J.S. Bach Musical Analysis

The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach (1695-1717) Vol. I and II

Table of Contents
  • The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach Volumes I (1695-1717) and II (1717-1750) with ebooks and sheet music (available in our online Sheet Music Library
  • J. S. BACH short biography:
  • Bach’s music

The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach Volumes I (1695-1717) and II (1717-1750) with ebooks and sheet music (available in our online Sheet Music Library

This book gives an account of the individual works of one of the greatest composers. The first volume of a two-volume study of the music of J. S. Bach covers the earlier part of his composing career, 1695-1717. By studying the music chronologically a coherent picture of the composer’s creative development emerges, drawing together all the strands of the individual repertoires (e.g. the cantatas, the organ music, the keyboard music).

The volume is divided into two parts, covering the early works and the mature Weimar compositions respectively. Each part deals with four categories of composition in turn: large-scale keyboard works; preludes, fantasias, and fugues; organ chorales; and cantatas. Within each category, the discussion is prefaced by a list of the works to be considered, together with details of their original titles, catalogue numbers, and earliest sources. The study is thus usable as a handbook on Bach’s works as well as a connected study of his creative development.

As indicated by the subtitle Music to Delight the Spirit, borrowed from Bach’s own title-pages, Richard Jones draws attention to another important aspect of the book: not only is it a study of style and technique but a work of criticism, an analytical evaluation of Bach’s music and an appreciation of its extraordinary qualities.

It also takes account of the remarkable advances in Bach scholarship that have been made over the last 50 years, including the many studies that have appeared relating to various aspects of Bach’s early music, such as the varied influences to which he was subjected and the problematic issues of dating and authenticity that arise. In doing so, it attempts to build up a coherent picture of his development as a creative artist, helping us to understand what distinguishes Bach’s mature music from his early works and from the music of his predecessors and contemporaries. Hence we learn why it is that his later works are instantly recognizable as ‘Bachian’.

In the second of this study of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, taking into account the vast increase in our knowledge of the composer due to the Bach scholarship of the last sixty years, Richard Jones presents a vivid and in some respects radically new picture of his creative development during the Cöthen (1717-23) and Leipzig years (1723-50). The approach is, as far as possible, chronological and analytical, but the author has also tried to make the book readable so that it may be accessible to music lovers and amateur performers as well as to students, scholars, and professional musicians.

There are many good biographies of Bach, but this is the first, fully-comprehensive, in-depth study of his music making it indispensable for those who want to study specific pieces or learn how he developed as a composer.

J. S. BACH short biography:

Johann Sebastian Bach (31 March [O.S. 21 March] 1685 – 28 July 1750) was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He is known for instrumental compositions such as the Brandenburg Concertos and the Goldberg Variations, and for vocal music such as the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor. Since the 19th-century Bach Revival he is generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.

The Bach family already counted several composers when Johann Sebastian was born as the last child of a city musician in Eisenach. After being orphaned at age 10, he lived for five years with his eldest brother Johann Christoph, after which he continued his musical formation in Lüneburg. From 1703 he was back in Thuringia, working as a musician for Protestant churches in Arnstadt and Mühlhausen and, for longer stretches of time, at courts in Weimar, where he expanded his organ repertory, and Köthen, where he was mostly engaged with chamber music.

From 1723 he was employed as Thomaskantor (cantor at St. Thomas) in Leipzig. He composed music for the principal Lutheran churches of the city, and for its university’s student ensemble Collegium Musicum.

Bach’s music

From 1726 he published some of his keyboard and organ music. In Leipzig, as had happened during some of his earlier positions, he had difficult relations with his employer, a situation that was little remedied when he was granted the title of court composer by his sovereign, Augustus, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, in 1736. In the last decades of his life he reworked and extended many of his earlier compositions. He died of complications after eye surgery in 1750 at the age of 65.

Bach enriched established German styles through his mastery of counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and his adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach’s compositions include hundreds of cantatas, both sacred and secular. He composed Latin church music, Passions, oratorios, and motets. He often adopted Lutheran hymns, not only in his larger vocal works, but for instance also in his four-part chorales and his sacred songs. He wrote extensively for organ and for other keyboard instruments. He composed concertos, for instance for violin and for harpsichord, and suites, as chamber music as well as for orchestra. Many of his works employ the genres of canon and fugue.

johann sebastian bach free sheet music & scores pdf download

Throughout the 18th century Bach was primarily valued as an organist, while his keyboard music, such as The Well-Tempered Clavier, was appreciated for its didactic qualities. The 19th century saw the publication of some major Bach biographies, and by the end of that century all of his known music had been printed. Dissemination of scholarship on the composer continued through periodicals (and later also websites) exclusively devoted to him, and other publications such as the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (BWV, a numbered catalogue of his works) and new critical editions of his compositions.

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His music was further popularised through a multitude of arrangements, including, for instance, the Air on the G String, and of recordings, such as three different box sets with complete performances of the composer’s oeuvre marking the 250th anniversary of his death.

THE BEST OF BACH Johann Sebastian Bach 1. Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F major, BWV 1046 Allegro (00:00) Adagio (4:43) Allegro (9:10) 2. Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048 Allegro (13:40) Allegro assai (19:11) Allegro (24:05) 3. Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G major, BWV 1049 Presto (31:42) Andante (36:37) Affettuoso (39:32) 4. Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B flat major, BWV 1051 Allegro (45:02) 5. Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor, BWV 1060 Allegro (50:38) Largo (54:59) Allegro (59:32)

6. Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor, BWV 1067: Menuet (1:02:35) 7. Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068: Air on the G String (1:05:35) 8. Cantata BWV 147: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (1:10:07) 9. Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565 (1:13:32) 10. Harpsichord Invention No. 1 in C major, BWV 772 (1:22:23) 11. Harpsichord Invention No 8 in F major, BWV 779 (1:23:43) 12. Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor, BWV 1067: Badinerie (1:24:42) 13. Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach: Minuet in G major, BWV Ahn. 114 (1:27:24) 14. Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach: Musette in D major, BWV Anh.126 (1:28:59)

15. Violin Partita No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006: Bourée (1:30:06) 16. Sonata for Viola da Gamba & Harpsichord, BWV 1028 (1:31:48) 17. Concerto in D minor, BWV 1059: 2nd Movt. (1:35:44) 18. Cello Suite No. 4 in E-flat major, BWV 1010: Courante (1:38:54) 19. Cello Suite No. 6 in D major, BWV 1012: Gavotte (1:42:32) 20. Cello Suite No. 6 in D major BWV 1012: Prelude (1:46:42)

J.S. Bach Best Classical Music

Goldberg Variations Complete J S Bach BWV 988

Goldberg Variations Complete J S Bach BWV 988, with sheet music

j s bach free sheet music & scores pdf

Goldberg Variations: a short history

The so-called Goldberg Variations of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) is believed to have been a gift to a Count Kayserling, an influential musical devotee who had secured for Bach an appointment as official composer to the Saxon court. Beyond being a deep honor, the title provided Bach much-needed royal protection against the pettiness of his employers, with whom he rarely got along. From his earliest days as a church organist, Bach was faulted for confusing congretations with flights of invention rather than strictly accompanying their hymns. Throughout his career, he constantly railed against the inadequacy of the players and resources with which he had to work.

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The Count suffered from bouts of insomnia and had hired one of Bach’s finest pupils, the fourteen-year old Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, to play for him during his restless nights. To soothe the Count, Bach wrote this piece, formally entitled Aria With Diverse Variations for Harpsichord with Two Manuals, in 1741. In gratitude, the Count sent Bach 100 louis d’or, an extraordinary sum far exceeding his annual salary.

Bach clearly cherished the Variations himself, as they comprised one of only four volumes of keyboard works he published. Yet, while Bach was revered during his lifetime as a great organist who could brilliantly improvise an entire two-hour concert, his compositions were largely dismissed as the type of functional and disposable material which all performers of the time were expected to produce routinely for their own use.

We now acclaim Bach’s art as the culmination of a millennium of musical development. Serious Western music began in the Middle Ages with Gregorian chant, a stylization of speech in which a bare melody imitated the verbal inflection of prayer. Chant was a continuous horizontal art, using a single note at a time. The first glimmer of change came around 1100 by adding another voice at the octave, fifth or fourth. Next, melodies were added above the foundation of a chant. Polyphony flowered as up to four independent voices competed for attention. By the 18th Century, the system had matured into an extraordinary profusion of forms, harmonies and rhythms.

Bach’s Art of Fugue and Well-Tempered Clavier are often considered the apex of polyphony and the purest expression of his creativity. But perhaps the ultimate display of the full range of Bach’s art, as well as the outlet for his deepest, most personal feelings is the Goldberg Variations. Like all great music, the key to understanding it lies in admiring its fantasy and ingenuity within formal restrictions – freedom within limits.

Bach begins and ends with a simple,

The beginning of the aria from Bach's autograph score of the Goldberg Variations
The beginning of the aria from Bach’s autograph score

gracious, unadorned song (the aria) he had written years earlier for his wife. Unlike most variations that focus upon a melody, the Goldberg set follows only the bass of Bach’s song and its implied harmonies. Each of the thirty variations retains the aria’s structure of two 16-bar halves, the first rising from tonic to dominant, and the second, through a chromatic excursion, returning back home to the tonic. But within that basic design, they comprise an amazing abundance of styles and moods. Every third variation is a canon in which regular repetitions of a simple melody overlap and intermingle (as in “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”).

The first canon (variation # 3) is in unison (ie: each repetition begins on the same note as the original), and then the intervals increase: #6 is at the second, #9 at the third, all the way up to #27 at a ninth. Bach clearly was intrigued with such formal possibilities – his personal copy of the Goldberg Variations, found only in 1975, contained sketches for 14 more canons on the same bass.

In between the canons

The beginning of the aria from a modern printing of the Goldberg Variations
The same passage in a modern edition

are a lusty dance (#4), a graceful waltz (#7), a fugue (#10), swirling harp-like arpeggiations (#11), a dreamy reverie (#15), an overture (#16), a quidoblet (#30, in which Bach combines two folk songs) and, most striking of all, an astoundingly modern-sounding chromatic meditation (#25) in which all conventional notions of tempo are suspended.

The technique ranges from rudimentary two-parts (the aria itself) to fiendishly difficult passages of rapid note clusters (#s 14 and 23), blindingly fast trills (#28) and a furious sinuous line split between the hands (#29) (the intertwining parts of which are far harder to realize on modern instruments than on those of Bach’s time which had a separate keyboard for each hand).

Bach never expected his music to survive him. Indeed, toward the end of his life polyphonic music like the Goldberg Variations, in which each voice was of equal importance, was already considered old-fashioned. Even his own sons were pioneering a new and simpler style of harmonized melodies which would form the basis for nearly all the music we now love. While Mozart, Beethoven and other professionals would become enthralled with the structural marvels of Bach’s finely-crafted polyphony, the public relegated both the music and the harpsichord for which it was written to museums and ancient texts.

There they languished until 1903, when a young Polish pianist launched their revival. Through the remaining six decades of her life, Wanda Landowska tirelessly researched, taught, performed and crusaded for the harpsichord (in which strings are plucked with quills rather than struck with a padded hammer, as in a piano) and for “authentic” Bach, albeit through the filter of her own considerable ego.

Her concerts were theatrical events, given from stages set as Baroque living rooms, as if to demand that audiences enter an antiquated world and meet her only on her own terms. Landowska also generated one of the great put-downs of all time – when a pianist dared to criticize her performance, she replied: “That’s fine – you play Bach your way and I’ll play Bach his way!”

Given her crucial role in restoring Bach to public favor, it’s fitting that Landowska waxed the very first recording of the Goldberg Variations in 1933 (now on EMI 61008, coupled with a massively dramatic Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue). Unfortunately, the crude sound largely obscures the delicate texture and sparkling harmonics that give the harpsichord its distinctive flavor, a problem only partially cured in her 1946 remake (BMG 60919).

Despite her fervent advocacy, and although a revelation in its time, Landowska’s playing is dignified, reserved and somewhat stodgy and graceless, although charged with a compelling sense of humanism and commitment that remains deeply touching. Although the harpsichord is impervious to touch, producing the same volume and tone no matter how a key is pressed, Landowska compensates for the fixed dynamics by intensively coloring her tone through exploiting various registers of her custom-built instrument.

A second pioneer was another young pianist, Canadian Glenn Gould, who chose the Goldberg Variations for his sensational debut recording in 1955. In marked contrast to Landowka’s deference to authenticity, Gould regarded Bach as ripe for modern exploration and realized his deeply personal vision of extreme tempos, huge dynamics and phenomenal technique on a concert grand. His album (on Sony SK 52594) still startles with its precision, crisp rhythms and dazzlingly clear counterpoint.

Vibrant and exciting, yet deeply respectful of the inherent values of the source, it ushered in modern enthusiasm for Bach by combining the feel of a harpsichord with the romantic impulse and augmented resources of the piano – several variations are blindingly swift, while in the heart-rending 25th time nearly stands still, hanging on each poignant note.

If portions seem a bit sterile and more inspired by the editing block than the human soul, a live 1959 Salzburg version (Sony SMK 52685), tempers the studio volatility with more feeling and atmosphere. One of Gould’s final projects was a 1981 remake (Sony SMK 52619), in which his former fire and impulse cede to finely-graded dynamics, control and spirituality.

In the last half-century, the popularity of the Goldberg Variations has soared. A Japanese website having charmingly fractured English and the clever URL of (get the pun?) catalogues 240 recordings (plus hundreds of reissues) on LP and CD, ranging from the traditional harpsichord or piano to arrangements for strings, organ, band and the Canadian Brass. If Bach could return after a quarter millennium, surely he would be astounded!

Of the several dozen renditions currently available, one of the most distinctive is by Rosalyn Tureck (DG 459 599), which contains a marvelous CD ROM feature of a score which can be printed or followed on screen and which compels appreciation for Bach’s wondrous construction. In addition, a MIDI element lets you experiment with dynamics, phrasing, embellishments and tempos to craft your own performance (and learn the artistic value of these techniques in the process).

As for Tureck’s rarefied, magisterial performance, it’s a throwback to Bach’s culture, light-years removed from our present age of constant and immediate gratification. Her deliberate unfolding of a multi-layered masterpiece observes all repeats and consumes 91 minutes (Gould’s ran 37!), charging every phrase with cosmic weight and emerging as a profound experience.

Equally personal is the 1968 recording by Maria Yudina (Philips 456 994), who played as she lived – an outcast religious dissident in Communist Russia whose irrepressible sense of freedom kindled her artistry. Sharing Bach’s belief in music as a direct route to God, she plays every note with a gripping conviction and even adds her own embellishments. Yudina’s Goldbergs combine enormously assertive and virile strength with startling dynamics and vast rhythmic elasticity.

Music this rich will continue to attract great artists and inspire great renditions in every generation. Among the most recent interpreters, Murray Perahia, from July, 2000 (Sony 88243), displays an exquisite sensitivity and breathtaking control, with every phrase beautifully shaped.

Goldberg Variations: Analysis

The Canons

Let’s start by talking about the canon variations. Every third variation is written in canon form  (which we’ve talked about before). So that means variation #3 is a canon, so is #6, #9, and so on.

But that would be too easy – Bach needed to add an additional spin to these canons. Canon #3 is a unison canon, meaning the copycat part starts on the same note. But in canon #6, the copycat part ascends a step so that it repeats a 2nd above the original tune. And then Canon #9 repeats a 3rd above, and so on and so on.


Pattern of variations

Baroque-style dances (#4, 7, 19)
A Fughetta (#10)
A French overture (#16)
Arias (#13, 25)

Goldberg Variations: Arabesques

First arabesque

Let’s start by taking a listen to a few clips from the arabesques. The first arabesque we’re going to listen to is Variation #5, and it’s really, really fast (allegro vivace, or lively + fast).

This movement features hand crossing – the left hand is constantly swinging back and forth over the right hand, which is something Scarlatti (another Baroque composer) was fond of doing.

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Second Arabesque

The next arabesque, #8, also features this hand crossing. This would have originally been written for a keyboard with two keyboards, like a harpsichord. But when we try to play it on a 1-keyboard instrument like the piano, it’s much more difficult because of awkward overlapping.

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Third Arabesque

Third arabesque

The same goes for the third arabesque I’m going to show you – it’s extremely tough. It’s a toccata, which is basically as fast and challenging as you can get in the Baroque era. Have a listen to these three arabesques back to back, and try to keep track of that ever-unchanging bass line, while also listening for the hand leaps and overlaps that make these so challenging.

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Third category of the variations

Right after the fifteenth variation, we hit the halfway point – and Bach knows it. Since this set of variations cycles in threes (canons, arabesques, and dances), we have one more category to look at – the dances.

Variation #16 is a French overture, and is unique within this composition. It’s the only variation written in this style, such that it feels like a clear turning point in the music. Further adding to the point are the big, bold opening and closing chords.

vid200 08

Goldberg Variations: Minor Key Aria

Next, let’s listen to an aria. An aria isn’t a dance, but it’s still lumped in the “dance” section along with the French overture, another aria, a fughetta, and some more standard Baroque-type dances.

The reason I think you need to listen to this aria, which is variation #25, is because it’s one of three variations in a minor key (G minor; the others are all in G major), and it’s SO beautiful. It’s been described as having a “dark passion” and as being the emotional climax of the variations, and of having an “extraordinary chromatic texture”. Let’s take a listen!

vid200 09

Goldberg Variations: Quodlibet

The last thing we need to listen to is the very, very last variation – the thirtieth, which is a “quodlibet”. A quodlibet is a great word that means multiple melodies at once, like a canon. The difference is these were usually popular melodies of the day (think folk music), and was intended as a joke tune.

I have to share this anecdote with you guys, because it’s great.

Apparently at Bach family reunions, they would start by singing a serious chorale. After that, however, they would start singing

“popular songs..of comic and also partly of indecent content, all mixed together on the spur of the moment… and not only could laugh over it quite whole-heartedly themselves, but also aroused just as hearty and irresistible laughter in all who heard them.”

-Forkel, a Bach biographer

So this very last variation was almost entirely intended to be a joke. It incorporates a variety of folk songs, including one with the lyric,

“Cabbage and turnips have driven me away, had my mother cooked meat, I’d have opted to stay”.

I’d stay for that!

Let’s take a listen.

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J.S. Bach

Bach “Schafe können sicher weiden” from BWV 208

Table of Contents
  • Bach “Schafe können sicher weiden” from BWV 208. “Sheep may safely graze”
  • We have the best selection of Bach and classical scores in our Library!
  • About this piece
    • Text
    • Arrangements
      • Keyboard
      • Band and orchestra

Bach “Schafe können sicher weiden” from BWV 208. Sheep may safely graze

This is the sixth album on Deutsche Grammophon of pianist brothers Lucas and Arthur Jussen. Despite their young age, they have been part of the international concert world for years and are praised by both the press and audiences. They have waited some time with recording the music of Bach, but felt ready to do so now. Together with Amsterdam Sinfonietta they play on this album two concertos for two pianos – BWV 1060 and 1061 -, to which they added five Choral Preludes for quatre-mains and one for two pianos. Lucas & Arthur Jussen – Bach: Schafe können sicher weiden, BWV 208.

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About this piece

Sheep may safely graze” (German: Schafe können sicher weiden) is a soprano aria by Johann Sebastian Bach setting words by Salomon Franck. The piece was written in 1713 and is part of the cantata Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd, BWV 208. The cantata’s title translates The lively hunt is all my heart’s desire, and it is also known as the Hunting Cantata.

Like the same composer’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring“, Sheep may safely graze is frequently played at weddings. However, the cantata of which it forms a part was originally written for a birthday celebration, that of Christian, Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels. Bach was based at the nearby court of Weimar, and musicians from both courts appear to have joined together in the first performance in Weißenfels. Bach is known to have used the music again for other celebrations, but it remained unpublished until after his death.


The piece’s English title is well known enough for it to evoke a pastoral scene: it has been referenced in discussions of how European culture depicts domestic animals and sheep in particular.

Franck’s words are given to mythological characters, in this case Pales, a deity of shepherds, flocks, and livestock. Pales compares the peaceful life of sheep under a watchful shepherd to the inhabitants of a state with a wise ruler.

Schafe können sicher weiden
Wo ein guter Hirte wacht.

Wo Regenten wohl regieren
Kann man Ruh’ und Friede spüren
Und was Länder glücklich macht.

Sheep may safely graze and pasture
In a watchful Shepherd’s sight.

Those who rule with wisdom guiding
Bring to hearts a peace abiding
Bless a land with joy made bright.



“Sheep may safely graze” was arranged for piano by the American composer Mary Howe. Another notable piano transcription was made by Dutch pianist Egon Petri, published in 1944. American composer and electronic musician Wendy Carlos arranged and recorded “Sheep may safely graze” on a Moog synthesizer for her 1973 album Switched-On Bach II. For piano-four-hands there is a version by Duo Petrof.

Band and orchestra

Australian-born composer Percy Grainger wrote “free rambles” on Bach’s “Sheep may safely graze”. He first wrote “Blithe Bells” (as he called his free ramble), for “elastic scoring” between November 1930 and February 1931. In March 1931, he scored a wind band version.

The piece was arranged for string orchestra by British composer Granville Bantock. There is also an orchestral arrangement by British composer Sir William Walton, part of the ballet score The Wise Virgins.

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J.S. Bach Best Classical Music

J.S. Bach – BWV 543 Prélude and Fugue (with sheet music)

J.S. Bach BWV 543 Prélude and Fugue with sheet music

Johann Sebastian Bach, (born March 21 [March 31, New Style], 1685, Eisenach, Thuringia, Ernestine Saxon Duchies [Germany]—died July 28, 1750, Leipzig), composer of the Baroque era, the most celebrated member of a large family of north German musicians. Although he was admired by his contemporaries primarily as an outstanding harpsichordist, organist, and expert on organ building, Bach is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time and is celebrated as the creator of the Brandenburg Concertos, The Well-Tempered Clavier, the Mass in B Minor, and numerous other masterpieces of church and instrumental music. Appearing at a propitious moment in the history of music, Bach was able to survey and bring together the principal styles, forms, and national traditions that had developed during preceding generations and, by virtue of his synthesis, enrich them all. You can find Bach’s selected sheet music in our Library.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is one of the great composers in Western musical history. He was born in Eisenach, Germany, into a family of working musicians. In 1695, when he was just nine years old, his parents died and he was sent to live with his brother, Johann Christoph, an organist. Whilst living with his brother he learnt the keyboard and studied composition on his own.

He worked as an organist, then as a court composer at Cöthen (now Köthen) and then as musical director at St Thomas’s church in Leipzig, producing many hundreds of choral and instrumental works (and hundreds of thousands of pages of handwritten parts).

Bach married twice and fathered eight surviving children, three of whom became notable composers in their own right. He was a devoutly religious man, and knew tragedy: his first wife died suddenly while he was away on business; 12 of his 20 children died in infancy; one of his sons had severe learning difficulties; and another ran away from home in his teens and died in mysterious circumstances. With employers, who rarely appreciated his talents, he was chippy and argumentative; at a family gathering with a few drinks and a pipe of tobacco, however, he was robustly good-humoured, especially when the Bach clan took turns to improvise rude country songs.

What is special about his music?

Bach’s style is baroque, characterised by lots of notes, simple motoric rhythms, and steady shifts of underlying harmony – it was derided by some as ‘sewing-machine music’. But he explored harmony much more deeply than other composers of the time: compared to say Handel or Vivaldi, Bach’s music can contain extraordinarily ‘jazzy’ chords and surprising dissonance, and will jump off to many different harmonic areas.

It is also ‘absolute music’ – in other words, it often seems to exist apart from any particular instrument, as a constructional idea by itself; consequently the same piece can work as effectively on a piano as a guitar, as a choral work or an orchestral arrangement.

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What is a fugue?

Bach excelled at counterpoint – the composition of two superimposed independent lines so that each makes musical sense by itself, but also combines seamlessly with the other.

He excelled even more at the fugue, a glorious but fiendishly difficult contrapuntal musical form. A fugue is a kind of musical chase between two or more lines. The first line starts; after a few seconds the second line joins in. It is slightly higher or lower than the first, but otherwise almost identical. A third or fourth line may join. The skill of a fugal composer is to make the lines develop independently, yet still fit together, while making each line recognisably a delayed variation of the preceding one. Such was Bach’s expertise on the organ that he could improvise a four-part fugue.

Bach’s preludes and fugues for keyboard are one of the landmarks of western classical music. For each major and minor key of the 12 notes of the scale there is a free-flowing prelude, followed by a tightly-constructed fugue, totalling 24 preludes and 24 fugues. He wrote two such sets, making 48 in all. They are often referred to as ‘the 48’, or by the more general title ‘The Well-Tempered Clavier’.

‘Clavier’ simply means ‘keyboard instrument’. The pieces are usually played on the piano nowadays; in Bach’s lifetime the instrument was still being developed, and they would most commonly have been played on a harpsichord.

The ‘well-tempered’ refers to the piece’s demonstration of how consistently the instrument is tuned across different keys, though exactly which tuning system Bach had in mind is the subject of much scholarly debate.

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J.S. Bach

Bach, Prelude I in C minor, BWV 999 from the Well Tempered Clavier (Book 1) with sheet music

Bach, Prelude I in C minor, BWV 999 from the Well Tempered Clavier (Book 1) with sheet music

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J.S. Bach

Bach-Friedman “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme” BWV 645

Bach-Friedman “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme” BWV 645 with sheet music

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J.S. Bach

Bach meets Jazz – Jacques Loussier plays BACH

Bach meets Jazz – Jacques Loussier plays BACH

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Jacques Loussier

Jacques Loussier (26 October 1934 – 5 March 2019) was a French pianist and composer. He arranged jazz interpretations of many of the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, such as the Goldberg Variations. The Jacques Loussier Trio, founded in 1959, played more than 3,000 concerts and sold more than 7 million recordings—mostly in the Bach series.

Loussier composed film scores and a number of classical pieces, including a Mass, a ballet, and violin concertos. Loussier’s style is described as third stream, a synthesis of jazz and classical music, with an emphasis on improvisation.

When Loussier began applying jazz improvisation and swing to Johann Sebastian Bach’s exquisite symmetries, some jazz pundits and fans dismissed it as a betrayal of an African-American music’s expressive earthiness and blues roots, aimed at an audience that preferred its jazz pretty rather than passionate. And from the classical angle, observers were liable to perceive the young Frenchman’s work as little short of vandalism.

The New York Times critic John Rockwell’s review of a Loussier concert at Carnegie Hall in 1975 reflected that distaste when he proclaimed: “There is a certain sort of sensibility that is actively appalled by the very notion of ‘popularising’ Bach – or any classical composer, for that matter. This listener’s sensibility is one of those, and so he found the Tuesday evening performance at a sparsely attended Carnegie Hall by the Jacques Loussier Trio tiresome and offensive.”

Nonetheless, the success of concerts and recordings by Loussier and his Play Bach trio (originally formed with the eminent Paris jazz sidemen Pierre Michelot on bass and Christian Garros on drums) took off almost overnight from the group’s first appearances in 1959 – shifting millions of Play Bach recordings in the almost two-decade life of the original band.

The group’s suitably chilled-out, languidly hip treatment of Bach’s Air on the G String famously accompanied the Hamlet cigar company’s TV advertising from 1962, with cinema versions finally being banned at the end of the century, though these soundtracks did not include Michelot’s subsequent driving bass-walk and Loussier’s freewheeling improv theme-stretches.

Loussier, however, was no one-trick populist who had chanced on a hit formula and milked it. A piano virtuoso from early childhood, he attended the Conservatoire National de Musique in Paris from his mid-teens under a celebrated mentor – the classical pianist and educator Yves Nat – travelled in the Middle East and Latin America absorbing musical ideas in his early 20s, and composed scores for more than 60 films and TV shows. There was also the tireless touring of the Play Bach trio – and after its breakup, he worked on both acoustic and electronic projects at his own Studio Miraval in Provence.

Born in Angers, in western France, Loussier began piano lessons at the age of 10, and within a year was fascinated by the music of Bach. When he heard a piece from the Notebook for Anna Magdalena at 11, he took to playing it incessantly. “I was studying this piece and I just fell in love with it,” Loussier told an interviewer in 2003. “Then I found I loved to play the music, but add my own notes, expanding the harmonies and playing around with that music.”

In this, as Loussier was later to observe, he was not subverting Bach but paying his respects to an improvising tradition to which the composer also belonged, even if classical music’s subsequent assumptions preferred to bury that unruly element.

Loussier’s potential had been brought to Nat’s attention when he was 13, and Nat supplied him with practice projects that the boy would visit Paris every three months to demonstrate. At 16 he entered the conservatoire, financing his courses by playing jazz in the city’s bars.

In the mid-1950s Loussier then took off on his travels, which included Cuba, where he stayed for a year. Back home, he found work as an accompanist, to the singer and actor Catherine Sauvage and Charles Aznavour.

Loussier later recalled that in 1959 he had told Decca Records that he was a classical pianist and they said they already had plenty. Then he said he was a jazz pianist and they said they had plenty of those, too. “Finally I started to play some Bach with my improvisations and they said, ‘What is that? Why don’t we make a record of that?’ I was still doing it out of fun. I never thought the public would like it. I was wrong.”

With Michelot and Garros, and with the American chamber-musical Modern Jazz Quartet as a significant and celebrated inspiration, the Play Bach trio made four hugely successful Decca albums between 1960 and 1963, launched a performance schedule rarely numbering fewer than 150 shows a year worldwide, and expanded the repertoire to include double-tracked recordings of Loussier parts on organ and piano, and arrangements of Bach concertos.

In the midst of it all, Loussier was also a sought-after composer for film and TV. In 1978, weary of travelling, he wound the trio up and retired to Studio Miraval to explore composition more deeply, experiment with electronics and studio techniques, and play host and offer recording time to visiting rock stars including Pink Floyd, AC/DC and Sade.

He wrote the full-scale symphony Lumières (with the countertenor James Bowman, soprano Deborah Rees and a rock rhythm section on its Paris premiere), concertos for trumpet and violin, strings suites, a ballet score and the crossover fusion works Pulsion, Pagan Moon, and Pulsion Sous la Mer.

But Bach’s 1985 tercentenary had already tempted Loussier back to the piano stool. With the jazz/classical bassist Vincent Charbonnier, followed after illness in the 90s by the comparably virtuosic Benoit Dunoyer de Segonzac and the percussionist André Arpino, Loussier formed a more broadminded, genre-fluid and technically sophisticated version of the Play Bach trio, which if anything amplified just how creatively musical his original vision had been.

Recording for Telarc from 1996, Loussier returned to his beloved Bach, explored Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in improv conversations with Charbonnier and Arpino, with an affectionate nod to the Modern Jazz Quartet’s Django (1997), and Satie, with De Segonzac and Arpino (1998).

Interpretations of Ravel, Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin followed (with the last-named occasioning Loussier’s first solo piano album in his 70th birthday year, on which he breezily threw flamenco, gospel, calypso and stride-piano into the mix), and ambitious Bach homages taking on the Goldberg Variations and the Brandenburg Concertos.

In 2002, the pianist’s life took an unlikely turn when he embarked on a lawsuit against the rapper Eminem for allegedly stealing hooks from Pulsion for the track Kill You from the Marshall Mathers LP – a confrontation eventually settled out of court. In a conversation that year with the writer Sholto Byrnes, Loussier seemed mainly miffed that the Americans had not asked him first, and typically claimed: “I like good music whatever it is.” He later registered an interest in Eminem’s music.

Jazz reference books have not been so generous to Loussier, but, a true jazz improviser rather than an embellisher of the classics, he sidelined the snobberies from both sides in his early years. He paid tribute to the composers he loved with unmistakable and expert devotion, performing long enough to see his inclusive vision of a music with far fewer borders come to pass.

J.S. Bach

J.S. Bach The six cello suites Pau Casals, 1936-39

J.S. Bach The six cello suites performed by Pau Casals, 1936-39


Suite No. 1 In G, BWV1007 16:54 1-1 Prelude 2:28 1-2 Allemande 3:40 1-3 Courante 2:32 1-4 Sarabande 2:22 1-5 Menuet I & II 3:14 1-6 Gigue 1:50 Suite No. 2 In D Minor, BWV1008 19:41 1-7 Prelude 3:43 1-8 Allemande 3:54 1-9 Courante 2:16 1-10 Sarabande 4:06 1-11 Menuet I & II 3:19 1-12 Gigue 2:35 Suite No. 3 In C, BWV1009 20:14 1-13 Prelude 3:28 1-14 Allemande 3:45 1-15 Courante 3:14 1-16 Sarabande 3:30 1-17 Bourrée I & II 3:23 1-18 Gigue 3:04

Suite No. 4 In E Flat, BWV1010 22:29 1-19 Prelude 4:15 1-20 Allemande 3:45 1-21 Courante 3:55 1-22 Sarabande 4:09 1-23 Bourrée I & II 3:37 1-24 Gigue 2:35 Suite No. 5 In C Minor, BWV1011 22:31 2-1 Prelude 7:18 2-2 Allemande 3:17 2-3 Courante 2:03 2-4 Sarabande 2:45 2-5 Gavotte I & II 4:29 2-6 Gigue 2:20

Suite No. 6 In D, BWV1012 27:58 2-7 Prelude 5:06 2-8 Allemande 7:31 2-9 Courante 3:42 2-10 Sarabande 4:17 2-11 Gavotte I & II 3:04 2-12 Gigue 3:59 – 2-13 Adagio In A Minor From Toccata, Adagio And Fugue In C Major, BWV 564 Arranged By – Siloti* 3:53 2-14 Musette (Gavottes I And II) From English Suite No. 6 In D Major, BWV 811 Arranged By – Pollain* 3:45 2-15 Komm, Süsser Tod, BWV 478 Arranged By – Siloti* 3:27 2-16 Andante From Sonata No. 2 For Unaccompanied Violin, BWV 1003 Arranged By – Siloti* 3:36 2-17 Air From Suite No. 3 In D, BWV 1068 Arranged By – Siloti* 3:47 Companies, etc.

Composed By – Johann Sebastian Bach Engineer [Restorations] – Ward Marston Liner Notes – Tully Potter Notes Tracks 1-1 to 1-6: Recorded 2.VI.1938, Paris Tracks 1-7 to 1-18: Recorded 25.XI.1936, Abbey Road Studios, London Tracks 1-19 to 1-24: Recorded 13.VI.1939, Paris Tracks 2-1 to 2-6: Recorded 13-16.VI.1939, Paris Tracks 2-7 to 2-12: Recorded 14, 15..VI.1939, Paris Tracks 2-13 to 2-17: Recorded 3.VI.1938, Paris Total playing time: 148:47

pau casals plays j.s. bach sheet music

Pau Casals biography

 “Music, this marvellous universal language, would have to be a source of communication between all people. “


Pau Casals (Pablo Casals as he was commonly called in English) was one of the 20th century’s greatest cellists, internationally recognized as one of the finest performers and orchestra conductors of his times.

Born in El Vendrell on 29 December 1876, he showed a great sensitivity for music from childhood. His father, himself a musician, taught Pau his first notions of music, which Casals would go on to extend through studies in Barcelona and Madrid. At the tender age of twenty-three, he started out on his professional career and performed in the world’s most famous concert halls. As a performer, he made innovative changes in the way of playing the cello, introducing new technical and expressive possibilities. As a conductor too, he sought depth of expression – the musical essence which he achieved with the cello. Pau Casals was also a teacher and a composer, writing works such as the oratorio “El Pessebre” (The Manger), which became a veritable hymn to peace.

The outcome of the Spanish Civil War obliged him to go into exile, settling first in Prades (France) and later in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In addition to his extraordinary career as a musician, Pau Casals was always a staunch defender of peace and freedom. His numerous benefit concerts, his commitment to humanitarian actions and his various speeches at the United Nations characterized him clearly as a man of peace.

Pau Casals died in 1973 at the age of ninety-six in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His remains now rest in the cemetery of El Vendrell.


United Nations speech – 1971

Over the course of his life, Pau Casals struggled constantly for peace, justice and freedom. In recognition of his stance, in 1971 the Secretary-General of the United Nations, U-Thant, awarded Pau Casals the U.N. Peace Medal. The speech that Pau Casals gave to express his gratitude for this distinction, and afterwards his performance of “El cant dels ocells” (The Song of the Birds), form one of the most impressive testimonies to his human dimension.


This is the greatest honour of my life. Peace has always been my greatest concern. I learnt to love it when I was but a child. When I was a boy, my mother – an exceptional, marvellous woman -, would talk to me about peace, because at that time there were also many wars. What is more, I am Catalan. Catalonia had the first democratic parliament, well before England did. And the first United Nations were in my country. At that time – the Eleventh Century – there was a meeting in Toluges – now France – to talk about peace, because in that epoch Catalans were already against, AGAINST war. That is why the United Nations, which works solely towards the peace ideal, is in my heart, because anything to do with peace goes straight to my heart.

I have not played the cello in public for many years, but I feel that the time has come to play again. I am going to play a melody from Catalan folklore: El cant dels ocells – The Song of the Birds. Birds sing when they are in the sky, they sing: “Peace, Peace, Peace”, and it is a melody that Bach, Beethoven and all the greats would have admired and loved. What is more, it is born in the soul of my people, Catalonia. 

(English translation of the original version in Catalan, from Enric Casals’ book “PAU CASALS, dades biogràfiques inèdites, cartes íntimes i records viscuts”, Ed. Pòrtic, Col. Memòries, Barcelona, 1979.)

Best Classical Music J.S. Bach

J.S. Bach, Piano Transcriptions I (by W. Kempff) with sheet music

Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ – J.S. Bach, Piano Transcriptions I (by W. Kempff) with sheet music download

bach sheet music pdf kempf

Piano transcription performed by Kempff himself in 1975.

“Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ” (BWV 639) : Choralvorspiel in
f-moll of the “Orgelbüchlein” (BWV 599-644)

Johann Sebastian Bach composed the church cantataIch ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (I call to You, Lord Jesus Christ),BWV 177. He wrote the chorale cantata in Leipzig for the fourth Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 6 July 1732. The cantata text is formed by the unchanged five stanzas of Johann Agricola‘s hymn.

History and words

Bach composed the cantata in Leipzig as late as 1732 in order to complete his second annual cycle of chorale cantatas of 1724/25, which lacked a cantata for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity because that Sunday had been the Feast of Visitation in 1725, celebrated then by Meine Seel erhebt den Herren, BWV 10.

The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the Epistle to the Romans, “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God” (Romans 8:18–23), and from the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Luke: the admonition to “be merciful”, “judge not” (Luke 6:36–42).

The cantata text is formed by the unchanged five stanzas of Johann Agricola‘s chorale (ca. 1530), a main hymn for the Sunday, used also in Bach’s cantata Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe, BWV 185, written in Weimar. In Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott, BWV 129, also composed to complete the second annual cycle of chorale cantatas, Bach also used the unchanged words of the chorale, different from the cantatas originally composed for the cycle.

Bach first performed the cantata on 6 July 1732.

Scoring and structure

The cantata in five movement is scored for three soloists (soprano, alto and tenor), a four-part choir, two oboes, two oboes da caccia, two violins, viola, basso continuo, an obbligato violin and an obbligato bassoon.

  1. Chorus: Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ
  2. Versus 2 (alto): Ich bitt noch mehr, o Herre Gott
  3. Versus 3 (soprano): Verleih, daß ich aus Herzensgrund
  4. Versus 4 (tenor): Laß mich kein Lust noch Furcht von dir
  5. Versus 5 (chorale): Ich lieg im Streit und widerstreb


Similar to most chorale cantatas, the opening chorus is a chorale fantasia, presenting the chorale line by line, the cantus firmus here sung by the soprano. Most of the lines are preceded by entries of the other voices in imitation of motifs independent of the chorale melody. In line 6 the imitation motive is taken from the chorale. In the two last lines 8 and 9 the lower voices enter together with the soprano. The vocal structure is embedded in a concerto of solo violin and two oboes which play the cantus firmus colla parte with the soprano, strings and continuo.

The three arias for the following verses show increasing instrumental complexity. Verse 2 is accompanied by continuo only, verse 3 by oboe da caccia, verse 4 by the rare combination of violin and bassoon. The musicologist Julian Mincham observes a “journey from uncertainty and doubt to warmth and acceptance and finally to rejoicing and jubilation”.

In the finale chorale Bach used ornamentation for expressiveness.

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J.S. Bach

J. S. Bach Air on the G String Piano solo arr. BWV 1068 with sheet music

J. S. Bach Air on the G String Piano solo arrangement from BWV 1068 with sheet music

bach free sheet music & scores pdf download

“Air on the G String”

“Air on the G String”, also known as “Air for G String” and “Celebrated Air”, is August Wilhelmj’s 1871 arrangement of the second movement of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068.

The arrangement differs from the original in that the part of the first violins is transposed down so that it can be played entirely on a violin’s lowest string, i.e., the G string. It is played by a single violin (instead of by the first violins as a group).

Bach’s original

Bach’s third Orchestral Suite in D major, composed in the first half of the 18th century, has an “Air” as second movement, following its French overture opening movement. The suite is composed for three trumpets, timpani, two oboes, strings (two violin parts and a viola part), and basso continuo. In the second movement of the suite however only the strings and the continuo play. This is the only movement of the suite where all other instruments are silent.

The music of the “Air” is written on four staves, for first and second violins, viola(s), and continuo. The interweaving melody lines of the high strings contrast with the pronounced rhythmic drive in the bass.

In 1871, violinist August Wilhelmj arranged the second movement of Bach’s third Orchestral Suite for violin and an accompaniment of strings, piano or organ (harmonium). On the score he wrote auf der G-Saite (on the G string) above the staff for the solo violin, which gave the arrangement its nickname.

Wilhelmj’s arrangement

In Wilhelmj’s version the piece is transposed down from its original key (D major) to C major. Then the part of the first violins is transposed further down an octave and given to a solo violin that can play the entire melody on its lowest string, the G string. The dynamic markings added by Wilhelmj are more in line with a romantic interpretation than with the baroque original.

As a violin can’t play very loudly in its lowest register, all the other parts of Bach’s music were firmly reduced in Wilhelmj’s version: the keyboard part is to be played staccato and pianissimo, causing the effects of interweaving melodies and of drive in the bass part to get lost. The accompanying violins and violas play muted (con sordino), and the bass part for cellos and double basses is to be played pizzicato and sempre pianissimo, with the same change in effect compared to Bach’s original.

Later, a spurious story circulated that the melody was always intended to be played on the G string alone. The solo violin part of Wilhelmj’s arrangement is sometimes played on the counter-tenor violoncello.

As a result of the popularity of the piece, on the G string remained in the name of various arrangements whether or not a string instrument playing on its G string was involved. Most of these versions have in common that the original melody of the first violins is played in the low register of a solo instrument, accompanied by a reduction of the material of the other parts of Bach’s piece, although occasionally versions that stay more in line with Bach’s original can go by the same name.

In a period that stretched over three decades, and started in 1905, Henry Wood regularly programmed Wilhelmj’s arrangement at the London Proms. Wood recorded his orchestral rendering (i.e., the G string part performed by a group of violins) of the Bach/Wilhelmj “Air” in the early 1930s.

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