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APPROACHING PIAZZOLLA’S MUSIC: an analysis of his music and composition styles (2)
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Milonga del ángel
As for Soledad, Milonga del ángel has the milonga rhythm as a basis more or less throughout the entire piece. Except for the middle section, the primary melody is repeatedly presented.
Consequently, the element that is processed is not the melody; instead, it is of more interest to study the contexts of which the melody is placed.
The articulations between the sections are characterised by a continuous flow, and there is no dominant chord that prepare for their arrival; however, the sections are still smoothly merged.
The first primary section (P) establishes the harmonic environment and presents the primary melody twice. Furthermore, the secondary section (S) starts with modulating sequences and then continues with a part that is reminiscent of P. The last section is more or less a recurrence of the first section, although with a more refined environment. As with Soledad, it is possible to read the large scale structure as an ABA structure. In fact, these two milongas are rather similar in large and middle scales respectively.
In the introduction (O), the motivic chord gesture that opens every subsection, except for T and 2T, is presented. Letting this gesture end the O subsection smoothly merges the O and P subsections; thus, the subsections overlap each other.
The changes of key areas between subsections enter without fifth motions in the bass line. Instead, the changes are characterized by ascending chromatic motion. Either it is only the melody that is moving, or it is both the melody and the bass line. The bass line’s gesture is probably derived from the arrastre gesture and therefore I define this kind of key change for as ‘change of key area by arrastre’.
With a single bar gesture as basis, the primary melody is present almost the entire piece through. While preparing for the melody’s arrival by establishing an atmosphere, the introduction also presents a motivic gesture that is frequently recurrent throughout the piece.
In P and P2, the same process continues, though in different keys, and in P1 and P3 it is slightly accustomed. Remains of the primary melody is also to be found in the S(P) subsection. Just like in Soledad, there is a large amount of ‘jazzy’ II-V-I chord progressions in minor mode; altered fifths and ninths are used frequently. Except for T and 2T, the bass line is pending, moving in fifths or moving in descending motion. In the following illustration, notice how the usage of reinterpretation of the chord in bar four (C#7b9/B to E13b9no1/B) enables an immediate transfer to Am.
Just as in Libertango, the melody is moving in triads when the bass line is pending; it seems like the melody is active when the bass line is passive, and the melody is passive when the bass line is active. As the illustration shows, the melody is a descending motion from the second to the fifth note in the scale. Linked together with an arppegio, the structural motive (D B A G F#) is presented at the beginning and at the end.
Unlike the other subsections, T is a more rhythmical passage where two tresillo rhythms and the mordent rhythm confront each other in sequences. P1 and S(P) may be smoothly merged without T though, especially since they end with the same note. Perhaps it is not satisfying defining this passage as a transition; hence, it might rather be defined as an excursion or as sequenced tonicizations (to make it more graphically, I have excluded the chords in the illustration).
The similiarities between Soledad and Milonga del ángel are quite recognisable: e.g. the ‘jazzy’ chords; frequent mordents; accompaniment gestures; lyrical melody; and naturally the milonga rhythm that saturates them. A major disparity though, is the way the change of key areas are realised; in Soledad by descending chromatic motion with pedal, and in Milonga del ángel by ascending chromatic motion. In the latter case though, the gesture is implemented just before the new key arrives; in the former case, there is a preparation that lasts for several bars and it is not that clear where the new key enters.
Just as Soledad, Milonga del ángel has an ABA-structure and with the milonga rhythm as basis it is characterised by long note values, ‘jazzy’ chord progressions and change of key area by arrastre. Throughout the piece, the primary melody is located in different environments regarding harmony, tempo and instrumentation.
Fuga y misterio
In the same manner as for Fugata, I prefer to analyse Fuga y misterio as three sections: fugue exposition; middle section with melody and accompaniment; and a closing coda-section, which differs from the first two sections.
Covering half the piece, the first section (P) is a fugue exposition in four parts, which through a large-scale fifth motion changes key from E-minor to G-minor.
The secondary section (S) presents a contrasting theme that is accompanied by a chord progression that is derived from the fugue theme. Leading back to the primary theme, this section reveals the chord progression that has been hinted in the exposition. The last section (K) is a slow cantabile passage where a new melody theme is presented. While the fugue exposition (P) has a polyphonic texture, the other sections have a texture of ‘melody and accompaniment’. Though every section is in minor, the two first sections are a little ‘edgier’ due to the augmented fourth (or the jazz blue note) that is exposed already from the beginning. The large-scale structure can be read as an ABC-structure.
In the fugue exposition, which is characterized by a rhythmical contrapuntal texture, there are strong accented rhythms. Short note values are predominating. Just as in Fugata, the most frequent surface rhythm of the fugue theme is tresillo 1. The key change between these subsections is realized by transforming the tonic chord into a dominant (e.g Em E7 Am).
Thus, unlike the exposition in Fugata, there is no preparation of the new dominant. In the following illustration, notice how the last bar of the fugue theme is a diminished variation of the two first bars.
Reaching G-minor, the exposition is accomplished and the key of the secondary subsections (Em) is introduced without preparation; the only gesture that indicates E-minor is an ascending diatonic bass line (B C# D#). With the marcato base as a basis, the secondary subsection presents a contrasting melody that is characterized by mordents and harmonic intervals such as the diminished 10th and the added 11th, which serves as top notes in chords.
The last secondary subsection is a recurrence of the fugue theme, presented in a homophonic environment though. As pointed out earlier, the last subsection (K) is a cantabile passage that differs quite a lot from the other passages. It is slower, have longer note values, and it is the first time in the piece that there is a descending bass line in crotchets present.
The fugue exposition is rather similar to the one in Fugata, especially regarding the treatment of gestures, counterpoint and change of key areas; it is rather clear to see Piazzolla’s influences from the inventions of Bach. Notice also how the usage of instrumental rubato automatically implies that tresillo rhythms are accented.
The melody has typically stepwise motion or motion as skips, which reaches chord notes.
Similar to Fugata, this applies to all fugue parts. The most common intervals in parallel motion are thirds and sixths. In contrast to Fugata’s chord progression, which is based on a descending bass line, the chord progression in Fuga y misterio is instead based on II-V-I progressions. With a cycle of fifth as a basis, the II-V-I sequences implies tonicization; Bm-E7-Am Am-D7-G instead of E7-Am-D7-G.72 The first subsection of S is a more homophonic passage where the secondary melody is harmonized with block technique.
As pointed out earlier, the chord progressions are rather similar to the progressions in the exposition’s first eight bars, though with altered chords similar to the ‘jazzy’ one’s used in Soledad and Milonga del ángel. In the first four bars, which are rather static due to its harmony based on primary chords, the low notes in the bass line is reached through octave leaps. This implies an accentuation that enhances the static state. As in e.g. Fuga, there are also several percussive gestures produced by dissonant chords.
Due to its different style regarding tempo, harmony and melody, the last subsection has a completely different character. The most significant characteristics are the descending bass line and the 9-8 appoggiaturas that are exposed in the melody. Implemented as sequences, the chord progression is rather similar to the one that is to be found in the primary subsection of Soledad.
The very last bars are a descending chromatic gesture presented by diminished seventh chords, though with the tonic pedal as bass note. Ending with a B7b9 (without root note though), these last four bars functions as codetta. The gesture may be regarded as a T-DD-s progression, which is similar to the motivic chord gesture in Libertango.
Fuga y misterio has a structure similar to the one found in Fugata: A fugue exposition as a start; melody and accompaniment in the middle; and a closing section that is rather different than the other two. There is no key change between sections (but the key changes within sections though), and the harmony is characterized by chord progressions with primary chords and fifth motions by tonicization sequences.
This chapter will give emphasize techniques and musical events that are, in a general perspective, mutual to the compositions that have been analysed. As suggested of LaRue, I have chosen to categorise the characteristics of Piazzolla’s music that I have found into four categories: harmony; melody; rhythm; and structure (I prefer using structure as a category instead of growth). The sketches and the tables are not exact rules of how Piazzolla’s music functions; they are rather to regard as suggestions how to relate to his composition style.
The change of key areas may be categorised into two main categories: maintaining the key or entering a new key. As pointed out in chapter 1.5, LaRue defines this as ornamental modulation and structural modulation respectively. The techniques, which are to be found in both categories above, I define as ‘tonicization’ and ‘descending chromatics with pedal’. Thus, they are used for both purposes. The following illustration shows my suggestion on how to regard the tonicization technique.
The latter one is concerning the relation between a descending chromatic motion and its pedal accompaniment in the end of subsection. Unlike the tonicization technique, this procedure does not include any intermediate tonic states; there is either no change of key area at all, or the passage has the aim to modulate. It seems like when a new key is going to be established the pedal is fading out before the new dominant chord (this is not the case in the K-section of Fugata though). When the key is maintained the pedal keeps on going, and it seems like it frequently has a role of a dominant. In its simplicity, it may be illustrated as follows:
Additionally, Piazzolla also changes key without preparation by implementing the arrastre gesture74 (as described in Milonga del ángel). As pointed out in Soledad, two techniques are sometimes combined. There are three characteristics regarding melody that I want to point out. The first one I define as ‘ostinato gestures’, which are rhythmical patterns based on tresillo rhythm 4 and 7.
Frequently subordinated the main melody though, they contribute to the melodic tension by exposing characteristic intervals (e.g chord notes like b9, #5 and 13).
The second one, which describes the relation between the top voice and the bass line, I have chosen to define as ‘uniform ambitus’. It seems like when the bass line is pending, the top voice has a more active role; it moves in arpeggios and repeatedly presents an immanent chord progression. Consequently, when the bass line is more active the melody’s ambitus decreases.
The third characteristic regarding melody is the melodic motion. Applicable in small dimensions, when descending, the melody tends to have a stepwise, often chromatic, motion.
Furthermore, when ascending it tends to move in leaps or in arpeggios; consequently, there are also neighbor notes implicated.
Two common large-scale structures that the analysed pieces share are the ABA-structure and the ABC-structure; ABA in the milongas, and ABC in the fugues.
As pointed out earlier, Piazzolla freely uses the tresillo rhythm and its shifts. In addition to the original rhythm, which is the most common, it seems like the second, the fourth and the seventh shift are the most common rhythms that are based on the tresillo. Particularly clear in Fugata, the tresillo rhythm is also to be found in large-scale patterns. In this piece, the tresillo rhythm is carefully distributed which makes the ABC-structure mathematically equal to 3:3:2.
Jazz instrumentalists who “play the changes” have learned to make improvisation look easy. In live performance, the audience shouldn’t see the years of study and practice behind what Willie Thomas calls at Jazz Everyone, “a system that combines the basic jazz language with the important music theory concepts” and at the same time “allows a player to focus on how the music fits the tune and not the chord symbols and scales that often incumber performance.”
That may seem like a wordy explanation, but Thomas is careful to explicate the cliché “play the changes” for maximum meaning, drawing on over forty years of experience himself learning the principle as a “useful tool for self expression through jazz music.” The idea of playing to the tune may seem fundamentally obvious, but the more one develops as a student, the farther away one can get from lived experience.
How might musicians apply ideals about ensemble playing to actual ensemble playing? For answers to this question, we might turn to jazz legend Chick Corea, member of Miles Davis’s band during the pathbreaking In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew sessions; player in and leader of more Grammy-winning ensembles than perhaps anyone else (he’s collected 23 awards so far); and “one of the jazz world’s most thoughtful and lucid champions.”
This description comes from a Christian Science Monitor write-up of Corea’s appearance in a two-hour Q&A session at Berklee College of Music in 1985, where the pianist and jazz fusion keyboard master had students pick up the typed handout above at the door. He begins with the simplest, but most important advice, “Play only what you hear,” then elaborates in 16 rules which you can read in full below.
Corea’s primary metaphor is architectural—performance, he says, is about creating spaces and tastefully filling them. Doing this well requires serious study and practice. Then it requires remembering some basic rules, or Chick Corea’s “Cheap But Good Advice for Playing Music in a Group.” My favorite: “always release whatever tension you create.” Like much of you we find here, it’s good all-around advice for every endeavor.
A typewritten handout was provided to students and faculty of the Berklee College of Music for a performance and Q&A by the legendary pianist/keyboardist Chick Corea, on April 22, 1985.
Corea told an “energetic and musically sophisticated crowd of aspiring jazz and rock musicians” that what matters most in their own musical pursuits is knowing the “certainty of what you like, and how that fits into things,” according to a review article of the same date in the Christian Science Monitor, dateline BOSTON.
“We have the freedom,” he explains, “the inalienable right to do things as [we] see fit, to do them artistically, musically.” Technique, he insists, is not the most important matter: “You all know how to get a technique together — you just get it together.” The crucial thing, he explains, is to “decide what technique to get together, and when.” — from Rushworth M. Kidder, staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor (April 22, 1985).
The full list of “cheap but good advice” is as follows:
1. Play only what you hear.
2. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.
3. Don’t let your fingers and limbs wander — place them intentionally.
4. Don’t improvise on endlessly — play something with intention, develop it or not, but then end off, take a break.
5. Leave space — create space — intentionally create places where you don’t play.
6. Make your sound blend. Listen to your sound and adjust it to the rest of the band and the room.
7. If you play more than one instrument at a time — like a drum kit or multiple keyboards — make sure that they are balanced with one another.
8. Don’t make any of your music mechanically or just through patterns of habit. Create each sound, phrase, and piece with choice — deliberately.
9. Guide your choice of what to play by what you like-not by what someone else will think.
10. Use contrast and balance the elements: high/low, fast/slow, loud/soft, tense/relaxed, dense/sparse.
11. Play to make the other musicians sound good. Play things that will make the overall music sound good.
12. Play with a relaxed body. Always release whatever tension you create.
13. Create space — begin, develop, and end phrases with intention.
14. Never beat or pound your instrument — play it easily and gracefully.
15. Create space — then place something in it.
16. Use mimicry sparsely — mostly create phrases that contrast with and develop the phrases of the other players.
Chick Corea: A Work in Progress… On being a Musician (Ed. 2002-2014)
Personal Policies as a Musician
I spend as much time and effort as is needed to get the musical product being envisioned, no matter what the barriers or the inconvenience. I don’t stop until I’ve got it.
Though I may become interested in the viewpoints and opinions of others regarding my music, I always rely on my own viewpoint, tastes and judgment to determine how I should present myself, what I should create and how I should communicate.
I never compromise with the music I’ve decided I want to make or the communication I really want to deliver.
I consider others’ opinions of my music as a kind of survey and use this as “secondary” information to help me better understand my audience and their responses.
I never blame the audience or make them wrong for their response to my music and my performance. I grant them the right to be how they want to be and respond how they want to respond as an audience.
At the same time, I never compromise with the message I want to deliver to an audience and always grant myself the right to deliver it the way I see it. I try to work out how I can better reach audiences without altering my basic musical intent.
I’ve observed that what is enjoyable music to one person may not be enjoyable music to another. I use this understanding dealing with the infinite variety of people’s artistic opinions and tastes.
I ensure that the audience’s applause and praise of any one performance doesn’t invite me to slacken of the preparation or delivery of the next performance.
I evaluate all musical performance based first on the quality of its effect on the listener (myself and others) and secondarily, and much less importantly, on the techniques used.
I always use the highest level of ethics and honesty in dealing with the people with whom I work in the music business and the management of music, realizing that performances of music just don’t happen without being organized and managed into existence with the competence and sincerity of these good managers.
I try to make agreements (whether with other musicians or music business administrators and managers) that result in myself and the other person happy with what we agreed to.
I try to apply the level of quality and care I give to my music to all other aspects of my life.
If there’s a doubt about how to deal with other musicians or businesspeople, I stop and consider how I would like to be dealt with if I were in their position, and deal with them that way.
When playing with other musicians, I attempt to always do things that complement and enhance their playing.
When working with other musicians, I always try to find and make good use of their musical and performance strengths.
I try to keep my instruments, recording equipment, and other music tools in good repair and in good order. I make a place for each thing and put things back in their place after I’m through using them or finished with that particular project.
In fulfilling a commitment, whether a concert performance, a composition, or an interview with the press, I try to give even more than was expected.
I never forget those that helped me along the way – musically and otherwise – because I feel that no success I’ve ever had was accomplished without teamwork, help and support from others.
I try to take good care of my physical health – getting good nutrition and enough sleep so that I can be at my best.
Chick Corea 6 June 88 (revised 2 Aug. 93) (again on 8 Mar. 98) (and again 10 May 13, adding 19) to the list) from his book “A work in progress”.
For over five decades, Chick Corea has inspired and delighted legions of fans and musical disciples. Like his former employer Miles Davis, he can’t be pigeonholed. Chick’s musical endeavors span from Mozart to Monk. Any musical situation Corea participates in contains a strong, immediately identifiable creative core. I can say from my personal experience playing piano duets with him that his energy and openness are contagious and inspiring. The following concepts are just the tip of the iceberg, but if you incorporate them into your own playing, you’ll be channeling Chick’s core.
Pentatonics and Quartal Voicings
Ex. 1a illustrates five-note scales that Chick often incorporates into many of his right hand lines. The quartal (fourth-based) left-hand structures are signature chords that compliment the pentatonic scales.
Ex. 1b demonstrates how Chick sometimes anchors his quartal voicings with those constructed from roots and fifths.
Ex. 1c is a right-hand pentatonic-based line with a signature Corea stamp: the grace note.
Ex. 1d puts all these components into action. Check out Chick’s album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs for more examples.
Ex. 2a illustrates how Chick’s accompanying is so compelling that it can work as solo piano. Again, notice his frequent use of quartal voicings.
In Ex. 2b, Chick uses diminished structures, built from second inversion triads in the right hand over quartal voicings in the left.
Ex. 2c uses quartal structures underneath right major triads. Many of these comping techniques can be heard on Chick’s arresting album Three Quartets.
Single Note Lines
In Ex. 3a, Chick uses a melodic line in the tradition of Bebop pioneer Bud Powell (a major influence), distributed between two hands, and at lightning speed. Ex. 3b demonstrates how Chick often thinks of each finger percussively, like a drummer.
Notice how distributing these patterns between the right and left hands lets you execute them fluidly.
Ex. 3c again shows how Chick divides melodic and rhythmic statements between both hands. Weaving lines throughout both the black and white keys makes them sound more chromatic and less tied to specific chord changes. Check out Chick’s Akoustic Band and Elektric Band albums for more riveting right-hand lines.
The Maj7#5 Chord
Chick was one of the first musicians to use the six-note augmented scale, as well as one of the first to play the major seventh chord with a sharp fifth. Demonstrated in Ex. 4, this dissonant sonority can be heard on recordings from his avant-garde period, such as those with the band Circle.
Another signature Corea sound is his extensive use of “slash” (or compound) chords, shown here in Ex. 5. F/F# is a diminished sound, E/Eb is a Spanishtinged. Gb/C is half- diminished. Db/A is, once again, a maj7#5 chord, and Gb/Ab is a dominant seventh with a suspended fourth. Corea often played such slash chords with his group Return To Forever.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years since the revolutionary jazzpianist Bill Evans left us at the all too young age of 51. Evans was, and still is, among the most influential jazz pianists of the past sixty years. His effect on modern jazz piano was so profound, he actually influenced pianists whose fame both followed his own (Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, and Brad Mehldau), and preceded it (Teddy Wilson, George Shearing, and Oscar Peterson).
On both sides of this generational divide, pianists who heard Bill Evans altered their own playing as a result. There’s no doubt that had Bill survived to his 81st birthday, he would have added many more ways to this “how to play like” list. He left it to us to add to such lists ourselves. That’s what he wanted, after all.
Left-Hand Rootless Voicings
Bill Evans single-handedly changed the sound of jazz piano—literally, with his left hand! His four-note, rootless chord voicings consist of guide tones (thirds and sevenths), along with chord tones, color tones, extensions, and/or alterations. These compact voicings also have inherently smooth voice leading.
Ex. 1a is a II-V-I progression in the key of C. Play these voicings with your right hand while playing the roots with your left to get used to the root movement. Then play them with your left hand alone. To practice, transpose up in half steps to the key of F. This position is often referred to as the “A-form.”
Ex. 1b shows the “B-form” of these voicings, and covers the keys of F# major through B major. These use the same notes as the A-form, but in a different configuration.
In Ex. 1c, we see the A-form of rootless voicings for a ii-V-i progression in minor. Notice the altered dominant voicings are the same as the unaltered dominant voicings: a tritone (or raised fourth) away, in the opposite form.
And in Ex. 1d, we see how to construct the B-form of rootless voicings for a ii-V-i in minor.
Evans’ lyrical right-hand lines often ended up in the higher reaches of the keyboard as a result of the position of his left-hand voicings.
Ex. 2aillustrates how Bill often used the notes from his left-hand voicings in his right-hand lines. Here is a signature lick of his over a II-V-I progression in C minor.
In Ex. 2b, we see his trademark scale tone and chromatic triad usage. Notice the triad pair of Eb major and Db major over the G7 altered (#9b13) chord. These triads are scale tone triads of the G altered scale (or Ab melodic minor). The E major triad is a chromatic triad. The triads over the Cmin6 chord are all scale tone triads taken from the C melodic minor scale.
Harmonic and Rhythmic Devices
Evans was a master of both harmonic and rhythmic innovation.
Ex. 3a is a series of ii-V progressions. By adding dominant seventh chromatic approach chords, Evans could enhance and expand a common harmonic progression. Note his trademark, subtle use of the grace note of the fifth going to the #5 (or b13) in the Bb7chord. His left-hand accompaniment often created a counter-melody to the right hand, and kept things moving.
Note how in Ex. 3b, Evans takes a typical II-V-III-VI turnaround progression and changes the V chord to a #II diminished chord. This subtle alteration creates unexpected harmonic interest.
Inner Voice Movement
Evans’ introspective style gave rise to frequent inner voice movement, which infused a contrapuntal component into his playing.
Ex. 4a illustrates a favorite Evans device for a minor chord. Here we see the inner voice movement of the fifth: 5, #5, 6, b6, and 5. His use of intervallic minor thirds ascending chromatically in the right hand let him play over any harmonic movement without playing the actual chord changes.
Ex. 4b shows inner voice movement within a ii-V-I progression. Evans was also one of the first jazz pianists to incorporate strings of sixteenth-notes interspersed with sixteenth-note triplets.
Locked Hands Technique
Evans often jokingly referred to himself as “king of the locked hands.” This technique, first developed by pianists like Nat “King” Cole and George Shearing, utilized four-way close chord voicings with the top note doubled down an octave. Bill modernized these fourway close structures by taking the note second from the top and dropping it an octave. This became known as a “drop two” voicing.
Ex. 5 illustrates this difficult but effective technique to harmonize melodies. Notice more triplets in the right hand (this time quarter- note triplets), a signature Evans rhythm.
KEITH JARRETT IS ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL JAZZ PIANISTS AND improvisers in the history of modern music. Emerging from his predecessors and influences (including Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, and Cecil Taylor), Jarrett forged a style that’s immediately identifiable to this day.
Long flowing lines and a prodigious technique are just two of his trademarks, as is a style that’s at once precise and loose, tonal and atonal, reserved and explosive. These dichotomies have come to define his playing, which appears in formats from acclaimed solo concerts and jazz trios to classical fare and beyond. Sprinkle some of Keith’s inspired musical magic into your own playing with these exercises.
Ex. 1. Right Hand Lines Keith’s
Keith’s single-note right hand lines are probably his best-known trademark. This Keith-inspired melodic line is built over the first eight measures of “Rhythm Changes,” a jazz staple in turn built on the chords of George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm.” Jarrett’s own bebop-derived language is seen here in what I call “neo-bop,” which employs eight-note bebop scales, chromatic approach notes, upper and lower neighbor tones, as well as diatonic and chromatic passing tones.
The left hand voicings also demonstrate Keith’s frequent use of dominant seventh sus4 chords in place of minor chords. Note that Keith sometimes lets his left hand crawl like a spider, using common tones between chords. Tip: Play the right hand alone at a fast clip to capture more of Keith’s sound in these lines.
Ex. 2. Country, Gospel, and Reggae
Keith fashioned a funky rhythmic style that at times seems to cunningly combine these three musical genres. This passage leans in the reggae and Gospel directions, with a nod towards country. Note the sixteenth-note triplets before the last chord. The left hand octaves and four-note voiced chords are other essential components of this sound.
Ex. 3. Polyphony
Keith can improvise poignant contrapuntal and polyphonic vignettes, evidencing his time spent playing the music of Bach and other Baroque composers. Ex. 3a has a Baroque flavor with modern harmonies, inner voice movements, and unusual cadences and resolutions.
Ex. 3b highlights Keith’s atonal explorations, which often erupt in dissonant and free sounding flurries. Keith’s immersion in 20th-century classical composers such as Bartok, Berg, Schoenberg, Hindemith, and Webern has informed his approach to this type of improvisation.
Ex. 4. Ostinatos and Vamps
Keith often employs a simple left hand repeated figure (known as an ostinato or vamp), while using his right hand to explore rhythms and tonalities that may or may not coincide with it. This takes a great deal of hand independence. Here, the right hand remains scalar and diatonic, over the left hand ostinato.
The use of eighth-note triplets is a Jarrett hallmark as well. The left hand remains anchored on F, which can be seen as a pedal point, another one of Keith’s trademark devices. These ostinatos and vamps are sometimes used as intros or endings, while other times they stand as pieces on their own.
Ex. 5. Endings
Unlike many jazz musicians who end solos and tunes with dramatic flourishes of arpeggios and big chords, Keith often takes a minimalistic approach to many of his endings. This type of progression shown here is usually found at the end of standards, which ends quietly on the root of the I chord without fanfare. It’s not a staccato ending, but rather a soft landing, which sounds only as long as the given eighth-note value indicates.
The left hand rootless fragments are typical Jarrett sonorities, as is the added chromatic II-V of F#min7 to B7. This surprising ending has a drama all its own—just like all of Keith Jarrett’s music!
Oscar Peterson was the first pianist I ever heard. His combination of musical ideas and confidence inspired me with its deft marriage of drive, swing, and precise execution. Peterson’s blend of bebop and blues has always carried an uplifting message for me as a listener, even long before I ever analyzed his playing theoretically. The harmonic colors he developed range from lyrical to big band-like block chord passages, so I’ve tried to profile a wide range of them here.
Let’s take some exercises, young Jazz pianists!
Ex. 1. Block Chords
Peterson’s frequent use of block chords always reminded me of the sound of a big band sax section. He often uses seventh, ninth, and especially sixth chords in his right hand, with the top voice doubled in the left hand.
Practice tip: Try playing block chords in every possible inversion to complement the melodic idea at hand.
Ex. 2. Blues
This is a 12-bar blues form in the key of Eb containing left hand bass notes Peterson often used in solo piano performances, and right-hand lines which can be used in a variety of harmonic situations in different keys. Also note the flatted fifth, a key point of tension and release in Peterson’s playing.
Ex. 3. The II-V-I Progression
Peterson always has a way of presenting potent ideas over ii-V-I chord progressions. Many of his phrasings remind me of how a comedian can deliver a powerful punch line at just the right time. Here, we illustrate a few such ii-V-I devices.
Ex. 4. Octave Unisons
This demonstrates Peterson’s trademark unison octave style over a series of dominant chords. These phrasings can be used as single-line runs over chord changes stated in any appropriate situation. Pay special attention to Peterson’s impeccable sense of time, creating musical resolution at the right moment.
Ex. 5. Stride Piano
Here’s another fervent force in Peterson’s music. He uses stride devices often, playing the root on the first beat and the chord on the second beat, or alternating roots and fifths as bass tones and chords on the second and fourth beat, respectively. He also uses the broken tenth in his left hand (breaking up the normally combined stride interval of a tenth) with his right hand soloing over it.
00:41:39 Oh Dey’s so Fresh and Fine 00:42:32 I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’ 00:48:53 Medley: The Man I Love / Tenderly / Imagination / I’ll Never Be the Same / Stardust 01:01:54 I’ll Remember April 01:05:59 It Happened in Monterey 01:08:55 Love for Sale
The Solo Sessions, Vol. 1 is an album by jazz pianist Bill Evans, released in 1989.
Evans recorded The Solo Sessions, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 at the same session, on January 10, 1963, and the tracks were originally released as part of Bill Evans: The Complete Riverside Recordings in 1984.
On January 10, 1963, for his final contracted studio date for Riverside Records, Bill Evans made an abortive attempt at recording a purely solo album. The resulting material was ultimately not sanctioned for release, becoming commercially available only after Evans’ death in 1980. Leaving aside any analysis of the reasons behind the decision to shelve the session, the recorded material itself is an extended document of Evans’ solo pianistic facture during what was at the time a transitional point in his career.
Although Evans had included a number of solo tracks on his earlier trio albums New Jazz Conceptions (1956) and Everybody Digs Bill Evans (1958), and four tracks exist from another earlier abortive attempt to record a solo album in April 1962, the 85 minutes of music from The Solo Sessions provide the most comprehensive opportunity both to examine his approach at that time to solo realization (in general, and across a single recording date), and to define the various factural characteristics of his early solo style.
Additionally, as much of Evans’ selection of material for these sessions comprises the mix of standards and contemporary popular songs typical of his repertoire base, with several of these numbers subsequently re-recorded in trio or solo contexts over the following decade, these recordings also form a benchmark in charting the progress of his solo style, before its consolidation with the Alone album at the end of the 1960s.
Evans’ biographers have also recognized the significance of this session within his discography. In Pettinger’s interpretation, it is an opportunity to view the ‘artist’s workshop, to survey the tools of his trade, piles of sketches, scattered maquettes. Everything has a raw, unfinished aspect and there is much craziness besides’. Although more dismissive of the session from both a technical and aesthetic standpoint, Shadwick declares that ‘this set of recordings is fascinating to fellow pianists or students anxious to penetrate the Evans process of creation’.
In order to contextualize the process, from which Evans’ pianistic facture is created, it is necessary to examine a number of salient stylistic features prevalent throughout the recordings that comprise The Solo Sessions, in which various physical considerations in performance often play a generative or influential role.
There are two elements, which perhaps exert the most fundamental influence upon Evans’ pianistic facture – a theoretical one, arising from the principles of voice-leading in fifth-based harmonic movement, and a physical one, stemming directly from the flexibility Evans was able to demonstrate by possessing a very wide handspan. This physical capacity is particularly exploited to the full in his solo work, enabling him to utilize an open-voiced and resonant style of harmonic scoring, incorporating stretches in the left hand up to an eleventh and regularly inclusive of an inner note, usually the seventh.
Connecting these two elements together is Evans’ decision to consistently maintain the root of a given harmony as an anchoring presence, creating a characteristic harmonic texture present throughout all of his solo recordings during this period.
For these left-hand chord shapes, Evans overwhelmingly utilizes a standard triadic structure of tonic, third (or tenth) and seventh, featuring fifth-based root movement in the lowest voice, coupled with stepwise movement (inclusive of suspensions) in the upper two voices. Indebted to the physical stretch obtainable from his hands, this can be considered as Evans’ standard realization of movement through the cycle of fifths, and is also approached with a standard pattern of fingering. Ex.1 presents a short ii-V-I turnaround from ‘All The Things You Are’, as one example amongst many, to illustrate this characteristic texture:
Ex.1. ‘All The Things You Are’, bars 75 – 78 (2:24 – 2:29).
In progressions not based around the cycle, these left-hand triadic structures are often simply transposed as required, maintaining a harmonic foundation built around the parallel motion of root position sevenths. When moving by step, especially within the context of a harmonized (and especially chromatically) ascending or descending bassline, they may also appear as an inverted passing chord within a progression, a role explaining many appearances of localized inverted harmony within Evans’ solo style.
Regardless of harmonic functionality, this kind of rigid shifting of a chord shape emphasizes in turn the physical parameter behind Evans’ progressions, where the automatic physical placement of the hand and harmonic voicings arising from the hand position itself exercise an influential (or even determinant) effect on the resulting facture. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the level of physical ‘automaticism’ in respect to facture, a theoretical framework behind the progressions is often strictly maintained, demonstrating Evans’ intellectual discipline in respect to the consistency of voice leading and harmonic structures at points where material is transposed en bloc.
This can be shown in a segment of ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’, in which the same left-hand voicings from the first four bars (bars 117 – 120) are retained for the sequential transposition a tone higher, commencing in the fifth bar (bar 121), working to consolidate the phrase structure here during the harmonic modulation concurrently in progress.
Ex.2. ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’, bars 117 – 125 (2:57 – 3:09).
These theoretical foundations to the harmony are at their most exposed within left-hand accompaniments to a solo line, where often sparser textures and varying distances in tessitura between line and accompaniment tend to highlight the motion of the underlying chords.
However, the extent of Evans’ absorption of these chord shapes as a basis for constructing much of the overall texture found in The Solo Sessions is also demonstrated in instances where texture is influenced by the stylistic considerations of particular songs, or where the harmonic scoring is more fragmented or divided in various ways between the hands. For ballads in slow tempo and in other more lyrical settings, Evans often utilises a standard pianistic texture involving simple arpeggiations of the left-hand chord structures, which is then balanced by a harmonisation of the melodic line within the right hand. An archetypal example is offered in the second section of the head from ‘What Kind of Fool Am I (Take 2)’.
Although the desire to unambiguously establish the background harmony usually results in directing the motion of the arpeggio upwards from the root note, the presence of arpeggiated left-hand chord shapes within the texture is made less apparent by regularly shifting the root note onto and off the beat, an effect supported in conjunction with the rhythmic profile and particular doublings of harmonic pitches found in the right hand. Within the right hand itself, the thumb reveals its standard role in Evans’ facture as an anchor for sustaining or emphasising selected pitches beneath the melodic line, as well as (in this case) for also providing localised octave reinforcement.
Ex.3. ‘What Kind Of Fool Am I? (Take 2)’, bars 20 – 30 (0:54 – 1:23).
A second context demonstrating the way in which these standard left-hand chord shapes are integrated concerns Evans’ perhaps most commonly used texture during statements of the head, or within other sections where the elaboration of the melodic line requires more extended harmonic support. Excepting instances of doubling, Evans habitually situates the melody exclusively in the highest voice; the harmonisation meanwhile is often divided between both hands working in close proximity, usually homophonically, with the lower fingers of the right hand allocated to voicing extended harmonic pitches (focused particularly around the ninth) and at times also the upper note from the standard left-hand triadic progressions outlined above.
The head of the Gershwin song ‘Love Is Here To Stay’ shows one effective realisation of this kind of texture. Its extensive fifth-based root movement fits neatly within the corresponding natural framework of Evans’ harmonic preferences, while short phrase lengths finished with sustained notes in the melody allow for the motion of inner parts at these points to be brought to the foreground. In the right hand, the second and third fingers have a dynamic function through voicing chromatic passing figurations, in which suspensions are stated and resolved, while the thumb is regularly anchored in its complementary sustaining role. This method of dividing up the fingers according to a specific pre-determined functionality can again be described as typical of Evans’ approach to facture in its combination of theoretical and physical considerations.
Ex.4. ‘Love Is Here To Stay’, bars 1 – 16 (0:00 – 0:29).
Evans’ realisation of this Gershwin song is notable for the way in which variations in texture are used structurally to clearly delineate the form as it unfolds. A further example (see Ex.5 below) from the second solo section of the song, corresponding to the recommencement of the 32-bar form, again utilises simple arpeggiations to help disguise the standard harmonic scoring, but is now presented as a texture homophonically unified with the right hand. The employment of fixed hand positions is again pivotal in this texture, with the motion of the right hand dyads in particular almost ‘resolving’ ultimately onto a natural hand shape anchored on each occasion by the thumb.
This example also contains a number of Evans’ almost routine textural signatures, already well-established in his earlier solo work, and encountered often throughout The Solo Sessions. These include a three or four-part texture of close position inverted chords, progressing in common similar motion or in oblique motion with the inner parts and often prolonging a central harmony using neighbour chord figurations (see bar 76 in Ex.5), and the arpeggiation of a more extended harmony, usually centred on a ninth chord, within the span of one hand position and scored as two 7th chords at the distance of a tenth between the hands, as found here stating a Gm9 across bars 70-71 (2:05 – 2:07). This last textural signature is a device that by this point in Evans’ improvisatory style had become almost ‘automicized’ as a standard (if not clichéd) prolongation technique.
Ex.5. ‘Love Is Here To Stay’, bars 64 – 77 (1:54 – 2:18).
A similar mix of theoretical and physical principles guides the construction of Evans’ solo lines. As a general rule, elaborations within the line at a given point can often be reduced back to identify one particular harmonic note as a localized focus. The background voice-leading that connects these ‘focus notes’ together is often readily apparent and creates an implied four-part texture in combination with the triadic harmony in the left hand. Although by no means quantifiable as a list of mannerisms, there are certain tendencies within Evans’ method of solo elaboration around these focus notes, in which particular melodic shapes (and by extension hand shapes) play an integral role.
In Ex.6 below, from ‘Ornithology’, a number of standard characteristics within Evans’ solo elaborations are stated in succession. Over the first two bars, the focus note ‘D’ in the right hand is emphasized through repetition within a number of chromatic and ornamental neighbor figures. The fleeting broken chord in the third beat of the second bar (right hand) works to re-anchor the hand position after this material by engaging the thumb at a point (F4) beneath the solo line. This is a standard and fundamental technique within Evans’ right-hand linear elaborations, where an exterior note, usually taken by the thumb (and thus operating below the tessitura of the main line, creating at times the effect of an otherwise implied additional harmonic voice), is used to interrupt the momentum of scalic (especially chromatic) motion, and has a tendency to steer the overall direction of a line downwards.
This same procedure can be seen at the end of bar 131 in Ex.6, with the same figure again stated in transposition a tone lower during the penultimate bar. Octave transference of a pitch is also common and is often connected in conjunction with an arpeggiation of the current harmony (or its extension), observable in this case within the third (C5 down to C4) and fourth (A4 up to A5) bars of Ex.6. In the third bar, downwards transference of the focus note C leads the solo line to interact with both the harmonic schemata and textural layer of the left hand.
This manner of interaction between the hands is a feature often exploited within Evans’ solo sections, reinforcing the cohesion between solo and accompanimental layers while providing points of structural punctuation both within the flow of the solo line and through variation of the overall textural width.
The figuration of the fourth and fifth bars in the example display other standard improvisatory figures from Evans’ catalog, especially well-suited for improvisation within a rapid tempo – groups of four-note arpeggios spanning a seventh chord within one hand position, often preceded by an ornamental chromatic inflection, followed in this example by ornamental crushed notes (bars 130 – 131), a colorist gesture again dominated by the physical process of shifting hand position and movement down through the fingers towards the thumb (and as a common gesture of Evans’ style, overwhelmingly in descending motion to the given goal note, further emphasizing the thumb’s dominant role). Bars 133 – 134 again demonstrate octave transference via the automatized use of an ascending embellished four-note arpeggio, in effect a transposition of bar 129 a tone lower.
Many of these characteristic solo elaborations can also be observed in a second example, a segment from ‘What Kind of Fool Am I (Take 2)’. The above-mentioned technique of re-anchoring the hand position by allocating a lower exterior note to the thumb is easily identifiable at the end of the third bar of Ex.7, as is its function to disrupt the movement of the chromatic line (from Eb5 down to C5) in bar 130. The example again illustrates the various methods employed for the prolongation of particular structural pitches in the right hand through use of octave transference and neighbor-note ornamentation, in this instance for the focus note ‘F’, which is structurally central throughout the example and functions as a pivot note for the modulation occurring roughly halfway through, as the initial note of both bar 129 and bar 130.
The directed gradual descent of the solo line leads into another instance of textural interaction between the hands, where the final punctuating Ab of the right hand (bar 133) links directly into the following left-hand harmony, which is then further stated an octave higher within the right hand as a means of resuming the solo line (end of bar 134).
Ex.7. ‘What Kind Of Fool Am I? (Take 2)’, bars 122 – 134 (4:25 – 4:47).
The allocation of particular functions to particular fingers is a concept also transferable to the various roles fulfilled by the left hand. Within its harmonic role, in which the outer notes (particularly the root note usually given to the fifth finger) have limited possibilities for manipulation, the second and third fingers are again able to carry localized figuration, granting some degree of flexibility to the inner voice.
Often, these figuration have a purely ornamental or colorist function, and are usually restricted to stepwise movement towards or alternation between the seventh, sixth and dominant degrees, as can be seen in the first two examples of Ex.8 (in bar 41):
Ex.8a. ‘Autumn in New York’, bars 39 – 44 (0:59 – 1:07).
‘Ornithology’, bars 162 – 164 (3:22 – 3:26).
At instances in which the outer voices of the left hand are sustained over longer periods, the reduction in harmonic rhythm may enable the inner voice to operate more structurally in counterpoint with another voice (usually the solo line), in this case expanding the fifth/seventh transference into an inner chromatic line:
Within its context of supplying the harmonic foundation, the left hand may also utilise individual fingers to highlight various pitches through restatement within a sustained chord, usually as a means to interact rhythmically with the material in the right hand. In an extract from ‘Ornithology’, under a chromatically oscillating pattern of broken thirds in the right hand, various combinations of individual pitches from a sustained chord or of a full chord itself within the underlying triadic harmony are re-stated with a slight rhythmic delay against the dominant triplet rhythm.
This rhythmic delay between one hand in relation to the other is a particularly common and idiosyncratic feature of Evans’ performing style throughout The Solo Sessions, and indeed, his solo style in general. At times when the texture is reduced to a single line (or in the context that Evans presents it, doubled at the octave between the hands), rhythmic discrepancies between the hands are particularly telling in this respect. Appearing more often in the left hand, rhythmic delay is especially prominent during accompaniment passages in which the degree of (rhythmic) interplay between the hands is accentuated.
While naturally affecting the overall feel of Evans’ playing, it also works in a subtle way to vary and to augment the apparent textural density. Within a solo performance context, away from the opportunities for rhythmic interaction with an ensemble and the ongoing additional dimension that other instruments provide, perhaps Evans felt the need to construct a role for the left hand, in which its special rhythmic profile and the ghosting of individual notes function as a substitute for these missing instrumental roles. Its prominence in solo sections may then function also as a means to compensate for the reduction of texture in the right hand to a single line. As such, it would represent another important element of the specific facture, characterizing Evans’ solo style from the period of The Solo Sessions.
1. All the Things You Are [0:00] 2. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town [9:10] 3. I Loves You Porgy [13:41] 4. What Kind of Fool Am I? [Take 2] [19:34] 5. Love is Here to Stay [26:23] 6. Ornithology [30:25] 7. Medley: Autumn in New York/How About You? [36:00]
“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 Broadwaymusical 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.
The best of Gershwin
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
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:
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:
6parti 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’).
8parti 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.