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Bach & Other Influences
Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Bach's Italian influence [BeginnersBach]

Jack Botelho wrote (May 9, 2005):
With regard to the reference of a 'dumbing down' of on-line discussions concerning the music of JS Bach, it seems clear this 'dumbing down' is emanating from higher up in the Bach music 'establishment' generally than one at first might suppose. When one considers the concerto form, ritornello, sonata, oratorio, opera, cantata, recitative, aria, arioso, the violin (and viol) family of string instruments, basso continuo practice, indeed the very monodic idiom, the very foundation of baroque music, is wholly Italian in origin, (no, not French) and that Bach himself, placed in proper historical perspective, whose musical language is essentially a mix of Italian monodic forms with Netherlandish polyphony, chorale hymns and some pompous French overtures and dances, lived in a time when Lutheran church music and organ playing was in decline, that the German countryside, a playground for French imperialism, had been robbed of its former populations by wars, plunder, famine and disease, the new Italian style of music, resisted for decades by the absolutist French regime who fought to prevent its spread to the German-speaking lands, flooded north like a veritable fresh-water river of inspiration for German composers like Bach. Today, in an opposing trend, the present day critical edition of Bach works, the Neue Bach-Ausgabe, with its fastidious identification of works and notes considered spurious, serves as a kind of wholesale denuding of a composer's work from its wider musical context, more characteristic of our own age than Bach's own time, when the concept of creative originality was not what it is today. It is worthwhile to consider that without the Italians, eighteenth-century European music as we would know it would perhaps only consist, aside from courtly love songs, church and a vast array of folk music, of various forms of polyphony for marching wind bands, and Bach himself would probably be known only to music historians as an obscure figure confined to the organ lofts of various 18th century German towns, robbed even of his own beloved Bach fugue, whose structure is Vivaldian, as well as the very structure and form of his church cantatas. When most Bach listeners today seem to pay little heed to the concertos 'L'estro armonico' and their earlier predecessors, and the general Grove Dictionary (2001) entry on JS Bach by Emery/Wolff pays scant attention to Bach's musical influences, we are indeed living in a rather illusionary time for Bach musicology.

Why? To answer this question one must go back to the early days of Bach scholarship in the early 19th century, to JN Forkel, and to the large finds of Bach transcriptions and copies of works by Italians (and a small number of others). When it became clear in the mid-nineteenth century that Bach scholars were in danger of losing their indigenous hero composer away from the cause of nineteenth-century nationalist sentiment, the academics, in a desperate shift of tactics (birthing a mythology which continues to flourish on-line), played down these foreign influences in reaction, until we reach the situation today where one reads, for example, in some widely distributed notes to a recording of Bach harpsichord concertos that, to quote, "The Concerto for four harpsichords BWV 1065 is a special case in that Bach did not take one of his own works as a basis but, exceptionally, a work by Antonio Vivaldi". Rather, the harpsichord concertos based on original Bach works are the special case as there are a larger number of transcriptions of concertos for harpsichord by foreign composers extant known to have been worked by Bach himself.

Steven Foss wrote (May 25, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] Thank you for your explanation of the Politics of nationalism and the perception of Bach in the 19th century. It does appear that revisionist attempts to re write history are not solely a product of the late 20th century.

I was taught that Bach was the sum culmination of musical knowledge of his period, taking the northern European traditions of the Low Countries, the traditions of the many German states, the influences of the French Keyboard Music (both harpsichord and Organ) at the various Courts of his employ and the models of form and invention from the Italians, especially Vivaldi. He was indeed in complete mastery of his art.

Considering his Mass in B minor, It shares another older Italian tradition, that of the Parody Mass. Likewise, he was one to adapt works of contemporary Italians, such as his arrangement of Pergolesi Stabat Mater for use during his Leizig years.

I cannot think of his Chromatic Prelude in C minor (which may or may not have been influenced by D Scarlatti's Sonatas, it is unlike his previous works with Cross Hands and shifts in motives) as not being influenced by the italians or the incredible "Goldberg" Variations with the use of two manuals (an influence from the Pieces Croises of F Courperin) and not think that Bach was ecletic in his choices and a Genius in blending everything together.

However, were the Italian forms so "resisted for decades by the absolutist French regime who fought to prevent its spread to the German-speaking lands"?

I would like your thoughts on this. When did this resistance first flower, I should say what would you consider the dates?

Also what contemporary (of those dates) writing seems to support that allegation?

Thank you for your insights,

Jack Botelho wrote (May 26, 2005):
[To Steven Foss] Thanks for your reply! Certainly, to say the French "fought" to prevent the spread of Italian musical forms to the German- speaking lands is too strong a word. My post on Bach's Italian influence was loaded with rhetoric in an attempt to initiate discussion here. I'll try to reproduce some passages with regard to French resistance of Italian music hopefully by next week. Nice to read your insights!

Jack Botelho wrote (May 26, 2005):
Steven Foss wrote:
< Thank you for your explanation of the Politics of nationalism and the perception of Bach in the 19th century. It does appear that revisionist attempts to re write history are not solely a product of the late 20th century. >
Walter Kolneder goes into some detail in tracing the course of Bach scholarship in the 19th century with regard to Italian musical influences. Inquiry into Vivaldi's influence on Bach was hindered early on by some scholars late in the 19th century who basically characterized Vivaldi's music as unsubstantial. A quick check of the Bach Cantatas website continues this, what is now, a tradition of not giving Vivaldi much recognition in Bach's music. This is not the fault of the website manager, but reflects a lack of historical awareness by contributers.

John Pike wrote (May 26, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] I'm a great fan of Vivaldi. At his best, I find him remarkable and I can well understand Bach being so keen on arranging his music. I have just finished learning the Four Seasons. I always liked them, despite them having been spoilt for some by being over-recorded and over-played. Despite that, through their inherent resilience (being such wonderful pieces) they have survived. Learning these works have brought home to me a wealth of wonderful things that may be easily missed on casual listening. They seem to me to be far more than highly successful and evocative settings of poems; they also convey a very wide range of human emotion, metaphors perhaps of the climatic conditions described.

Jack Botelho wrote (May 27, 2005):
[To John Pike] Nice to hear from you, John. Certainly, Vivaldi's Four Seasons concertos are very forward-looking for their time. It must have taken much concentration to work through the solo parts, reportedly very difficult in some passages, yourself.

Kolneder (sorry, once again) relates an interesting passage with regard to the time and place Bach, Telemann and other German musicians began digesting, arranging, and composing concertos for themselves. In many instances they worked from manuscript sources which have long disappeared and pre-date later printed publications (beginning around 1709). Telemann relates he often found such works difficult and awkward to play on violin. Certainly, at this time, the concerto differed significantly in style from anything these musicians had encountered before.

John Pike wrote (May 27, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] A lot of it is certainly difficult. A few years ago, much of it would probably have been too difficult for me. I was recently struggling with a passgae in the first movment of winter, written out as plain doubling stopping minims/crotchets, but it usually executed as demisemiquavers in sautille bowing. It took me much hard work to develop this technique but it was well worth the effort. If played well, it sounds just great. Another problem is playing these places with modern bows. I have an excellent modern bow, but I suspect it would be easier with a baroque bow.

Steven Foss wrote (May 27, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] Just some thoughts:

Toccata, Fugue, Trio Sonatos, Cantata, and Solo Concerto and Concerto Grosso are among the forms we generally associate with Bach and were of Italian invention. (I will leave the Motet, Suite, and Overture french overtures to another post)

Has anyone done an overview of the Composers that were transcribed in the Solo Organ and Solo Harpsichord Concertos dates and relative dates of compostition and Bach's transcription? The Marcello Oboe Concerto transcription (which is by Benedetto's brother Allesandro) is written by a composer who is very much a contemporary of Bach being born within one year.

Besides J S Bach's work in this genera, his Cousin on his Mother's side, Johann Gottfried Walter also had the same Musical interest. Both worked in Weimar where they must have been encouraged to write these transcriptions – Bach wrote several for the solo organ and over a dozen for the solo harpsichord (I am not including the arrangements of Johann Ernst von Saxon Weimar or Telemann both also contemporary to Bach), Walther triumphantly trumping him with a claimed seventy-eight (although only fourteen seem to have survived). I will not conjecture the unindentified works, sufficient to say that these works did plant the seeds that would later become the Italian Concerto and the Prelude in to G minor Suite for Harpsichord (which would later be called English).

Since we know that among some of Walter's work are transcriptions of Concerti by Meck, Torelli (composing in 1692 and by 1698 maestro di concerto to the Margrave of Brandenburg at Ansbacb), Gregori, and Taglietti it would not be unreasonable to conclude that Bach was also exposed to these sources as well. (E Power Biggs had an entire LP dedicated to Walters transcriptions for Organ played on a Silberman Organ).

Bach was well acquanited with the works of other Italians as witnessed by Fugues on themes by Albinoni (without pedals, but could have been generically written for any keyboard instrument)

I will state that Bach's debt to Vivaldi is large. From a 2 movement String Concerto form (which may have been the model for the Third Brandenburg Concerto) to a G minor Concerto for strings that served as the source for the motive used for the F major Major 2 part invention, Vivaldi's influence is evident.

Most of the Above Italians have Venetian connections. Any thoughts on the subject?

Jack Botelho wrote (May 27, 2005):
Steven Foss wrote:
< Just some thoughts:
Toccata, Fugue, Trio Sonatos, Cantata, and Solo Concerto and Concerto Grosso are among the forms we generally associate with Bach and were of Italian invention. (I will leave the Motet, Suite, and Overture french overtures to another post)
Has anyone done an overview of the Composers that were transcribed in the Solo Organ and Solo Harpsichord Concertos dates and relative dates of compostition and Bach's transcription? The Marcello Oboe Concerto transcription (which is by Benedetto's brother Allesandro) is written by a composer who is very much a contemporary of Bach being born within one year.
Besides J S Bach's work in this genera, his Cousin on his Mother's side, Johann Gottfried Walter also had the same Musical interest. Both worked in
Weimar where they must have been encouraged to write these transcriptions - Bach wrote several for the solo organ and over a dozen for the solo harpsichord (I am not including the arrangements of Johann Ernst von Saxon Weimar or Teleman both also contemporary to Bach), Walther triumphantly trumping him with a claimed seventy-eight (although only fourteen seem to have survived). I will not conjecture the unindentified works, sufficient to say that these works did plant the seeds that would later become the Italian Concerto and the Prelude in to G minor Suite for Harpsichord (which would later be called English). >
Seventy eight arrangements by Bach of which fourteen have survived? In my first post on this general subject I used the silly term of change of "tactics" to describe what some Bach scholars did to minimize Italian musical influences - a much better term may be "methodology", more specifically, a reductionist methodology which (equally as silly) only considers the arrangements by Bach that survived or were reported after his death, or were later devulged by collectors, rather than investigating evidence of the original music Bach's contemporaries were working on in Weimar. Wow!:

< Since we know that among some of Walter's work are transcriptions of Concerti by Meck, Torelli (composing in 1692 and by 1698 maestro di concerto to the Margrave of Brandenburg at Ansbacb), Gregori, and Taglietti it would not be unreasonable to conclude that Bach was also exposed to these sources as well. (E Power Biggs had an entire LP dedicated to Walters transcriptions for Organ played on a Silberman Organ). Bach was well acquanited with the works of other Italians as witnessed by Fugues on themes by Albinoni (without pedals, but could have been generically written for any keyboard instrument)
I will state that Bach's debt to
Vivaldi is large. From a 2 movement String Concerto form (which may have been the model for the Third Brandenburg Concerto) to a G minor Concerto for strings that served as the source for the motive used for the F major Major 2 part invention, Vivaldi's influence is evident.
Most of the Above Italians have Venetian connections. Any thoughts on the subject? >
Superb to read your insights! I'll post some more with regard to your question in a further post.

Steven Foss wrote (May 27, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] Sorry for my lack of eloquence and clarity.

I was trying to write that J S Bach's Cousin, Johann Gottfried Walter had claimed to have trancribed the 78 Concerti of which 14 survived.

I do agree that if only 1 of 5 is an average as to survival of non teaching works, then how much more of Bach and other composers of the Baroque period may have been lost to the sands of time.

(Telemann's collected works have been claimed to exceed the number of surviving works of Handel and Bach combined; how much more did that workaholic produce?)

Still some of the non italian transcription of Johann Ernst Von Saxon Weimar must date from the time of Bach'ssecond tenure at Weimar before the talented young dukes death from a carriage accident in 1718. Could the other transcription likewise date from that time?

Steven Foss wrote (May 27, 2005):
Jack Botelho wrote:
< Walter Kolneder goes into some detail in tracing the course of Bach scholarship in the 19th century with regard to Italian musical influences. Inquiry into Vivaldi's influence on Bach was hindered early on by some scholars late in the 19th century who basically characterized Vivaldi's music as unsubstantial. >
I agree if not for the Museum in Turin tracking down Vivaldi's manuscripts in the early part of the 20th century we would regard this influence even less.

In fact the level of contempt for Vivaldi's music had a lot to do with the tastes of the time. Vivaldi's orchestration could not hold a candle to Wagner's works which were the toast of the late 19th century.

This carried on into the early 20th as Fritz Kreisler on occaision would pass one of his own compostions off as being by Vivaldi.

If not for the interest in Bach and the development of the 33 1/3 LP record, Vivaldi would be little more than a historical footnote And now his amongst the most recognized and played (some say overplayed) Composers of the 18th century.

Vivaldi joke: How many Concerto's did Vivaldi write? Answer only 1, he only rewrote it 496 times.

Yes Vivaldi did have some formula involved in his writing, but the above joke is basically unfounded as after listening to so many of them, the sinfonias to operas, and the various solo concerti I would not say that he is guilty of recycling.

Jack Botelho wrote (May 28, 2005):
Jack Botelho wrote:
<< Walter Kolneder goes into some detail in tracing the course of Bach scholarship in the 19th century with regard to Italian musical influences. Inquiry into Vivaldi's influence on Bach was hindered early on by some scholars late in the 19th century who basically characterized Vivaldi's music as unsubstantial. >>
Steven Foss wrote: < I agree if not for the Museum in Turin tracking down
Vivaldi's manuscripts in the early part of the 20th century we would regard this influence even less.
In fact the level of contempt for
Vivaldi's music had a lot to do with the tastes of the time. Vivaldi's orchestration could not hold a candle to Wagner's works which were the toast of the late 19th century.>
No doubt you are right. Kolneder relates in his survey of Bach scholars on the trail of Vivaldi's originals: "J.Ruhlmann then found sources for other arrangements, and in 1867 he gave a picture of Bach's relationship to Vivaldi which was based on his evidence and whose conclusions certainly differed considerably from those of Forkel. It was quite in keeping with the orchestral conceptions of a time inundated with the spirit of Wagner that Ruhlmann should find Vivaldi's orchestral writing poverty-stricken. His second error, resulting from too narrow a source-basis, of finding hardly any thematic work in Vivaldi, has been perpetuated through Schering and W. Fischer to the present time, and has caused Bach to be seen as the herald of the classical motivic technique."

< This carried on into the early 20th as Fritz Kreisler on occaision would pass one of his own compostions off as being by Vivaldi.
If not for the interest in Bach and the development of the 33 1/3 LP record,
Vivaldi would be little more than a historical footnote And now his amongst the most recognized and played (some say overplayed) Composers of the 18th century.>
Interesting observation!

< Vivaldi joke: How many Concerto's did Vivaldi write? Answer only 1, he only rewrote it 496 times. >
Yes, that's a good one. Igor Stravinsky, no doubt.

< Yes Vivaldi did have some formula involved in his writing, but the above joke is basically unfounded as after listening to so many of them, the sinfonias to operas, and the various solo concerti I would not say that he is guilty of recycling. >
Recycling could have been standard fair for baroque composition. Certainly Bach engaged in such.

Very engaging insights, Steve! I wish I had more time to reply!

Jack Botelho wrote (May 27, 2005):
[To Steven Foss] Just to clarify the above quickly: by concerto (above) I mean the Venetian form, closely derived from G. Torelli's publications from Bologna, as distinct from the concerto grosso with concertino soloists. The distinction is important: Torelli pioneered the concerto for solo instrument with ritornello-episode structure, which Bach and his German contemporaries used as a basis for their most of their concertos.

Steven Foss wrote (May 28, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] Bach evidently knew both forms well as witnessed by the Solo and double concertos "solo instrument with ritornello-episode structure" which Vivaldi also wrote and the Concerto Grosso form (with concertino soloists.)the Brandenburg of Bach and the Concerti Grossi of Handel.

Bach also knew the Trio Sonatas of Corelli as witnessed by the Fugue on a theme by Corelli.

Jack Botelho wrote (May 30, 2005):
[To Steven Foss] Yes indeed. Apparently 3 of the Brandenburg Concerti are classifyable as concerti grossi and 3 as solo concerto in form? Of course, the concerto grosso form is also Italian, specifically Roman, thought to derive possibly from the opening sinfonias to oratorios of Alessandro Stradella?

Arcangelo Corelli's complete published output of sonatas and concerti grossi should be well familiar to all Bachians, considering the enormous popularity and fame of this music in Bach's time, even extending through the entire 18th century. Some say Bach neglected the trio sonata form, but this cannot be true considering the set of six for organ? Is there not also an important contribution by Bach in the chamber music idiom for two instruments and b.c.?

I'm very much a fan of Vivaldi's concertos in all their variety of form as well.

It is an honour to discuss this subject matter with such a knowledgeable person.

Steven Foss wrote (May 30, 2005):
To Jack Botelho] Besides the Trio Sonatas and additional odd Trios for Organ, Bach did as you say write other works in the Trio Sonata form.

The Sonatas for Flute and Harpsichord (these do not contain continuo markings or cello parts) that Dover reprinted some years back reminded very much of the Trio Sonatas, comprising of a Solo line for Flute, another line for the treble (right hand) of the harpsichord and the last line for (left hand) the bass part. One would think that these pieces had been transcribed from "lost" Trio Sonatas if one did not know better, or Vice Verci.

In fact I had contemplated playing them on the organ without modification (unless I was going to "arrange them for publication and get copyrights but I am not that mercenary. I do know of a Peters edition of the Transcription of A Benedetto's Oboe Concerto by Bach for Solo Harpsichord that other than a few editorial marks-mainly an additional F or P-and an editorial foreword is a complete lift by a UCSB graduate from the Dover reprint of the Gesellschaft Edition but I digress...)

I did not play the Flute Sonatas in Churchsetting as I gave up my volunteer Organ position when work changed my hours and my Sundays off.

After that I gave my spinet organ to a family friend (my family was growing and I needed the room) and later gave my console organ to the Music Academy of the West May Madness Sale. I guess you can say that I am an Organ Donor.

It is interesting to think of Bach so frequently dealing in sets of Six (The number of Man or falling one number short of perfection as symbolized by the number 7). (Although one can find 2 additional Suites for Harpsichord (that is how the two French Suites are described in the Anna Magdelana Bach's notebook title them) one in Eb and one in A minor. When found in secondary sources (manuscript copies by Bach's students) you still only fine these 2 suites substituted for other "French Suites" the total never being more than 6.

One of the Collection numbers not divisible 6, is the number 15. I don't know of any spiritual connections to this number, however when reading Cecil Forsyth book on orchestration, in the string section he pointed out the 15 keys that were most easily played in for the Violin.

Was it coincidence, the keys mention by Forsyth were the same keys exactly as 3 part Sinfonias and the Inventions (or Preludes as originally called in the Booklet for W F Bach) were written in?

The Duettos from Clavier-Ubung part III which have been described as large 2 part inventions and often argued are Harpsichord pieces. One day when I have more time I will open a can of worms on the Duettos. I am still a Harpsichordist at heart (Thanks to Vic Mizzy's Music for the orginal Addams family TV show), but I would love to argue the point that these Pieces were written and intended for Organ, but this must wait for a French influence post.

To think if an Avon Commerical had not been using the Bb invention by Bach from Switched on Bach as background music, I would not have started on this lifelong obsession. My major interest in Bach came from his use of Double Counterpoint and most particularly his Fugues (although Cherubini maintained Bach never wrote a single fugue!).

Thank you for the kind words. Your knowledge on Bach is extensive and it is a pleasure to read your replies as it mirrors so much that I have read, however your scholarship is by far superior.

Jack Botelho wrote (May 30, 2005):
[To Steven Foss] Thanks again for your reply. I am only a general reader of secondary sources, but with some intuitive insight, probably from a background in European history, it is easy to observe how the history of musicology, like the history of any discipline, is dependent on funding, which in the end is the product of cultural investments from nations/racial groups.

Just to correct my previous post: 2 melody instruments plus basso continuo would be classified as a duo sonata, more properly an 'a2' sonata, as no doubt you well know. I point this out in the interests of accuracy. Also, according to Claude V Palisca, 3 of the Brandenburg Concertos are closely related to the concerto grosso and the other 3 are 'ripieno' or full concertos.

I have read from some cd notes by Joshua Rifkin of that Bach's cantatas are based upon Vivaldi's ritornello-episode concertos. I'll have to find those notes. If this is so Bach's cantatas rest on Italian (what musicologists often refer to as 'modern'(!) during this time). Even what some consider as a German cantata tradition before Bach rests on the foundations of the sacred concerto form largely imported from Venice early in the 17th century. Even German organ playing styles may be traced back to Cavazzoni, Gabrieli, and other Venetian composers of the 16th century.

The influence of the Italian baroque is so wide and deep upon the Germans that those who use the term "Italianate" and "Italianisms" really need to re-examine what they are referring to.

Anyway, enough rambling for now.

Your post is a pleasure to read,

Jack Botelho wrote (May 30, 2005):
< Thanks again for your reply. I am only a general reader of secondary sources, but with some intuitive insight, probably from a background in European history, it is easy to observe how the history of musicology, like the history of any discipline, is dependent on funding, which in the end is the product of cultural investments from nations/racial groups. During the last 2 centuries, the Italians have struggled with a long series of complex geo-political problems which have have hampered them from promoting their culture. In the future I'll post an excerpt from one of their foremost musicologists of the 20th century. The excerpt belongs to the realm of poetry.
Just to correct my previous post: 2 melody instruments plus basso continuo would be classified as a duo sonata, more properly an 'a2' sonata, as no doubt you well know. I point this out in the interests of accuracy. Also, according to Claude V Palisca, 3 of the Brandenburg Concertos are closely related to the concerto grosso and the other 3 are 'ripieno' or full concertos. >
I have read from some cd notes by Joshua Rifkin that Bach's cantatas are structurally based upon Vivaldi's ritornello-episode concertos? I'll have to find those notes. If this is so Bach's cantatas rest on Italian (what musicologists often refer to as 'modern'(!) during this time) foundations. Even what some consider as a German cantata tradition before Bach rests on the foundations of the sacred concerto form largely imported from Venice early in the 17th century. This would make Bach's cantatas Italian in origin, or again, during this period, 'modern' in style.

The influence of the Italian baroque is so wide and deep upon the Germans that those who use the term "Italianate" and "Italianisms" really need to re-examine what they are referring to.

(Apologies for this re-post)

John Pike wrote (May 30, 2005):
To Steven Foss] There are 4 Trio sonatas by Bach:

BWV 1036 from the Musical offering. For flute, violin and BC
BWV 1037 in C major (actually by Johann Gotlieb Goldberg). For 2 violins and BC
BWV 1038 for flute, violin and BC
BWV 1039 in G. First version of first sonata for Viola da gamba and harpsichord. For 2 flutes and BC.

Jack Botelho wrote (June 1, 2005):
Jack Botelho wrote:
< I have read from some cd notes by Joshua Rifkin that Bach's cantatas are structurally based upon Vivaldi's ritornello-episode concertos? >
Bach most often took chorale melodies and structurally altered them to fit the ritornello-concerto form to produce the chorus sections of the cantatas. The ritornello-concerto structure Bach took from Vivaldi. The arias and recitatives of the cantatas, although of course sung in German, are Italian in form. By form I mean they are musical structures that were developed over time, by experimental trial and error, early in the 17th century. Those interested in this development should refer to Claude V Palisca's survey of selected topics in baroque music Baroque Music third edition Prentice-Hall History of Music Series c.1991. Now, with regard to basso continuo notation in Bach's cantatas, that is also an Italian invention laborously refined long before the birth of Bach. All this is basic information, but is worthwhile to state.

Members must excuse my numerous posts to this forum, as well as the long excerpts of previous discussion included in these messages - I have no way to select and delete chunks of text with the library terminals I use.

Jack Botelho wrote (June 6, 2005):
To return briefly to this highly rhetorical argument:
< With regard to the reference of a 'dumbing down' of on-line discussions concerning the music of JS Bach, it seems clear this 'dumbing down' is emanating from higher up in the Bach music 'establishment' generally than one at first might suppose. When one considers the concerto form, ritornello, sonata, oratorio, opera, cantata, recitative, aria, arioso, the violin (and viol) family of string instruments, basso continuo practice, indeed the very monodidiom, the very foundation of baroque music, is wholly Italian in origin, (no, not French) and that Bach himself, placed in proper historical perspective, whose musical language is essentially a mix of Italian monodic forms with Netherlandish polyphony, chorale hymns and some pompous French overtures and dances, lived in a time when Lutheran church music and organ playing was in decline, that the German countryside, a playground for French imperialism, had been robbed of its former populations by wars, plunder, famine and disease, the new Italian style of music, resisted for decades by the absolutist French regime who sought to prevent its spread to the German-speaking lands, >
Cannot find strong enough evidence of this as of yet.

< flooded north like a veritable fresh-water river of inspiration for German composers like Bach. Today, in an opposing trend, the present day critical edition of Bach works, the Neue Bach-Ausgabe, with its fastidious identification of works and notes considered spurious, serves as a kind of wholesale denuding of a composer's work from its wider musical context, more characteristic of our own age than Bach's own time, when the concept of creative originality was not what it is today. >
This attack on the New Bach Edition is unfounded. I think what I was trying to get at was the danger of individuals (dilettantes and even professional musicians in some cases) who approach the works therein with free artistic license and little background knowledge of the wider musical context in which these works were composed.

< It is worthwhile to consider that without the Italians, eighteenth-century European music as we would know it would perhaps only consist, aside from courtly love songs, church and a vast array of folk music, of various forms of polyphony for marching wind bands, and Bach himself would probably be known only to music historians as an obscure figure >
It's practically impossible to speculate along these lines.

< confined to the organ lofts of various 18th century German towns, robbed even of his own beloved Bach fugue, whose structure is Vivaldian, as well as the very structure and form of his church cantatas. When most Bach listeners today seem to pay little heed to the concertos 'L'estro armonico' and their earlier predecessors, and the general Grove Dictionary (2001) entry on JS Bach by Emery/Wolff pays scant attention to Bach's musical influences, >
Wolff's exposition on Bach's influences in this source is shallow and relies far too heavily on C.P.E. Bach and by that time, a rather fierce anti-Italian musical climate north of the Alps.

< we are indeed living in a rather illusionary time for Bach musicology.
Why? To answer this question one must go back to the early days of Bach scholarship in the early 19th century, to JN Forkel, and to the large finds of Bach transcriptions and copies of works by Italians (and a small number of others). When it became clear in the mid-nineteenth century that Bach scholars were in danger of losing their indigenous hero composer away from the cause of nineteenth-century nationalist sentiment, the scholars, in a desperate shift of tactics (birthing a mythology which continues to flourish on-line), played down these foreign influences in reaction, until we reach the situation today where one reads, for example, in some widely distributed notes to a recording of Bach harpsichord concertos that, to quote, "The Concerto for four harpsichords BWV 1065 is a special case in that Bach did not take one of his own works as a basis but, exceptionally, a work by Antonio
Vivaldi". Rather, the harpsichord concertos based on original Bach works are the special case as there are a larger number of transcriptions of concertos for harpsichord by foreign composers extant known to have been worked by Bach himself. >

 

Italian influences, etc. [BeginnersBach]

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 10, 2005):
Jack Botelho wrote:
< More sources of Bach's Italian influence.
I have read that Bach also set G.B. Pergolesi's 'Stabat Mater' as a German hymn. >
It's a 40-minute piece reset to the text of Psalm 51; Bach also added viola parts to it. BWV 1083.

< It would be interesting to inquire as to how many and/or which re-workings by Bach are in his own hand and if any attribute the original composer. >
Magdalena Kozena's excellent new album: Amazon.com includes a cantata by F B Conti that JSB copied and performed in Coethen. Tracks 2-6 on this CD.

< The idea that Bach lived in a musical vacuum and composed masterpiece after masterpiece simply of his own genius is an idea that perhaps reflects the biases of modern cultural isolationism. >
Who has such an idea about a musical vacuum? JSB soaked up influences from all over the place, deliberately seeking them and choosing/using whatever he deemed the best of new ideas. He taught his students to do the same, as an excellent way to learn. CPE said so, in his book, about his father's teaching style.

Steven Foss wrote (November 10, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] You, wrote,
"Who has such an idea about a musical vacuum? JSB soaked up influences from all over the place, deliberately seeking them and choosing/using whatever he deemed the best of new ideas."
Of which I am in complete agreement. J S Bach could not be the "Sum Culmination of Musical Thought" that he is often credited with if he existed in Limbo or had been Hermatically Sealed.

He was exposed to the "top forties" of his day when he worked as a orchestra member, during his travels, and or course during his Leipzig years.

Leipzig was (and still is) a University City, with a long tradition of Music and being a Musical Mecca as noted Mendelsohnn, Schumann, Grieg residences, and of course Telemann, Kuhnau, Graupner, et al.

The Fantasy in C minor and the Goldberg Variations have been cited as an example of Scarlatti's influence (crossed hand pieces), however, I might note that the Gigue from the Bb major Partita (which had been published seperately prior to Part 1 of the Clavier Ubung) antedate Scarlatti's publication, possibly the Harpsichord works of Couperin or d'Anglebert may have been the inspiration for the cross hand pieces.

Point is that Bach had many influences.

I will quote http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Life.htm (which Mr. Brad Lehman has posted on occaision,) on the subject of manuscripts in Bach's possession:

[To Jim Michmerhuizen] The canonical way of starting to answer questions of this sort is to use Melamed & Marissen, "An Introduction to Bach Studies". It's an excellent annotated index into the Bach literature. They suggest:

Kirsten Beisswenger "Johann Sebastian Bachs Notenbibliothek". Cassel 1992.

Riccardo Nughes wrote (March 9, 2002):
[To Jim Michmerhuizen]
1. Fiori musicali: Toccata
Girolamo Frescobaldi
2. Fiori musicali: Ricercar
Girolamo Frescobaldi
3. Ach, wie sehnlich wart' ich der Zeit
Johann Michael Bach
4. Ciacona in d
Johann Pachelbel
5. Auf, laßt uns den Herren loben
Johann Michael Bach
6. Toccata G-dur
Johann Adam Reincken
7. Sonate a 4 B-dur
Johann Rosenmüller
8. Herr, wenn ich nur dich habe
Johann Michael Bach
9. Suite f. Blockflöte u. B.c. Nr. 5 F-dur: Ouverture
Charles François Dieupart
10. Kommt, Seelen, dieser Tag muß heilig sein besungen BWV 479
Johann Sebastian Bach
11. Sonate a 4
Johann Joseph Fux
12. Toccata BuxWV 164 G-dur
Dietrich Buxtehude
13. Quemadmodum desirat cervus
Dietrich Buxtehude
14. Was willst du dich, o meine Seele, kränken BWV 425
Johann Sebastian Bach
15. Sonate a-moll
Tomaso Albinoni
16. Messe im 2. Ton
André Raison
17. Orgelbuch I: Et in terra pax a 5
Nicolas de Grigny
18. Orgelbuch I: Fuge
Nicolas de Grigny
19. Orgelbuch I: Recit de tierce en taille
Nicolas de Grigny
20. Orgelbuch I: Fugue a 5
Nicolas de Grigny
21. Pieces de clavecin: Suite Nr. 3 d-moll: Prelude
Jean-Henri d'Anglebert
22. Pieces de clavecin: Suite Nr. 3 d-moll: Allemande
Jean-Henri d'Anglebert
23. Pieces de clavecin: Suite Nr. 2 g-moll: Courante
Jean-Henri d'Anglebert
24. Pieces de clavecin: Suite Nr. 3 d-moll: Double de la Courante
Jean-Henri d'Anglebert
25. Pieces de clavecin: Suite Nr. 3 d-moll: Sarabande
Jean-Henri d'Anglebert
26. Pieces de clavecin: Pieces d-moll: Gigue
Jean-Henri d'Anglebert
27. Pieces de clavecin: Pieces D-dur: Tombeau de M. de Chambonnieres
Jean-Henri d'Anglebert
28. Fantasie u. Fuge c-moll BWV 562
Johann Sebastian Bach
29. Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr' BWV 663
Johann Sebastian Bach
30. Fantasie G-dur BWV 572
Johann Sebastian Bach

And this does not list the works by Pertzold, Couperin, Giovannini, Stoerzel, Telemann, Ricther, et al, that Bach's family in W F Bach and A M B notebooks contain.

Bach was rather Cosmopolitan in his tastes.

Jack Botelho wrote (November 10, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
"Who has such an idea about a musical vacuum? JSB soaked up influences from all over the place, deliberately seeking them and choosing/using whatever he deemed the best of new ideas."
Steven Foss wrote:
< Of which I am in complete agreement. J S Bach could not be the "Sum Culmination of Musical Thought" that he is often credited with if he existed in Limbo or had been Hermatically Sealed.
He was exposed to the "top forties" of his day when he worked as a orchestra member, during his travels, and or course during his
Leipzig years.
Leipzig was (and still is) a University City, with a long tradition of Music and being a Musical Mecca as noted Mendelsohnn, Schumann, Grieg residences, and of course Telemann, Kuhnau, Graupner, et al. >
Not to start a flame war here, but from even a general review of JS Bach's life, Leipzig was in no way a musical mecca in his own lifetime; its reputation for music reversed after his death. Bach's frustrations there are well and clearly documented and it is has been reported that most of his correspondence surviving from that period concerns arguments he had with the town's authorities with regard to resources, responsiblities, expenses, etc.

I'm sorry, but in my opinion the romanticization of Leipzig during Bach's tenure there is simply that - romantic. See also the Geoffrey Webber posts here and reproduced at the Bach Cantatas website with regard to the humble and sometimes frustrating circumstances facing German musicians in the townships in contrast to the lavish courts, and well documented by J.J. Quantz. And even at the courts, German musicians were paid much, much, less than the Italians and French. It is no wonder many German musicians felt a natural antipathy to foreign (especially Italian) musicians.

Jack Botelho wrote (November 11, 2005):
[To Steven Foss] O.K. you win. Sorry to jump all over this fine post with regard to Bach's cosmopolitan tastes by nit-picking about Leipzig. Grrr.

Anyway, hope any wounds will heal. Sorry.

Today I received the book Bach and the Patterns of Invention by Laurence Dreyfus with many thanks to The Vancouver Island Regional Library and their interlibrary loan system. A handsome hardcover first edition 1996 Harvard University Press publication. Finally, an up-to date study of JS Bach that deals extensively with the all-important ritornello principle which I hope to discuss in the future here.

Steven Foss wrote (November 11, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] I would never think such a thing a as flame war would ever happen in such a cordial forum nor would anyone ever accuse you of starting one.

Bach was acquainted with Pergolesi Stabat Mater in Naples, Italy in 1736 during Bach's tenure in Leipzig, so as I said not such a musical vacuum.

I have no Romantic affectations concerning Leipzig, however, a City that boasted such talents as Kuhnau or Telemann isn't deficient in talent or reputation.

In fact Leipzig had a Collegium Musicum in the 17th century associated with the University and later ones founded by Johann Friedrich Fasch, and Georg Philipp Telemann (which Bach would later lead).

Both Fasch and Telemann attended school in Leipzig (if only the University for law originally in Telemann's case). Johann Friedrich Fasch studied under Kuhnau at the Thomasschule, later to become Cappelmeister at Zerbst in 1722. He was held in high regard by his contemporaries as a composer, J S Bach made manuscript copies of a number of his pieces.

Kuhnau's repuatation was well known (he was also among the composer to first publish works under the title Clavier Ubung besides being Cantor) and such that Bach, and 3 other Musician's applied for the post after it had been offered to 2 musicians by the council.

Telemann shrewedly (the council offered him the job 1st) used the offer as a ploy to shake down more money from his employer-and would not have been successful in this if the job did have some presitge. Graupner (another Kuhnau pupil, and a St Thomas School Alumnas) chose to stay at the Darmstadt Court (good money or he knew first hand what he would be getting into).

"In 1701, Telemann entered the Leipzig University intending to study law, perhaps at the request of his mother. It was not long before his musical talent was found out, however, and he was commissioned to write music for two of the city's main churches. Soon thereafter, he founded a 40-member Collegium Musicum to give concerts of his music. The next year, Telemann became the director of Leipzig's opera house and cantor of one of its churches. His growing prominence began to anger elder composer Johann Kuhnau, whose position as director of music for city had been encroached upon by Telemann's appointment as a cantor. Telemann was also using many students in his opera productions, leaving them less time to devote to participation in church music for Kuhnau. Kuhnau denounced Telemann as an "opera musician". Even after Telemann's departure, Kuhnau could not regain the performers he had lost to the opera."

So Leipzig had an Opera House, (and so the local Noble Lady who loudly complained during the first perfomance of St Matthew's Passion "being a work of a Comic Opera composer" did not have to travel far to hear an opera), Starbucks early competition in Leipzig boasted seven other Koffeehauses besides Zimmermann's to host social and musical events (although none to equal Bach's performances at Herr Zimmermann's place on Catherine Strasse.)

Leipzig may not have been a Dresden, a Berlin, or a Hamburg but it was not a hick town in the sticks either.

Bach's problems with performance resources available to him and finding suitable musicians for church music has more to do with his situation as Cantor, and his employers. And Councils really were not in competition with other cities (keeping up with the Jones) and loved to cut corners, ie not spend money. And yes, music was not a major priority on their list, which is similar to today in the US.

The last official comment on Bach (after his death) by the council was the opinion that they did not require another music director.

(Although there were successors to the Thomaschule Cantor, one of them Johann Adam Hiller would employ a teacher Christian Gottlob Neefe who had graduated from the University, who later was a performer in Hiller's concerts, and would eventually settle in Bonn to be the music teacher to the young Beethoven).

Bach was not under the absolute rule of a Monarch, but rather a succesion of Council Members to contend with, and this was rarely a sympathetic situation. Bach's preference to be called Director of Musicus to Cantor and his steadfastness (tenacity/stubborness) lead to the 2 year squabble over the the choice of a prelate is well known. It certainly did not engender good employer/employee relationships, nor did Bach's appeal to the King to settle the matter in his favor.

Although Bach was in charge of Music in 3 Churches as part of his duties, he worked for a essentially a Latin School, and the boys under his direction were not enrolled based on their musical gifts. Similar to all boys, they were boisterous and unruly lot. (Speaking from personal experience).

Bach had grand ideas and did not want to make do with inadequate forces. It is a wonder he stuck it out in Leipzig, especially if conditions in the city musically were as bad as you paint them.

I do not dispute that Leipzig years were hard years for Bach. And teachers never receive adequate compensation.

However, you wrote, "regard to the humble and sometimes frustrating circumstances facing German musicians in the townships in contrast to the lavish courts,"

Bach made the choice to move to Leipzig. The "Amusa" who had married his previous boss and ruining Bach's dream job, had died 5 days before Bach moved. Bach made no effort to return to his former employer in the 5 years to follow prior to the Duke's death. (Bach did attend the funeral.) He no doubt could have had any organ or Kappelmeister post he would have applied for.

Maybe he found something besides his work at St Thomas School in Leipzig that appealed to him, be it schools for his children, job security, position in the community, or an addiction to Coffee.

Musicians were by German standards of the time considered servants, "lackeys" and of very low in the social status not much better than footman or stable boys, maybe a cut above actors.

Native musicians are primarily without honor except in their homelands around the world.

Obviously, the Lavish Courts have money, and native musicians as well as foreign would be paid better.

There is novelty in a Foreign Born Musician, I am sure George F. Handel wasn't crying all the way to bank over his paycheck being larger than the native musicians being in the employ of the King of England or any of his english contemporaries.

Nobility had money and liked to flaunt it as a demonstration or show of their power.

And with that money they could purchase the best from any country, just as professional athletes, Basket Ball, Hockey, or Baseball Players are today hired by the US teams regardless of their nationality and sometimes at a rate higher than their US team mates.

Life is Unfair

Cecil Forsyth made refence to a Italian Harpist in the employ of an Earlier English King (one of the Tudors) being paid more money the garden variety (native) harpists during a bleeding of the King. (Maybe he was a local harp player who had the good sense to change his last name and fake an Italian accent.)

In Santa Barbara the joke was that the only way a native born inhabitant would be hired or be even interviewed for the city government clerical position or as a teacher or administrator was to move to a relatives address out of state and apply.

One new Superintendent of City Schools being hired from out of state instead of promoting the assistant who knew and was doing the job being arrested his first day in Santa Barbara on a DUI. Instead of firing him, the city felt sorry since he had moved all that way, and let him continue in his new job, an action the city schools would later regret. So Councils still have poor judgement. Must come with the job description.

As to J.J. Quantz he had appointments by a German monarch, Augustus III the Saxon or the Corpulent (Polish: August III Sas, August III Gruby) (1696-1763), the King of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1734-1763), and also elector of Saxony (1733-1763, as Friedrich August II) sometimes known as Frederick Augustus II King of Poland (althought he spent less than 2 years in Poland) and later worked for Frederick the II of Prussia, so he had no trouble getting a job by being German working for a German. And yes K P E Bach was able to get job with King Fred the Great.

If a foreign virtuoso makes more, hey it happens, The Beatles made more than their American influences ever did in one Concert.

I guess some things never change.

Steven Foss wrote (November 11, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] I did not want to raise your blood pressure over the mention of "Leipzig" for better or worse it is where the bulk of Bach's output comes from and with which we are blessed.

I am moving now, so again I must continue the French influences to another day.

PS I hope you enjoy my reply to the previous post.

PPS I hope you enjoy the book, I will be looking forward to your insights on the ritornello principle in Bach's works. The Cantatas are very rich place to mine on this subject.

Jack Botelho wrote (November 11, 2005):
[To Steven Foss] Thanks for this absolutely superb post full of interesting observations! Excellent! (only in my opinion but I hope other list members are similarly appreciative of high quality discussion of topics of JS Bach and his historical background).

I look forward to future discussion of French influence in Bach when you have the time.

Hope your move goes smoothly.

 

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