein a series of preludes that would eventually be incorporated in The Well-Tempered Clavier I (henceforth WTC I). A second series followed in 1722–3. The two series are as follows:

As shown, the keys of the first series are those of the diatonic tetrachord C–F, while those of the second series fill the chromatic gaps (except for E♭, which is missing). The versions of the first series are similar to those of the Forkel manuscripts, the chief sources of the early version of the WTC I, though slightly revised. The versions of the second series are similar to those of Bernhard Christian Kayser’s copy of the WTC I (Berlin, Mus. ms. Bach P 401), made in 1722–3, which represents the stage immediately before the autograph fair copy.

The first series, like the five preludes of 1720, represent a progressive course of instruction in composition and keyboard technique. Again, Bach begins with the arpeggiated prelude, first in simple form (no. 1 in C), then with figured arpeggios (the so-called arpègement figuré; no.2 in c); triplet arpeggios against a quaver bass (no. 3 in d); broken chords decorated by an ostinato motive in two-part texture with running treble and spaced-quaver bass (no. 4 in D), then the same with interchanged parts (no. 5 in e); thematic use of an arpeggio figure as the basis of a cantabile piece in three-part texture (no. 6 in E); and finally, motivic use of an arpeggio figure in exchanges between treble and bass (no. 7 in F). The first series of preludes, then, are not only numbered 1–7 and arranged in a logical key order, but they are also technically graded, both as keyboard and composition studies, and closely interrelated in style, theme, and motive.

All this suggests that they might have been composed as a group. This is not to say that they were necessarily composed with W. F. Bach’s musical education in mind, as the earlier set of preludes (BWV 924, 926–8, and 930) obviously were. It is more likely that, around 1720–1, Bach was working on the beginnings of the WTC I and simultaneously assisting his young son, and that there was a substantial overlap between the two tasks. The second series of WTC preludes were entered in the Clavierbu¨chlein at a later stage (1722–3), when the WTC I was nearing completion. Here the child would learn to play in double counterpoint, with perfect equality of the two hands (no. 1 in C♯), and in cantabile style within a freistimmig (free-voiced) texture (nos. 2–4). It is notable that three of the four preludes have tonics on the black keys, in accordance with Werckmeister’s prediction that eventually musicians would be able to play equally ‘aus dem coder cis’, which was certainly part of Bach’s achievement, if not part of his intention.

In the end the Clavierbüchlein contained all twelve preludes from the first half of the WTC I, copied out by the son with his father’s assistance, with the exception of no. 7 in E♭, which was no doubt felt to be excessively long and hard for the young Wilhelm Friedemann.

Alongside other manuscripts the Clavierbüchlein offers certain hints as to how the WTC I might have evolved in its early stages. The Clavierbüchlein, B. C. Kayser’s copy (P 401), and J. G. Walther’s copy (P 1074), taken together, suggest that Bach might have originally composed a series of preludes (and fugues?) in the diatonic key order Cc, dD, eE, fF, gG, aA, subsequently filling in the gaps to create a fully chromatic series. This theory is supported by the later date of the second series of WTC preludes in the Clavierbüchlein and by the observation that there would have been room there for between seven and ten additional preludes. The early versions of Preludes 1–15 in the Forkel manuscripts, seven of which recur in the Clavierbüchlein, are mostly a good deal shorter than the definitive versions, whereas the earlier and later versions of the fugues differ only in matters of detail.

It is possible, then, that the WTC I might have been compiled from a collection of preludes in the keys C–G (or C–a) and that, in the first place, the fugues might have formed a separate collection. Gaps might have been filled not only by composing new pieces ad hoc but by adapting existing pieces. There is some evidence in the sources that the more remote keys might have been catered for by transposition. Praeludium et Fuga 8 in e♭/d♯, for example, might have been transposed from e/d, which would imply separate origin for prelude and fugue; no. 18 might have been transposed from g to g♯, and no. 24 from c or g to b. There are signs in the sources that some preludes and fugues originally had the old modal key signatures (one flat or sharp fewer than today’s signatures); for example, in Kayser’s copy Fuga 2 in C minor has a key signature of two flats. In addition, among the early sources the title ‘Pre´lude’ is found, as well as ‘Praeludium’, and ‘Fughetta’ in place of ‘Fuga’.

On the evidence of Kayser’s copy the WTC I was probably compiled by collecting together separate bifolios, each of which would have contained a single prelude-and-fugue pair under its own title. These bifolios would have been combined to form a composite manuscript (now lost), within which folios could be inserted or replaced at will, serving as a vehicle for the compilation process in much the same way as the British Library autograph did for the WTC II about twenty years later. The existing autograph fair copy of Part I (P 415) was probably begun in late 1722,when the compilation process and the main revision of the text were complete. The object of this manuscript was clearly to bring the work into its definitive form. A further revision of the text was undertaken. The key order became fully chromatic, with major preceding minor throughout. Modern key signatures were invariably used. Individual titles throughout took the form ‘Praeludium 1’or‘Fuga 1’ and so on. The word ‘fine’ now occurs only at the end of the whole collection, not after each prelude-and-fugue pair, as it did originally. Finally, after ‘fine’ Bach writes ‘SDG’, soli Deo gloria, his customary sign of completion.

The elaborate ornamental title page of the autograph fair copy reads:

Das Wohltemperirte Clavier oder Praeludia und Fugen durch alle Tone und Semitonia, so wohl tertiam majorem oder Ut Re Mi anlangend, als auch tertiam minorem oder Re Mi Fa betreffend. Zum Nutzen und Gebrauch der Lehr-begierigen Musicalischen Jugend, als auch derer in diesem studio schon habil seyenden besonderem Zeit Vertreib auffgesetzet und verfertiget von Johann Sebastian Bach p. t. Hoch Fu¨rstlich Anhalt-Co¨thenischen Capellmeistern und Directore derer Cammer Musiquen. Anno 1722.
(The Well-Tempered Clavier, or Preludes and Fugues through all the tones and semitones, both as regards the tertia major or Ut Re Mi and as concerns the tertia minor or Re Mi Fa. For the use and profit of the musical youth desirous of learning, as well as for the pastime of those already skilled in this study, drawn up and written by Johann Sebastian Bach, p. t. Capellmeister to His Serene Highness the Prince of Anhalt-Cöthen and director of his chamber music. In the year 1722.)

Bach’s circumlocutory terminology for the major and minor modes is borrowed from Kuhnau. ‘Clavier’ in this context most likely means simply ‘keyboard’, the commonest meaning of the word at the time. In other words, Bach is deliberately non-prescriptive as to the type of instrument that should be used. This is in keeping with the restriction of the work to C–c3, the standard keyboard compass at the time, which made it as widely playable as possible on the instruments then in use.

The epithet ‘wohltemperirte’ (well-tempered) was clearly borrowed from the leading contemporary authority Andreas Werckmeister, who frequently made use of it in his theoretical works. His treatise of 1691, for example, is entitled Musicalische Temperatur, oder deutlich und warer mathematischer Unterricht, wie man . . . ein Clavier . . . wohl temperirt stimmen ko¨nne (Musical Temperament, or clear and true mathematical instruction how to tune a keyboard well-tempered). Here, as elsewhere in Werckmeister’s writings, ‘wohl temperirt’ evidently means ‘appropriately tuned’. But in his later writings he increasingly advocated equal temperament on account of its unlimited possibilities of modulation, transposition, and enharmonic change. It is not necessary, however, to adopt entirely equal temperament in order to play in all keys. And many theorists of Bach’s day, such as Neidhardt, Mattheson, Sorge, Marpurg, and Kirnberger, advocated a slight deviation from absolute equality in order that the distinctive colourings of different keys could be maintained. It may well be that something approaching equal temperament, but subtly nuanced in this way, was what Bach had in mind. Or else he might have meant by ‘wohltemperirte’: use whatever temperament you find appropriate for playing music in all keys.

The didactic purpose of the work is clear from the words ‘for the use and profit of the musical youth desirous of learning’. And indeed for Bach’s pupils it became the prime vehicle for advanced study in both keyboard playing and composition. The work was also intended for pure delectation, however, as is clear from the words ‘as well as for the pastime of those already skilled in this study’.

By including a prelude and fugue in every one of the twenty-four major and minor keys, Bach gave a practical demonstration of the full range of the tonal system. There were at least partial precedents, of course, of which only the most prominent can be mentioned here. Since the traditional function of the prelude was to establish the mode of the work that followed, each prelude in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century published collections tended to be in a different mode. By the late seventeenth century this procedure was applied to keys rather than modes. For example, the Tabulatura 12 Praeambulorum . . . durch alle Claves und Tonos auff Clavichordien und Spinetten zu gebrauchen (Tablature of 12 Praeambula through all the keys and tones, to be used on clavichords and spinets) of 1682 by the Dresden court organist Johann

Heinrich Kittel contains one prelude in each of the twelve most common major and minor keys, those with up to three sharps or flats. An even greater range of keys was occasionally in use at that time—for example, in the seventeen anonymous suites of 1683, formerly attributed to Pachelbel, whose keys include a major and/or a minor on every degree of the chromatic scale. By the turn of the century it was possible to list all twenty-four keys, with modern key signatures and in fully chromatic order, as did the organist T. B. Janovka in his influential treatise Clavis ad thesaurum magnae artis musicae (Prague, 1701). Since this work was known to Johann Bernhard Bach and Johann Gottfried Walther, it is quite possible that Bach was acquainted with it.

The nearest precedent to the WTC I was published in the following year, 1702: Ariadne musica, a collection of twenty preludes and fugues in nineteen different keys by the South German composer Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer. Here only five remote keys are missing from the complete cycle of twenty-four: g♯,b♭,e♭,F♯, and C♯. Certain rather conservative, seventeenth-century features of the collection, how-ever, distance it from the WTC I. Fischer’s preludes and fugues are tiny miniatures, reflecting the South German verset tradition; and the frequent ‘modal’ key signa-tures show that he was often thinking in terms of transposed modes rather than modern keys.

Despite these antiquated features, there is no doubt that Bach was acquainted with the work and that it exerted a powerful influence upon the conception and composition of the WTC I. Although Ariadne first appeared in 1702,as already noted, it is known today only from a later edition (Augsburg, 1715). Bach, too, might have known only this 1715 edition. That would account for the absence of any trace of the influence of Ariadne on Bach’s keyboard music prior to 1715. In addition, it would square with the likely date of the WTC’s conception—some time within the period 1715–20. The overall structure of the two works is remarkably similar: a ‘Praeludium et Fuga’ in all the major and minor keys (or nearly all, in Fischer’s case), chromatically ordered from C to b. Fischer places minor before major through-out, a relic of modal theory that recurs in the early stages of Bach’s work on the WTC I. Later, we shall have occasion to notice how often even the substance of Fischer’s preludes and fugues resonates in the later work.

J.S. Bach, The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1 / Sviatoslav Richter ( 1969 )

Download and Read the full book: The Creative Development of J.S. Bach (Vol. 2)

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Interview with Joep Beving (Feb. 7, 2020)

Interview with Joep Beving

Joep Beving is a Dutch composer and pianist who has been described by The Guardian as a “one-man recording phenomenon”. His journey is the stuff of dreams, going from “kitchen composer to Spotify star” virtually overnight. After self-releasing his debut album Solipsism, Beving went on to see his contemplative piano pieces streamed more than 85 million times, and has since given up his day job to compose and perform full time.

If you follow any ‘Chilled Classical’ or ‘Ambient Relaxation’ playlists, you will have heard his music even if you’re not familiar with his name. The deluxe version of his latest album, Henosis, comes out this week and I had the pleasure of chatting with him while he was over in London for a few brief hours.

joep beving sheet music
Did your relationship to music change when it became your job rather than your hobby? 

It definitely changed. I never saw myself as an artist… I felt it on the inside, but I never dared to see myself that way, let alone as a composer. It has very much intensified my relationship with music and I’m just extremely thankful for it. I have to take myself seriously now, which is still sometimes difficult, but it’s exciting and the only thing I can really do is work hard to write music and and hopefully create things that people appreciate, and at the same time be absolutely open and honest about what’s behind it. 

Having gained so many followers and listeners so quickly must be quite mind-blowing.

Yeah, that is mind-blowing, although it’s very easy to put in the right perspective because that insane amount comes from one very influential playlist that I have had the luck of being featured in.

You’ve been described as one of the most listened to living pianists in the world, which is amazing. 

That’s ridiculous. There are many more that deserve the credit in what used to be a niche of solo piano music, but is now a bit bigger: Jóhann Jóhannsson,Max Richter, Niels Hausgaard, Nils Frahm… It’s a very good thing but it’s also a very scary thing. I can see why some marketing people would want to use that to get people’s attention but it creates a lot of negative energy. 


You’ve said that while your music uses a “classical vocabulary”, it’s aimed more at a pop audience, and you’ve also performed in jazz festivals around the world. How do you classify your music? Do you see it fitting into the evolving classical canon?

No, not at all. My writing is completely free of rules. What I try to do is just get myself out of the equation and just accept what comes out and feels right. I want to see if I can create or establish a connection to others, so I try to find something universal. I often follow a pop structure (AABA) and my music has similarities with ambient music because of the sound, the vibrations and the tempo. It has a little bit to do with electronic music, mostly where electronic means minimal classical. It’s much more in that vein than in the classical vein but it obviously does borrow from the classical vocabulary and if you look at John Cage, for example, who’s rightly considered a very great American composer – he had a phase of doing some recordings that were intentionally mood-based, using music for a specific mental purpose. 

Someone said that your music’s quite similar to Keith Jarrett’s…

That’s a huge compliment. It’s funny you mention him because Keith Jarrett was one of the first musicians who showed me that music can just be without the genre. If you classify Keith Jarrett you say ECM because that’s cross-genre – it’s not classical, it’s not jazz per se, it’s somewhere else. If I can have just a little bit of Keith Jarrett in me, that would be phenomenal.

Do you mind how other people perceive or describe your music?

No. Every description has its ripple effect, its consequence, and if I would be in the business of trying to control that I would be wasting my time. The moment that it prohibits you from being heard in the first place, then it’s an issue. Once you have the luxury of an audience, then it doesn’t matter. It’s easy for me to say because I have the audience first. If it was the other way around I would probably have a different opinion.

Whose music would you say has influenced your style? 

Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt, Chopin, Satie, Radiohead, Mahler, and anything late romantic.

Who are your favourite composers?

Scriabin, Prokofiev (mostly the 3rd Piano Concerto), Mahler, Brahms’ piano music, Arvo Pärt, Peteris Vasks, Tigran Hamasyan.

What’s your opinion on the ‘classical chillout’ trend that’s growing in popularity?

I think it’s great. On the one side of the continuum, we have the massage saloon version, which is obviously kitsch and too far down the road. And then the area that we’re talking about, which you could say Satie is part of, or Cage. If that has a beneficial effect on people in their franticness, or fighting anxiety or insomnia, then that’s absolutely amazing. The other part is the deeper side of serious music that can have a very important effect on how you feel and how you look at life. If you embrace that dark side, and you’re not scared of it, it’s a great way of overcoming a lot of anxieties and issues.

Joep Beving’s sheet music is available for download from our Library.

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