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Bach Books

General Discussions - Part 2

 

 

Continue from Part 1

Good books about basic musicianship

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 9, 2004):
Re a recent discussion, Donald Satz wrote: < This reminds me of meetings at my former place of work - they kept going on and on and on. How many different ways can you folks say the same thing? Nobody is budging, nobody is going to win,(...) >
Sure, there can be winners! It will be the people who learn more about Bach's music by reading a terrific and comprehensive book about music, written by a guy (Quantz) who knew and respected him.

It was one of the required textbooks for a music history course I took in 1990, and our whole class certainly found it valuable. Two of the other texts for that course were scores of the Brandenburgs and St Matthew Passion (BWV 244). Our class assignments were to try out ideas we learned from Quantz, and from dozens of other books and articles from the library, analyzing and demonstrating how they could be used directly in the Brandenburgs and SMP (et al). All a very stimulating discussion, led by one of the most scholarly performers I've ever had the privilege to meet. In class sessions we sang and played through this stuff, and we wrote papers about the way such information from written sources can be applied to pieces we were working on for other music lessons. A stimulating blend of analysis, research, and practice. The professor and the material challenged all of us in so many ways...really a life-changing course. We learned that we should take nothing for granted from a musical score, from our own habits, but seek out every clue (from composers and the people around them) that could tell us how the music should go; a course in the ways to read scores the way those people meant them to be read.

What I don't understand are the vehement assertions of some here who are afraid even to look at such a book as Quantz's. What harm could it do anyone to read a book, to entertain some musical possibilities? Is information that poisonous? I can understand people being afraid to read Salman Rushdie or something, I guess, but a music book? The broadening of one's own musical horizons? Horrors!

=====

Here's another excellent book about thinking like a performer and composer; a book that I've only become acquainted with in the past few months: Casals and the Art of Interpretation by David Blum. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?isbn=0520040325
It's about Pablo Casals' extraordinary musicianship, and the way it touched all the music he chose to play and conduct. And the "Casals and Bach" chapter closely analyzes why his performances of Bach have been so compelling for a hundred years: excellent insight into gestural performance methods, focused on musical content, bringing out musical details clearly. (Does anybody dispute that Casals was a master of this clarity, whether one likes the surface of his style or not?!) The rest of the book is about rhythm, perception, articulation, melodic projection, dynamics, and so much more: the total package of crafting an intense and beautiful performance. Getting inside the music, with the deepest and most fundamental respect for it: that's what it's all about.

"Casals would be the last to want us to regard his insights into Bach as being rigid formulae. They were the expression of his questing spirit; the revelation of a voyage of discovery which he began alone at the age of thirteen; the ecstatic consequence of his having dared to trust to his feelings." (p163)

Blum has put this book together from the extant Casals recordings, and from his own notes attending masterclasses and orchestral rehearsals, working with Casals in the 1950s and 1960s. It's all about musicianship: letting the music come across with the best strength and clarity that it can have, so the listeners can "get" it as directly and immediately as possible.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 10, 2004):
Brad Lehman stated: >>What I don't understand are the vehement assertions of some here who are afraid even to look at such a book as Quantz's. What harm could it do anyone to read a book, to entertain some musical possibilities? Is information that poisonous? I can understand people being afraid to read Salman Rushdie or something, I guess, but a music book? The broadening of one's own musical horizons? Horrors!<<
No, there is no prohibition suggested here against reading Quantz’s book, or even that about Casals and his art of interpretation to find out what he might have to say about basic musicianship. It is typical for Brad to express such things in extreme terms with perhaps the hope that others will be confused about the differences between basic musicianship on the one hand and stylistic concerns on the other. At the time when Casals made most of his recordings there was not any special emphasis on ‘authenticity.’ All that mattered was creating a moving performance of Bach’s music. Those were the ‘good old days’ when I became acquainted, for instance, with the 2nd Brandenburg played on a soprano sax and transverse flute, instruments that no longer bring me the same listening pleasure. Just being able to hear this marvelous music and follow along with a score were wonderful, unforgettable experiences of my youth.

To avoid wooden, thoughtless, emotionless performances of Bach’s music today on modern instruments, musicians should be encouraged to read what Casals has to say, and better yet, listen to his performances of Bach’s solo cello suites, which were for Casals his daily bread. There is something very special there that anyone interested in Bach should make an effort to hear. Call it pure musicianship that comes directly from the heart and soul of an individual who has lived with this music over many years. For quite a few years, Casals’ recordings of BWV 1007-1012, were my sole acquaintance with this music and they were worthwhile listening experiences that I have never regretted.

The assertion by Brad that I have to take issue with is:
>> It will be the people who learn more about Bach's music by reading a terrific and comprehensive book about music, written by a guy (Quantz) who knew and respected him [J. S. Bach].<<
Here Brad confuses general musicianship with reliable, factual musicological knowledge that presumes to indicate more specifically how Bach is to be performed. It is Brad who refuses to accept the detailed research efforts by other musicologists, efforts which clearly delineate where Quantz’s limitations lie: he represents primarily the ‘galant’ style of performance, a style which, at the most, played only a peripheral role in Bach’s compositions and performances. Brad has trouble accepting that a professor who set up a project for his students, one in which he allows his students to confuse or conflate the ‘galant’ stylistic ideas which Quantz primarily represents in his book when it comes to a discussion of stylistic details of performance with those of J. S. Bach who represents an earlier, now (1752 – Quantz’s ‘Versuch’) passé mode of composition/performance. This same type of confused thinking also allows Brad, and a few others from whom he learned this, to include C. P. E. Bach as a similarly powerful, supposedly reliable reference which supposedly supplies a direct description of all that J. S. Bach ever wanted to hear in the performances of his music.

Fritz Bose (MGG): >>Seine [Quantz’] Ausführungen zur allgemeinen Aufführungs-Praxis jedoch gelten für die gesamte europäische Musik des Spätbarocks und Rokokos… Als bedeutendste Instrumental-Schule des 18. Jahrhunderts neben denen von C. Ph. E. Bach und Leopold Mozart ist Quantz' ‚Versuch’ eine der wichtigsten Quellen für die Musik und die Musikanschauung des deutschen Rokokos.<<
[Quantz’s exposition/explanations of common performance practices are valid however for all European music of the Late Baroque and Rococo…As the most imporinstructional book regarding the playing of instruments in the 18th century, along with those by C. P. E. Bach and Leopold Mozart, Quantz’s ‘Versuch’ is one of the most important resources for the music and musical views of the German Rococo.

German Rococo is essentially the same as ‘galant’ style as can be seen in Ernst Laaff’s statement defining this term in the MGG:
>>Es handelt sich hier um das musikalische Rokoko, den galanten Stil, dessen distanzierte Abgezirkeltheit nach der Jh.-Mitte in ein empfindsames Stadium tritt, durch eine größere Seelenhaftigkeit erwärmt und schließlich im Sturm und Drang zu einer Gefühlsrevolution gesteigert wird. Die Grundforderung, die der galante Stil erhebt und wodurch er sich vom Barock absetzt, ist in der Kritik J. A. Scheibes (1738) an J. S. Bach niedergelegt.<<
[„What is under discussion here is musical form of the Rococo, the ‚galant’ style, the somewhat removed (abstract) elaborate thoughts of which moved on into a stage of “Empfindsamkeit” [see below], and was given greater warmth through a greater ‘soulfulness’ and final reached its culmination in the ‘Sturm und Drang’ [‘Storm and Stress’.] The basic demand which the ‘galant’ style makes and through which it distinguishes itself from the Baroque is documented in J. A. Scheibe’s criticism (1738) of J. S. Bach.”]

Continuing with Bose’s MGG article on Quantz:
>>Nur 40 von 334 Seiten behandeln Probleme der Querflöte und ihres Spieles, der Rest beschäftigt sich mit allgemeinen Fragen des musikalischen Geschmacks, der musikalischen Bildung und der Aufführungs-Praxis. Quantz' Anschauungen entsprechen der Musikästhetik des galanten Stils…<<
[„Only 40 of the 334 pages [of Quantz’s ‚Versuch’] treat the problems concerning the transverse flute and the playing of this instrument, the rest of the book is concerned with general questions of musical taste, musical education and performance practices. Quantz’s views represent/correspond to the musical aesthetics of the ‘galant’ style…”]

>>With their [Quantz’s Berlin sonatas] emphasis on simple melodic writing and on thematic variety, their renunciation of contrapuntal complexities while still maintaining a melodic bass line and their frequent use of appoggiaturas and trills, these works show Quantz’s mastery of the ‘galant’ style.<< Edward R. Reilly and Andreas Giger in the New Grove (Oxford University Press, 2003.)

Here is a good definition of ‚Empfindsamkeit’ in music [referred to above] as defined by Daniel Heartz and Bruce Alan Brown in the New Grove (Oxford University Press, 2003):
>>A musical aesthetic associated with north Germany during the middle of the 18th century, and embodied in what was called the ‘Empfindsamer Stil’. Its aims were to achieve an intimate, sensitive and subjective expression; gentle tears of melancholy were one of its most desired responses. The term is usually translated as ‘sensibility’ (in the 18th-century or Jane Austen sense, which derives from the French ‘sensibilité’). ‘Sentimental’ is another translation, sanctioned by Lessing when rendering Sterne’s ‘Sentimental Journey’ as ‘Empfindsame Reise.’ One modern scholar, W.S. Newman, gives ‘ultrasensitive’ as an English equivalent.

German ‘Empfindsamkeit’ was part of a wider European literary and aesthetic phenomenon, largely British in origin (e.g. Shaftesbury’s cult of feeling, and Richardson’s novel ‘Pamela,’ 1741), which posited immediacy of emotional response as a surer guide than intellect to proper moral behaviour. C.P.E. Bach (henceforth called simply Bach), who was close to Lessing and other progressive literary figures, best embodied the ideals of ‘Empfindsamkeit’ with respect to music. In his ‘Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen’ (1753) he stated that music’s main aims were to touch the heart and move the affections; to do this he specified that it was necessary to play from the soul (‘aus der Seele’). The style of music he chose was often indistinguishable from the international idiom of finely nuanced, periodic melody, supported by light-textured accompaniment: it was a reaction to the ‘strict’ or ‘learned’ style and elsewhere was apt to go under the name ‘galant’.<<

Here we can now add to Quantz’s ‘Versuch’ C.P.E. Bach’s own ‘Versuch’ as well to the growing list of works that emphasize the ‘galant’ stylistic aspects and stand against the ‘strict’ or ‘learned’ style generally upheld by his father, J. S. Bach. It becomes quite obvious to the reader with a keen, inquiring mind which is free from any confused university indoctrination that may have taken place (as in the past few decades in courses designed at US universities to provide a sound basis for ascertaining and promulgating Bach’s performance practices) that a confusing misconception has arisen that J. S. Bach’s music and its performance can be identified and resurrected by applying the theoretical writings of Quantz and C. P. E. Bach. Performing J. S. Bach’s music in the style of Quantz and C.P.E. Bach, or as described in their theoretical writings, is the equivalent to performing Mozart’s music in the style of Beethoven or even of Schumann. Can it be done this way by confusing the styles (a kind of ‘cross-over’ like Glenn Gould’s infamous cadenza in a concerto by a famous composer, a cadenza that stands out because it is so unlike all the music which surrounds it?) Yes, of course. It’s very different and will definitely stand out this way, but is it the best possible, most authentic way to perform the composer’s music with the intentions of the composer in mind? I think not. Others like Brad will disagree, and perhaps quite adamantly and vociferously, but it is a matter that demands careful consideration on the part of a listener. Should we be able to listen to performances and recordings of Bach played on Moog synthesizers or even medieval instruments? Sure, why not? Will we then possibly hear things in Bach’s music that we have never heard before? Yes. Will it take good musicianship to perform in all these various styles, or even in just a few of them? Yes, this is also true. However, if musicians are going to maintain that they are coming as close as possible to rendering Bach’s intentions, they will have to allow themselves to undergo the objective scrutiny of listeners who continue to educate themselves by reading the musicological sources of the period very carefully, by reading the secondary sources and summaries as contained in reference books and musical dictionaries, and by attempting to come to a true understanding of the manner in which these may be accessed and properly applied.

From everything that I have read thus far, it appears that some musicians (perhaps even learned professors) misunderstand the historical significance of certain sources such as those primarily described as belonging to the ‘galant’ style. These are the sources (Quantz, C.P.E. Bach, etc.) which have been improperly used in order to determine how Bach’s music should be performed today in the ‘historically informed’ manner.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (February 10, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < No, there is no prohibition suggested here against reading Quantz’s book >
Why not just read it then and decide what you think, rather than going to such convoluted lengths to find reasons and justifications for not reading it?!!

Neil Halliday wrote (February 10, 2004):
Gabriel wrote: "Why not just read it then and decide what you think".
Still, it seems to be be evident that the world of Quantz has little relation to the world of JSB's fugues, cantatas and orchestral music.


Need recommendation on a book...

Vincent wrote (March 3, 2004):
Can anyone recommend me a book which collects short reviews or historical context of all (or most) of Bach works? Similar book like "The Compleat Mozart" by Zaslaw?

Thank you.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 3, 2004):
[To Vincent] The old Bach Reader which collected many primary documents has just been reedited as The New BAch Reader. Looks wonderful.
Link: http://www.wwnorton.com/catalog/fall99/bachreader.htm

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 3, 2004):
[Douiglas Cowling] Yes, it is well done. There are more than 100 new documents in it since the old one; these are listed in the Preface. And many parts have been retranslated.

Sample pages, and the table of contents, are at: http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0393319563

Some of my earlier comments about this book, looking into some of the
other changes from the earlier edition:
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/11829
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/11817


Bach by the Book

Anil Sahal wrote (September 13, 2004):
I've read a few accounts of J S Bach's life,'A New Bach Reader' being my current read. But I was wondering if anyone could recommend a good biography? I'd like to know and Bach as a person as well as a musician, anecdotes, even myths.

Any suggestions?

Warm Regards

Dr Anil Sahal
Lecturer in Neuroscience
Department of Psychology
University of Sheffield
Western Bank
Sheffield

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 13, 2004):
[To Anil Sahal] The classic Spitta set has a huge amount of information and back-story about his influences; recommended.

John Pike wrote (September 14, 2004):
[To Anil Sahal] "JS Bach, The Learned Musician", Christoph Wolff, pub. OxfordUP.

Anil Sahal wrote (September 14, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Brad, I'm unfamiliar with that. Do you know the full title?

Roy Johansen wrote (September 14, 2004):
[To Anil Sahal] The full title is simply "Johann Sebastian Bach", and it's published in three volumes by Dover Publications. (See link below.)
Johann Sebastian Bach by Spitta from Dove

Dover also publishes Albert Schweitzer's two-volume biography entitled "J.S. Bach", and focusses more, perhaps, on the music, rather than the person, than Spitta's biography.
J.S. Bach by Schweitzer from Diver

Both of these biographies were, of course, written long before Schmieder's Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (BWV), so identifying works might be a bit trickier than with post-1950 biographies, but they still remain the works upon which all later biographies rely.

Of the newer works, in addition to Wolff's book that John already mentioned, Wolff also published "Bach - Essays on His Life and Music", and then there's Malcolm Boyd's "Bach", which I really like.

For those of you who read German, I would like to mention two small volumes I picked up in Germany on a vacation there about five years ago:

"Über Bach", published by Philipp Reclam jun. of Stuttgart, and which is an anthology of writings on Bach by people like Mattheson, Telemann, Marpurg, C.P.E Bach, Forkel, Goethe, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Wagner, Nietzsche (!), Brahms, Debussy, Hesse, Hindemith, Furtwängler, Menuhin, Harnoncourt, and more.

The second one is called "Bachstätten - Ein Reiseführer zu Johann Sebastian Bach", published by Insel Verlag. It is really a nice little book, describing the places and towns Bach visited during his lifetime. It also lists phone numbers and opening hours for Bach-related churches and museums.

Hope this helps,

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 14, 2004):
Anil Sahal wrote: < Brad, I'm unfamiliar with that. Do you know the full title? >
I've been working from the 3-volume set (total about 1800 pages) "Johann Sebastian Bach: His Work and Influence on the Music of Germany, 1685-1750" by Philipp Spitta (1841-94), translated by Clara Bell and J A Fuller-Maitland. The (re)publisher of the set was London/Novello and New York/Dover, 1951.

Obviously this to be read in conjunction with more up-to-date sources as well: the 1966 Bach Reader, the 1998 New Bach Reader (which includes the Forkel biography as well), Wolff's Learned Musician (2000), the NBA's Bach-Dokumente (1963+), and others.

And, also obviously, the chronology of the music has been revised considerably, especially within the past 50 years; that's why I have the 1998 edition of BWV (Bach Werke Verzeichnis: "small edition" about 490 pages, costs about 60 Euros) surveying most of the current understanding (through 1997) of dating and authenticity. The NBA has continued to issue volumes, recently, of the more marginalized pieces where BWV is therefore slightly out of date; but a BWV revision is also in the works. It's easy enough, reading along through Spitta, to have the corresponding page open in the BWV to see what's happened in each piece's historiography in the past 120 years.

But, with the Spitta I especially appreciate the way he really looked at the music and allowed himself to make some qualitative musical judgments about it (not only JSB's, but that of others of the family also), where later biographers tend more to gloss over all that and give us names, dates, etc devoid of really musical context. We care about Bach not only because he was a smart and interesting guy with a bunch of difficult jobs, but because his music is so wonderful.

I haven't read Peter Williams' recent The Life of Bach yet.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0521533740

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 14, 2004):
< But, with the Spitta I especially appreciate the way he really looked at the music and allowed himself to make some qualitative musical judgments about it (not only JSB's, but that of others of the family also), where later biographers tend more to gloss over all that and give us names, dates, etc devoid of really musical context. We care about Bach not only because he was a smart and interesting guy with a bunch of difficult jobs, but because his music is so wonderful. >
I should add: another good recent book that goes nicely into musical quality is Malcolm Boyd's Bach (in the Master Musicians Series), 1983/97. Boyd alternates narrative chapters about the various phases of Bach's career with chapters analyzing the music: a good approach to keep such things in perspective.

Uri Golomb wrote (September 15, 2004):
I agree with Brad's comments on Spiitta: (http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/15138). I should add, however, that Spitta is not useful for those wanting an overview of Bach's life. At three volumes, and over 1,500 pages, it probably includes just about everything that was known about Bach at the end of the 19th-century (much of it discovered by Spitta himself), plus detailed analyses of most of Bach's music. It is not best-suited for reading in sequence; but, with a detailed table of contents and index, you can easily explore Spitta's view of any particualr work by Bach, or Bach's contribution to a specific genre, ot a particular period in Bach's life. This book really should be on every Bach lover's shelf; but if you are looking for an overview of Bach's life and personality, look elsewhere.

In any case, it's probably a good idea to have more than one Bach biography. Among recent biographies, Christoph Wolff's The Learned Musician is probably the best known. It is very detailed and readable, but it has been crticised for (among other things) presenting an uncritical portrait of Bach and of his society. I have yet to read the whole book, but from the parts of it I have read, it seems that there must be some truth to this.Two books that are both shorter and more "critical" than the Wolff are Martin Geck's Bach (London: Haus Publishing; translated from German) adn Peter Williams The Life of Bach (http://titles.cambridge.org/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521533740). The latter is especially careful to sift verifiable facts, dubious facts and myths. Williams is more willing than most to admit when a biograhpical question simply cannot be settled, one way or another: the evidence is often incomplete and/or contradictory, and in such cases Williams quite openly presents several viable explanations without adjudicating between them. This obviously makes for less exciting reading than a striaght narrative, but it does give the text added credibility. Williams takes, as the starting-point, the first biography of Bach (the 1754 obituary by C. P. E. Bach and Agricola), though ever aware that that documents too has its problems. Williams himself writes in the introduction:

"Because of the sparse documentation, authors of Bach biographies have often chosen to earmark their books with a subtitle, 'Bach the musician-poet' [Schweitzer] or 'Bach the culmination of an era' [Geiringer] or 'Bach the learned musician' [Wolff], interpreting the life adn works accordingly. But any such subtitlte is likely to both unremittingly reverential and inclined to anachronism. Perhaps a realistic approach to his occasional weaknesses can be quite as instructive, particuarly when one points to music in which art seems to take second place to artifice. Bach biographers could usefully probe these weaknesses more than they usually do, not least because their subject may have had his own ideas as to what constitutes 'wakness'."

Both he and Geck combine discussion of Bach's personality with discussion of his music -- especially his attitude towards (and realisation of) the various styles he was familiar with, and aesthetic debates at his time. Geck might be the more "readable" of the two. This has to do not only with Geck's style, but also with the book's format, which contains various sideline comments -- defining terms, giving short biographies of persons mentioned in the main text, or isolating specific points of interest -- and illustrations, which give some visual flavour of Bach's world (the places he worked at, his colleagues and family -- and himself, his manuscripts, his instruments, etc.). The loss is that Geck does commit himself firmly to hypotheses, whereas Williams is more forthright about the problematic nature of the evidence, and of the role of myth-making (beginning as early as the 1754 obituary itself) in our perception of Bach's life and music.

I must stress that I have not yet read either of these books in their entirety; but I feel I can recommend both on the basis of reading substantial parts of them.

Uri Golomb wrote (September 15, 2004):
An addendum to my previous message: it took me quite a while to assemble all three volumes of the Spitta biography. Living in the UK, I had to buy two from amazon.uk and one from amazon.com. Even the most recent re-print -- the Dover paperback, which I now have -- is not as easily available as it should be.

Details of Geck's book can be found on: http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1904341160.

Anil Sahal wrote (September 15, 2004):
I think I'll probably go for Christoph Wollf's book in the first instance and see if I need to know any more! 1500 pages seems a lot- just under 10 times bigger than my PhD thesis!

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 15, 2004):
< I think I'll probably go for Christoph Wollf's book in the first instance and see if I need to know any more! 1500 pages seems a lot- just under 10 times bigger than my PhD thesis! >
Malcolm Boyd's is a breezier read than Wolff's....

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (September 21, 2004):
Anil Sahal wrote: < I've read a few accounts of J S Bach's life,'A New Bach Reader' being my current read. But I was wondering if anyone could recommend a good biography? I'd like to know and Bach as a person as well as a musician, anecdotes, even myths.
Any suggestions? >
Bach: The Learned Musician by Christoph Wolff.


Interdisciplinary study of Bach's music - short version

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 21, 2004):
Short version, for people who would otherwise be easily bored by commentary:

These are some good books about Bach's music.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0028717821
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0521372399
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0691006865
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0570013291

Re interdisciplinary study of Bach's music - long version

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 21, 2004):
Longer version, for people who want to see background info:

Re musicology, handwriting analysis, and theology:

The Neue Bach-Ausgabe (NBA) draws its background from musicology (study of the music, and study of the history of music), and forensic document examination (study of the handwriting in the sources, to figure out who did it and when and in what sequence). The aim of that project is to assemble a definitive text of each composition, accompanied by a comprehensive critical report of the way they made the editorial decisions they did.

Additionally, scholars including Robert Marshall and John Butt have given us brilliantly reasoned studies from these two fields, making it clear to understand how early in a composition's gestation Bach added the slurs and dots, or how early he converted sketched notes into ornamental figurations (cramming a bunch of little notes into the space on the page where there was originally a bigger and simpler note). Fascinating stuff. It helps scholarly performers and performing scholars to understand the compositional thought processes behind the compositions, and therefore to hierarchize the notes appropriately (understanding their grammar and logic, as musical language). That is, it's part of the process taking every clue about the music with utmost seriousness.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0028717821
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0521372399

Another good one is Michael Marissen's interdisciplinary study of the Brandenburg Concertos:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0691006865

And surely some other members here have favorite books of systematic theology (not to be confused with theosophy) giving insight into, for example, Bach's music for the church? I've been reading some of the facsimile edition of Bach's personal copy of the Calov Bible Commentary, where Bach himself wrote notes into the margins. It's a fine philological project there by Robin Leaver, combining musicology and theology.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0570013291

There's a footnote in Marissen's book describing the process by which a researcher named Kusko verified that the underlinings in the Calov text are also by Bach himself. First there was a chemical analysis of the ink to match it up with the marginal commentary. Then it was confirmed that those marginal remarks themselves agree in handwriting characteristics with other existing examples from Bach's manuscripts. Nifty stuff, IMHO.

Personally, I consider that (at least) all seven of the classical "liberal arts" are valid fields of inquiry, and can be informative into one another. The Quadrivium is Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy. The Trivium is Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. All of those are systematic fields.


Books in libraries

George wrote (February 18, 2005):
I will soon have a book by Parrot in my personal library. It is extremely unlikely that this will convert me to an OVPP-ite. Nor do books I have by conservatives make me a Republican, nor do books I own by Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine make me Catholic. They are there because I become fascinated by a subject and buy the books to learn about it - or in some cases just intend to learn about it. I also have books that were gifts that I have never read at all.

Don't we often read about movements to learn about them even if we reject them a priori - and don't change our minds afterwards?

I should imagine that Bach, being an intelligent and thoughtful man, could have a book related to Rosicrucianism without it meaning anything at all.

Peter Smaill wrote (February 18, 2005):
[To George] If I have a book, does that make me a fully paid up subscriber? This is the question you pose a propos the fact that Bach had a large library of various theological texts.

I take your point. The Anglican Archbishop Laud, who was executed in part for having a Roman missal in is library, also had a Koran. "Does that make me a mussulman (=Muslim)! he protested to his captors (Laud in fact founded the chair of Arabic at Oxford ).

However, I did not actually say that Bach was a Rosicrucian ; please read carefully what is stated. We can at least assume he read the books in his library ; and that they may have conveyed some influence. All that is possible is to try to establish that he was in contact with certain mystical images which he set to music, to exceptional harmony in the case of the chorale verse in question, "Jesu deine Passion".

These images are part of a wide swathe of Christian tradition and to that extent I agree that we should not be very suprised at their use nor should we try to read more into them than the facts allow.

George wrote (February 18, 2005):
Peter Smaill wrote: >>> ... I take your point. The Anglican Archbishop Laud, who was executed in part for having a Roman missal in is library, also had a Koran. "Does that make me a mussulman (=Muslim)! He protested to his captors (Laud in fact founded the chair of Arabic at Oxford )... <<<
and I take your point:

Although I will probably not be persecuted for the copy of the Koran that I have in my own library (in 2005), it might be more meaningful for a 17th/18th century man to have certain books openly in his possession.

Eric Bergeud wrote (February 18, 2005):
[To Peter Smaill] Books are a very different matter today than they were 250 years ago. There were lending libraries of a sort in the 18th Century. Bach did hang out with University types at Leipzig and they had books. But the individual library was a rare bird. Books were beastly expensive considering the income of most individuals. As I recall, Jefferson's, of which he was so proud, had about 300 volumes. There was no Amazon in 1730 to put it mildly. So a purchase would have been something an individual would have thought about. In a world where some of your income came partially in the form of beer or wheat, there was little impulse buying.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (February 19, 2005):
[To Eric Bergerud] I need to correct something here. Thomas Jefferson was also a musician (he played the violin and he also said that "I can not live without books." His library, that also included a rather extensive collection of printed music, at it's largest consisted of about 10,000 books and the subject matter of them was very broad on just about every subject in English, French, Latin, Greek and some Spanish works including what was then and now a very controversial subject: sex--a book he gave to James Madison.

After the British burned the Library of Congress; Jefferson, in very dire financial straits, sold his library to the Nation for what amounted in todays money about 1 million dollars. He then began his third library. The sale did not save him. Jefferson got into such dire straits because he had very fine tastes and entertained well. No one left Monticello hungery who came to visit and all were very hospitably treated. In later years this got to be quiet a burden but inspite of this Jefferson was still ordering the finest French Wines by the Wagon loads and Books also came in by the Wagon loads. Jefferson had attempted viticulture at Monticello but phylloxera caused it to fail. Today the Jefferson Foundation has succeeded where Jefferson failed and Monticello Wine can be purchased there and in some cases shipped to a person's home. Jefferson died a pauper living among great wealth. Monticello was only saved because a Jewish Merchant family, the Levys, admired Jefferson, bought the house and kept it until 1920.

Today if you visit Monticello; you wonder where all these books were stepped as the present shelves of his library are stuffed full to the gills. The house is something of a disappointment for those who expect a grand mansion like one sees in France. The foyer does not let one down but the rest of the rooms are tiny boxy rooms for most part barely large enough to turn around in---one wonders how women managed to move about in such small spaces with the polonaise dresses and other such voluminous dresses of the period that they wore.

If you get the opportunity; do visit Monticello--the visit is well worth the trip up the Mountain but there is a fee to enter and ride the bus up the Mountain. The best time to visit to avoid the crowds is in the fall of the year before it gets very cold. Expect to stand in line to get into the house. Photos are not allowed inside the house but are allowed outside.

While Jefferson was in London; he bought a Harpsichord that is on display in the Music Salon. This instrument was played by Patsy Randolf. The Jefferson descendents still meet at the house but they have yet to fully recognize the children that Jefferson had with his slave: Sally Hemmings. This may have come about because he promised Mrs. Jefferson on her death bed that he would never marry again.

The libraries of the 18th century were owned by the Aristocrasy and those with the where with all to buy books. However, most people did have a Bible. Bach had access to the Libraries of his Patrons and the University Libraries as well as Monastic Institutions.

No less than Casanova, the noted libertine, was one of the great Librarians of the 18th century.

The modern Library as we know it had it's origins in the lending Library founded by Benjamin Franklin.

William Rowland, composer
owner of a 5000 volume and growing Library.

Eric Bergeud wrote (February 19, 2005):
William Rowland wrote: < I need to correct something here. Thomas Jefferson was also a musician (he played the violin and he also said that "I can not live without books." His library, that also included a rather extensive collection of printed music, at it's largest consisted of about 10,000 books and the subject matter of them was very broad on just about every subject in English, French, Latin, Greek and some Spanish works including what was then and now a very controversial subject: sex--a book he gave to James Madison.
The modern Library as we know it had it's origins in the lending Library founded by Benjamin Franklin.
William Rowland, composer
owner of a 5000 volume and growing Library. >
Mr. Rowland is one for two. The 300 book figure I gave for Jefferson may have referred to the number in his estate which had been seriously depleted of everything that could be easily sold because of terrible debt. In any case, I was wrong. In 1814 the government purchased 6,500 volumes from Jefferson for $23,000 - a goodly sum at the time - to replace the volumes of Library of Congress destroyed by the dastardly Redcoats.

Franklin's role in the public library is often misunderstood. He was indeed one of the pioneers of the "subscription" library in America - there were similiar institutions in Britain. The modern lending library that we would recognize developed much later, not until after the US Civil War. The public access library, however, was much older. They existed in antiquity. Access to monastic libraries to the literate was often very liberal. In the 16th Century various states got into the act. Mazarin was active in creating the French national library.

As for Germany? The town library predated Franklin by some time. The following comes from the Britannica:

"Elsewhere in Europe, the period of the Refoalso saw many of the contents of monastic libraries destroyed, especially in <article?tocId=9106260.htm>Germany and the northern countries. The Reformation leader <article?tocId=9108504.htm>Martin Luther, however, did himself passionately believe in the value of libraries, and in a letter of 1524 to all German towns he insisted that neither pains nor money should be spared in setting up libraries. As a consequence, many town libraries in Germany, including those at Hamburg (1529) and Augsburg (1537), date from this time. These, and the libraries of the newly created universities (such as those of Königsberg [now Kaliningrad, Russia], Jena, and Marburg), were partly, at any rate, built up on the basis of the old monastic collections. In Denmark, similarly, some books from the churches and monasteries were incorporated with the new university library, though many were destroyed."

In any case, my essential point remains. Books were expensive. Unless one was a public official like Samuel Pepys or Mazarin, or a very rich man, few people had libraries that would match the size found in any literate house today. (Quality may be a different story.) According to Calvin Stapert, who wrote an interesting book about the theology of Bach's cantatas, Bach's estate included 80 volumes. I think it's safe to say he didn't pick many up while waiting in line at the supermarket.

John Pike wrote (February 19, 2005):
[To George] After you have read Parrott's book, I strongly advise you to read Joshua Rifkin's book "Bach's Choral Ideal", (which I finished last night) which you can get direect from the publishers in Germany, although the book is written in English. It is really excellent. Although not converted to OVPP after Parrott's book, I am pretty close to it after reading Rifkin. Through a very careful and brilliant study of the Entwurff, he shows that previous translations were deeply flawed and that they could not possibly mean what the translators wanted them to mean. The whole book is extremely erudite and well written. His suggestion that Bach's choirs consisted of a roster from which the singers for a particular cantata (the line up) would be drawn is very convincing. He demonstrates that Bach's ideal roster was 8 soloists and 8 ripienists, but this did not mean that all the singers were used at the same time. He would select the best people for the task in hand. When he first came to Leipzig, he bowed to tradition and used ripienists, but this style quickly disappeared and, after the first few cantatas, ripienists were used very sparingly. His Choral ideal for most of the Leipzig cantatas, as for the pre-Leipzig ones, was probably OVPP. There is nothing dogmatic about Rifkin's statements, just a statement about what was most likely, given the overwhelming burden of evidence.

This is essential reading for anyone interested in this subject.

John Pike wrote (February 19, 2005):
[To Ludwig] Many thanks for this interesting e mail. I very much wanted to visit Monticello when we were in the US in October last year but it is a bit off the beaten track for tourists. For foreigners, you'll find it somewhere in the southern part of Virginia, I think.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (February 20, 2005):
[To George] The Anglican World body of Churches regards Laud today as a Saint and he has a feast day.

One must remember that this was a time of revolution in England. The Pope had refused Henry's request for a divorce so Henry divorced the Catholic Church in great hatred cursing the Pope and in the process his wives lost their heads and Henry became his own Pope. Roman Catholicsm was illegal throughout the British State and anyone caught celebrating mass could be burned at the stake or drawn and quartered or boiled in oil. Henry closed Monasteries and in general conducted a Maoist Culural Revolution destroying many a valuable Church Organ in the process. There was no justice system in the sense we know justice today. If I accuse then you are guilty because I say you are. Justice was meted out as revenge.

Elizabeth I then ruled and she continued the persecution of Catholics although in private she thought herself a Catholic. The Anglican Church today dates mostly from Elizabeth's time. Laud lived about this time and he gained enemies because he made sure that clergy were using the Book of Common Prayer instead of the Popish Missal and he dared go against the Monarch.

Elizabeth was followed by James, who probally was a homosexual but did his duty in giving England a male heir in overkill. James, who was responsible the KJV of the Bible, rode the fence with Parliament and firmed up the Anglican stance of being half Catholic and half Protestant.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (February 20, 2005):
Ludwig wrote: "Elizabeth I then ruled and she continued the persecution of Catholics although in private she thought herself a Catholic."
Elizabeth I did not then rule. Henry VIII was succeeded by his son Edward VI in 1547. He died in 1553 and was succeeded, for nine days (and against her will) by Lady Jane Grey, and Mary Tudor, his sister, was crowned in 1553. She was a Roman Catholic and England officially reverted to Catholicism and large numbers of Protestants were persecuted and executed. Her younger sister Elizabeth did not become Queen until 1558. Whether in private she thought herself a Catholic is debatable. She was not a Protestant radical like her brother, and initially her reign was one of relative religious tolerance. A harder anti-Catholic line was eventually forced on her - as she saw it - by political circumstances.

Ludwig wrote (February 20, 2005):
[To Gabriel Jackson] While you are technically correct about Lady Jane Grey et al, who also got the ax. Although you claim she acceeded against her will my English History tells me differently (or she was so accused thus guilty of grabbing the throne as a treasonous act), which was one of the reasons she was executed, so if I need to update and correct this I shall do so. Edward was probally poisoned with a slow acting poison such as lead or arsenic.

When Mary came to the throne; Parliament had enough of all the warring religious factions and enacted laws which forbade any English Monarch to be Catholic and that England was officially Protestant. About 1830, the religious questions were finally anwser in which Parliament enacted laws that permitted freedom of Religion. With this enacted; I do not know if this affected the right of the Sovereign to be of any other religion although she or he is nominally the Head of the Anglican Church which may prevent them from being of any other faith.

My point was brevity rather than write an epistle and in doing so skipped over the shorter period rulers which most historians consider not to have contributed much of anything or were important to the period.

One of the things that contributed heavily to the great Elizabethian age was that religion began to take second place to other matters. With focus now on these other matters ---the age of discovery began and there was time for literature and theatre.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (February 21, 2005):
Ludwig wrote: "When Mary came to the throne; Parliament had enough of all the warring religious factions and enacted laws which forbade any English Monarch to be Catholic and that England was officially Protestant."
Again, this is not true. Mary was a Catholic, for goodness' sake!

"My point was brevity rather than write an epistle and in doing so skipped over the shorter period rulers which most historians consider not to have contributed much of anything or were important to the period."
The idea that Edward VI and, particularly, Mary Tudor were not important and didn't contribute much of anything is odd, and that 'most historians' hold that view odder still.

Doug Cowling wrote (February 21, 2005):
Gabriel Jackson wrote: < The idea that Edward VI and, particularly, Mary Tudor were not important and didn't contribute much of anything is odd, and that 'most historians' hold that view odder still. >
Although Mary Tudor justly earned her sobriquet of "Bloody Mary", she was one of the greatest patrons of music ever to sion the English throne. Her patronage of Thomas Tallis, John Sheppard and Robert White produced incomparable artistic monuments.

In the study of composers, it is always a useful corrective to remember that the patrons of great music were often despicable persons. Even composers can be vile. The creation of the beautiful is no guaranty of virtue.



Continue on Part 3


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Last update: ýMay 4, 2005 ý09:14:11