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Bach & Other Influences
Part 1

Bach's Influence on Other Composers [MCML]

Jeff Langlois wrote (August 17, 2001):
I would like to discuss the importance of J.S. Bach to later composers. Most notably, The Well Tempered Clavier was widely used as a teaching device throughout the eighteenth century. Mozart did not come into contact with these preludes and fugues until he was twenty-six years old. But after studying them his counterpoint (which was always good) becomes more complex. The great opera ensembles, the C minor mass, the finale of the "Jupiter" would not have been possible without Mozart's knowledge of Bach. Mozart's knowledge of Bach's music was very limited because many great masterpieces were only rediscovered in the nineteenth century. (Too bad he never saw or heard the B minor mass (BWV 232)!) But what he did know of Bach affected him profoundly. Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt, and others learned the Well Tempered Clavier as children. Beethoven, in his late music was a great contrapuntist and Mendelssohn's counterpoint was certainly good. Schumann and Liszt were less concerned with counterpoint but nonetheless gained valuable experience from Bach. Charles Rosen, in his book "The Romantic Generation", says that Chopin was the greatest master of counterpoint since Mozart. Although Chopin was not interested in canon and fugue his music has a contrapuntal texture to it that is subtle and smooth. Furthermore Chopin used the Well Tempered Clavier as a model when composing his etudes. I welcome any further comments on this subject.

Steve Schwartz wrote (August 18, 2001):
Jeff Langlois initiates a great thread:

< I would like to discuss the importance of J.S. Bach to later composers. Most notably, The Well Tempered Clavier was widely used as a teaching device throughout the eighteenth century. >
I don't know about "widely." I can't think of any Bach work widely known in the 18th century, in the sense that Vivaldi's, Händel's, and Telemann's music was. Schumann seems to have rediscovered the WTC in the 19th, famously prescribing one prelude and fugue per day.

< Mozart did not come into contact with these preludes and fugues until he was twenty-six years old. But after studying them his counterpoint (which was always good) becomes more complex. >
This was not his first contact with Bach. He had previously discovered cantatas and motets of Bach in one of Bach's churches. Among the works, he found the motet "Singet dem Herrn" (for double choir). He is reported to have said, "At last! Someone I can learn from!"

< Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt, and others learned the Well Tempered Clavier as children. Beethoven, in his late music was a great contrapuntist >
Yes, but according to his own self, he much preferred (and probably knew better) Händel. Beethoven's counterpoint, I agree, becomes amazing in the late work, but it's not particularly Bachian; to me, it's closer to Händel -- suggestive, rather than explicit. Further, he knew counterpoint early on.

< Schumann and Liszt were less concerned with counterpoint but nonetheless gained valuable experience from Bach. >
Schumann has some great canonic studies for two pianos, written in homage to Bach.

Also, don't forget Brahms, for me the great contrapuntal master since J.S. As a young composer, he spent (if I remember right) a year writing nothing but canons, fugues, and invertible counterpoint. It shows up not only in the usual places (sacred music, organ works), but in places you don't expect like the finale to the Haydn Variations.

Jeff Langlois wrote (August 18, 2001):
In Response to Steve Schwartz's email in which he says that no music of Bach was widely known in the eighteenth century, at least in the sense that Vivaldi's, Händel's, and Telemann's music was I would like to maintain my position that the well tempered clavier was very well known to key board players of the time. As for Mozart he was introduced to the WTC by Baron Von Sweiten when he was twenty six but did not come into contact with Bach's motets until 1789 when he as 33 years old. His friend Rochlitz was sitting next to him in the church at Leipzig when the choir began to sing "Singet dem Herrn". Rochlitz says that "Scarcely had the choir sung a couple of measures when Mozart started. After a couple more measures he cried out `What is that? At last something from which we can learn.` He was able to obtain the scores to all six motets and treasured them for precious jewels for the rest of his short life.

As for Beethoven, he knew Bach's keyboard music thoroughly although I admit he never sounded like Bach and his counterpoint is perhaps more Handelian, however I maintain that he gained valuable experience in counterpoint from Bach.

I was remiss in not mentioning Schumann's canonic studies for two pianos and I can't forgive myself for failing to mention Brahms who I agree was the greatest contrapuntal master since Bach.

 

Bach and "Rococo" style and other influences

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 28, 2003):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< (...) When in Weimar, he was exposed to the current Italian styles. Finally in Leipzig he came under the influence of the Rococo style. (...) >
David, you make it sound as if Bach showed up at places and suddenly got influenced by ideas, passively. :) Didn't he ever go out and fetch things he wanted to learn, actively keeping up with his professional enrichment?

On the rococo issue: have you taken into account Bach's friendship with Telemann that started before 1714 and continued until Bach's death? Are you positive they didn't swap any of those newfangled galant/rococo ideas before Bach got to Leipzig?

And, what makes you think he didn't know Francois Couperin's music long before 1725, when he copied a Couperin piece into AMB's notebook? Couperin's first book was published in 1713; did it take Bach ten years to become aware of that new French rococo style going around?

As for the Italian styles, Bach already had a taste for those as a boy in Ohrdruf, copying some of Frescobaldi's music. But I suppose you can weasel out of that one by saying it wasn't current Italian style....

Anyway, coming back to the more important part, the "fetch things" question to get you thinking: do you think Bach and Walther didn't have any say in the new and old Italian stuff the royal boy was supposed to go pick up in Amsterdam? A shopping list, maybe? What better opportunity would they have had than that, to import things they wanted to learn? Isn't that what good teachers do, assigning their pupils things they also want to explore?

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (October 28, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] He did keep a library, but his education/influences generally follow (ed) the aforementioned trends.

Yes I have.

The Rococo influence (as far as I can read it from the scores, the bios, etc.) really started to demonstrate itself in the 1730s, first in the Partiten BWV 825-831 and the Konzert nach italienisches Gusto BWV 971, and then in the Orchesterwerke.

As to the Couperin, I am well aware of the French influence in Bach's music in his early years. That is why, if you read my post closer, you would have noticed my mention of it along with the North German influence, especially since many of the North German composers that exerted a strong influence on young Sebastian Bach also combined elements of French style in their Klavierwerke (that is both Organ and other Keyboard works). This influence, however, was lifelong, more so than the other influences (with the exception of the North German).

As to your question, maybe, but I doubt it seriously. The question is much more of timing. When Bach was hired in 1708, Prinz Johann Ernst(as far as I have read and heard) was already in Amsterdam. He left in about 1711-1712. Walther had been his teacher for some time already. So maybe Walther had some say in it, but for Bach, I have some grave doubts. Besides, before the youngest Ernst came back, Bach was more centered on his duties as an organist. Although he was a teacher of both Princes, I have yet to see any documentation of his connections to Johann Ernst prior to his return from Amsterdam. As to Ernst August, there is more documentation and connection with that court than the one of Johann Ernst.

While on the subject, I am assuming you mean the youngest brother of Wilhelm Ernst and Ernst August and not the Johann Ernst who employed Bach as a lackey and Violinist for some time between his end of schooling in Lueneburg and his employment in Arnstadt?. As far as I can tell, that Johann Ernst was a distant relation to Wilhelm Ernst.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 28, 2003):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< (...)As to the Couperin, I am well aware of the French influence in Bach's music in his early years. That is why, if you read my post closer, you would have noticed my mention of it along with the North German influence, especially since many of the North German composers that exerted a strong influence on young Sebastian Bach also combined elements of French style in their Klavierwerke (that is both Organ and other Keyboard works). This influence, however, was lifelong, more so than the other influences (with the exception of the North German). >
Yes, in your earlier posting I noticed that you mentioned "he was exposed to the music of the Hugenot French refugees" (assuming you meant "Huguenot") but that really has nothing at all to do with Francois Couperin. That is why I asked if you had considered Couperin, whose style doesn't resemble that earlier French music; it is Rococo. Couperin was no "refugee" of any type. Your assertion of "the" French influence in Bach still has some serious holes in it, since you haven't taken into account the changes in French style itself.

Anyway, you're thinking on your feet. That's good.

I'd still like to see you answer my question about Couperin. If he started publishing his keyboard music in 1713 [N.B. it's in the new rococo style!], and he was the official music-master of the court of France, wouldn't Bach have known about this? But you've asserted that Bach never really heard of rococo style until he got to Leipzig [1723]. Hence my question. What makes you think that Bach was ten years behind in his awareness? Wouldn't he have heard from somebody that the official French music is something new he should check out?

Also you've said: < The Rococo influence (as far as I can read it from the scores, the bios, etc.) really started to demonstrate itself in the 1730s, first in the Partiten BWV 825-831 and the Konzert nach italienisches Gusto BWV 971, and then in the Orchesterwerke. >
What do you do with the fact that he drafted at least two of those keyboard partitas long before the 1730s (i.e. in or before 1725, in Anna Magdalena's second book)?

And the fact that some of the "French suites" were drafted before 1722 (i.e. appearing in Anna Magdalena's first book) before the family moved to Leipzig? Are you sure that Bach's "French suites" aren't more rococo than the partitas are?

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (October 30, 2003):
[Bradley Lehman] Ah...but it does! The way that what I mentioned is connected to Couperin and his music is that the refugees would have brought the music with them, both in practice and in manuscripts. I am also aware that there were some cases (i.e., Froberger and la Salle (who was director and instructor at the Ritterakademie attatched to the Michaelisschule in Lüneburg)) had periods in which they were employed in France.

As to point 2, Couperin's style was not (as far as I can tell) in the Rococo style. That style was well represented by a contemporary of Bach's and Haendel's named Jean-Philippe Rameau. Francois Couperin le Grand's style is more in keeping with that of his uncle Louis' style. That is to say that it is highly improvisatory. Also, I have never read anywhere where FC published his works, especially not his Keyboard works. The only publication that I know of that was made during his lifetime was Les Nations, from which Bach transcribed the Arie F-Dur ("l'Imperiale") for Organ (BWV 587) and possibly the Lessons de Tenebre.

As to point 3, the Partiten (particularly BWV 827 and 830) that were included in the Klavierbuechlein fuer Anna Magdalena Bach of 1725 were not in fact in their final forms. These were more along the style of the Englisches Suiten. Even the ones that appeared singly were altered in one way or another when they were published together in erster Theil der Klavieruebung. Also, I (I believe) said "generally", which means that there might be some earlier examples but for the most part what I said is the general rule. The same could be said of the Italian influence. Although there were examples of works influenced by the Italians earlier than ca. 1711 (i.e., the Fuge c-Moll BWV 574, the Fuge h-Moll BWV 579, and the Kanzone d-Moll BWV 588), generally the influence was more demonstrated and more marked in about 1711 and later. This was the period of the Konzertbearbeitungen fuer Klavier (this meaning both Organ and other Keyboard instruments) and the Tokkate C-Dur (which is parallel in structure more to the Toccate of Alessandro Scarlatti than [as most suppose] to Buxtehude and the North Germans).

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 30, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] "In point of fact," David (to borrow your frequent phrase):

- Francois Couperin's harpsichord style is the epitome of Rococo.
Check out these articles, as a start:
http://www.google.com/search?q=couperin+rococo
Or better yet, read some real books. Here's a bit from The Harvard Brief Dictionary of Music in the "Rococo" entry: "The name is borrowed from a nearly contemporary movement in the Fine Arts characterized by an abundance of merely decorative scroll and shell work (e.g., on furniture) and by a general tendency toward superficial elegance, luxury, and frivolity. Similar traits are noticeable in the music of the period, which emphasizes pleasantness and prettiness, in contrast to the seriousness and dignity of Baroque music. The general character of Rococo music is well described by the term gallant style. Among the earliest examples are the harpsichord pieces of F. Couperin, composed between 1710 and 1725. Later representatives are Daquin, Telemann, Grazioli, Rutini, and many others."

- Francois Couperin published four large books of harpsichord music, and a fifth book of harpsichord lessons where he explained his markings further. You're evidently also not aware that Bach copied a piece from Couperin's second book (sixth Ordre) into AMB's notebook. And don't forget the two organ masses that Couperin published much earlier, in 1690. (If news of Couperin's publications hasn't reached you, that still isn't evidence that such news never reached Bach.)

- Francois Couperin's style has as much in common with his uncle Louis Couperin's style, as Randy Newman's music resembles Alfred Newman's. That is: it's entirely different, as you'd know if you ever looked at the Couperins' music side by side. Nor does it resemble the music of d'Anglebert, whose ornament table Bach copied.

- Except for the eight short preludes in Couperin's harpsichord tutorial, "highly improvisatory" is a remarkably bizarre assessment of his harpsichord music. Couperin, more than any other composer of his time (even more than Bach!), pedantically regimented every little detail and invented new markings whenever the older ones available to him weren't thorough enough. Evidently you haven't studied any ofit, given your wrong below that he never published it.

- You still haven't answered the questions I asked you about the longtime friendship of Bach and Telemann.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (November 2, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] There are minions who would disagree.

The problem with Google searches is that one needs to weed out the specialists from the fray. I have read where Kenneth Gilbert and other authorities assert my point.

There was a Couperin that did epitomize the Rococo, but that was not Francois Couperin le Grand or even Louis Couperin but a later descendant named Armand-Louis Couperin.

As to Part II, he did not publish most of his musical works. The exceptions are as I pointed out. Although his treatise "l'Art de toucher le Clavecin" was published and does have Keyboard works in it, it is not to be regarded as the same as a musical work as it was and is a theoretical work. As to the four Livre de Musique pour le Clavecin, I have read in the New Grove's and other places where they were not published in his lifetime. This like I said earlier goes along with Baroque mentality. Keyboard works were either part of the job or intended for instructional use. They were never intended for publication or even for preservation. In point of fact, the first publication of Keyboard works (outside of the Hexacordium Apollonis, the "Sonate per Gravicembalo" of Domenico Scarlatti, and the Klavieruebung series of both Kuehnau and Bach was inabout the late 1740s or 1750s Europewide, even in France.

Stephen Benson wrote (November 2, 2003):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< As to the four Livre de Musique pour le Clavecin, I have read in the New Grove's and other places where they were not published in his lifetime.... In point of fact, the first publication of Keyboard works (outside of the Hexacordium Apollonis, the "Sonate per Gravicembalo" of Domenico Scarlatti, and the Klavieruebung series of both Kuehnau and Bach was inabout the late 1740s or 1750s Europewide, even in France. >
According to the Norton/Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music: "He [Francois Couperin] published four books with some 220 pieces, grouped in 27 ordres or suites."

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica entry on Francois Couperin, "Between 1713 and 1730 he published four books of suites ( ordres ) for harpsichord." He died in 1733.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 2, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] David, the publication dates of FRANCOIS COUPERIN'S four books (1713, 1716-7, 1722, and 1730) are listed in the first page of the preface, in the Chrysander/Brahms edition (the Dover reprint) that I have right here in my hand. The better edition by Gilbert (published in the Le Pupitre series) has the same dates in it.

It should not matter what "authority" tells you the truth about this: both the existence of those books and their dates; when things are published their existence becomes public knowledge. That's what "publication" means.

If it matters: there is also a facsimile edition prepared from that original print, and I have played some of Couperin's pieces reading directly from it (from my professor's copy)...original clefs and all. I can assure you, it exists. I have also played some of them from Gilbert's edition (from a library copy).

Really, the only reason I haven't yet bought a copy of either the facsimile or Gilbert's for myself is that they are prohibitively expensive, while I obtained the complete Chrysander/Brahms edition for less than $20.00. It's almost as accurate, since they worked directly from the prints.

Here's an advertisement for that Le Pupitre edition, that you may believe: http://www.hpschd.nu/tech/rsc/music.html

And the facsimile, et al: http://www.hpschd.nu/tech/rsc/tic.html

No, I have not confused Francois Couperin with Armand-Louis Couperin. Nor do I confuse butter and cheese, even when the distinction becomes blurry as with brie and camembert.

As for your word "minions", along with your other comments, I'm convinced: evidently I have died and I have awakened in a very strange circle of Hell.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 2, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] David, let's start this question with "points of fact" since that is a mode you say you're comfortable with.

- Francois Couperin was the official harpsichord teacher of the royal children at the court of France.
- His music was officially the accepted style, officially a representation of "good taste" and proper etiquette.
- He obtained a privilege (i.e. an official document of permission from the king) to publish his keyboard music, beginning in 1713.
- Under this privilege he published four books of harpsichord music plus a harpsichord tutorial.
- His style is the new, light one: with regular phrase structure and an emphasis on surface prettiness, instead of intensity or Germanic counterpoint. It does not matter so much whether one calls this "rococo" or "galant" or what-have-you, as the recognition of the style's substance and its difference from Baroque priorities.

Now: you have asserted that JS Bach had no acquaintance with "rococo" music until he got to Leipzig, i.e. in or after 1723. What makes you believe that Bach was unaware of and uninterested in the official (and published) French music for the previous ten years, from age 28 to 38? Do you think Bach was really that provincial and clueless? Why?

=====

As you claim to be familiar with JKF Fischer, let's bring him into this picture as well. He published his Musicalisches Blumen-Büeschlein in Augsburg in 1698 (and I have the modern edition right here in my hand). Like Couperin's music, it has the short regular phrase structure and heavy surface ornamentation...i.e. it too has traits of this emerging "rococo" or "galant" style, the lightness of pleasantry. (From Lully, &c.) And Bach was already familiar with some of Fischer's music from his Orhdruf days.

Again, how do you claim that JS Bach had no exposure to or interest in this style before he got to Leipzig?

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (November 2, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Not to belabor the point, but arre you sure that these are in fact dates of Publication and not dates of Composition?

Secondly, I would call you to the score and to French Baroque practice. I have seen both the Gilbert and Chrysander scores. These were edited in the late 19th and 20th centuries, when things (after the Rococo and Classical and Romantic styles) were more written down. In Couperin's day, especially in France, the written note and/or ornament were not gospel. That means that much was left up to the performer (as I am sure you are aware of). The Keyboardist was required to have much skill at both playing and improvising. Things were also a lot more elaborate than in the Rococo. The Rococo and its successor the Neoclassical style emphasized simplicity and written down instead of elaborate and improvisatory.

I think from reading your posts that you seem to mix the Rococo and the Galant style. Couperin was a champion of the current style, but not the Rococo. The style he was champion of was the Galant style. This has the same equivalent in the German lands as the Stylus Phantasticus. It is very elaborate, with (in the suites) dances called "galants", such as Gavottes, Bourees, and the like. The ornaments were never 100% written down, but rested on the performer. This was not like the style of Rameau, where he did write his ornaments down and left little to the performer. This is also why, in the Rococo, one sees the abandonment of the French Ouverture in France. It is overly elaborate and fugal, and it leaves alot to the performer.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (November 2, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Again, you confuse Rococo with Galant.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 2, 2003):
[To DavidGlenn Lebut Jr.] "In point of fact," David (to borrow your frequent phrase):

- Francois Couperin's harpsichord style is the epiof Rococo. Check out these articles, as a start: http://www.google.com/search?q=couperin+rococo
Or better yet, read some real books. Here's a bit from The Harvard Brief Dictionary of Music in the "Rococo" entry: "The name is borrowed from a nearly contemporary movement in the Fine Arts characterized by an abundance of merely decorative scroll and shell work (e.g., on furniture) and by a general tendency toward superficial elegance, luxury, and frivolity. Similar traits are noticeable in the music of the period, which emphasizes pleasantness and prettiness, in contrast to the seriousness and dignity of Baroque music. The general character of Rococo music is well described by the term gallant style. Among the earliest examples are the harpsichord pieces of F. Couperin, composed between 1710 and 1725. Later representatives are Daquin, Telemann, Grazioli, Rutini, and many others."

- Francois Couperin published four large books of harpsichord music, and a fifth book of harpsichord lessons where he explained his markings further. You're evidently also not aware that Bach copied a piece from Couperin's second book (sixth Ordre) into AMB's notebook. And don't forget the two organ masses that Couperin published much earlier, in 1690. (If news of Couperin's publications hasn't reached you, that still isn't evidence that such news never reached Bach.)

- Francois Couperin's style has as much in common with his uncle Louis Couperin's style, as Randy Newman's music resembles Alfred Newman's. That is: it's entirely different, as you'd know if you ever looked at the Couperins' music side by side. Nor does it resemble the music of d'Anglebert, whose ornament table Bach copied.

- Except for the eight short preludes in Couperin's harpsichord tutorial, "highly improvisatory" is a remarkably bizarre assessment of his harpsichord music. Couperin, more than any other composer of his time (even more than Bach!), pedantically regimented every little detail and invented new markings whenever the older ones available to him weren't thorough enough. Evidently you haven't studied any of it, given your wrong assertion below that he never published it.

- You still haven't answered the questions I asked you about the longtime friendship of Bach and Telemann.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 2, 2003):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< Not to belabor the point, but arre you sure that these are in fact dates of Publication and not dates of Composition? >
1713, 1716-7, 1722, and 1730? Yes, those are the publication dates of Francois Couperin's four books. (Not to belabor the point, but I do understand the material of my doctoral field, and the repertoire of my principal instrument, reasonably well.)

And his book L'art de toucher le clavecin was also from 1716. That's the "harpsichord instruction manual" I've been mentioning. If you'd read it, you'd see that Couperin's teaching is quite different from the imaginative assertions you've offered. (The part about written notes and ornaments supposedly "not" being gospel in all the music of this period, according to you.) As befit his job, Couperin was thoroughly didactic. He didn't leave things to the whims of performers, as you evidently think he did. You're applying generic and half-learned knowledge to a situation where it doesn't fit.

And incidentally, in L'art de toucher... he took the opportunity to clarify many of the expressive markings and suggest fingerings for the music of his first book, from 1713. This is not the work of a musician who leaves things open to the misunderstandings of performers.

If you are interested in reading it, I recommend Margery Halford's English translation. She did very well with the annotations, and of course the translation and the reproduction of all of Couperin's musical examples. Here are some places to buy it: http://www.google.com/search?q=halford+couperin+alfred

< (...)Couperin was a champion of the current style, but not the Rococo. The style he was champion of was the Galant style. This has the same equivalent in the German lands as the Stylus Phantasticus. >
Guess again. The "Stylus phantasticus" is from the first half of the 17th century. You're off by 100 years! It was described by Athanasius Kircher in Musurgia universalis in 1650, after it had been going strong for awhile already. It was also described by Johann Mattheson (echoing Kircher's description) in 1739 in Der vollkommene Capellmeister. It's the Italianate/Germanic toccata style of Froberger, Buxtehude, Weckmann, et al; the wild and woolly stuff where pieces could have unpredictable length and structure, with contrasting sections strung together. This has nothing to do with galant.

Trust me: I've looked at a facsimile of Kircher's book (in Latin)
directly. That's the same book that has Froberger's keyboard fantasia "Ut re mi fa sol la" published in it, in open score.

As for your accusation that I confuse "galant" and "rococo": guess again. Look it up in the Harvard Brief Dictionary of Music. The entry "gallant style" says (as the complete entry): "The elegant and delicate style of the Rococo." That is, they are equivalent, and the means the reader should go see that other entry for details. And I've already quoted the "Rococo" entry to you; see: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/11110

I suppose that somebody will now jump on the fact that I look musical terms up in standard musical dictionaries, relying on authority?

Anyway, since you agree that Francois Couperin's style was "galant", and since "rococo" is a synonym describing that style, you're back to the same square.

Plus, you still haven't said anything that addresses the main question: why do you feel that Bach wasn't aware of any of this style (whether it's called "galant" or "rococo") until he got to Leipzig? Was Bach that clueless about the official good taste of France (handed down from the royal court) and the consequent spread of that style through Europe?

Are you going to try to answer that at all, or are you simply going to use Charles' strategy of dodging it with one-liners such as "Again, you confuse Rococo with Galant." ?

Whether you answer those or not, please do learn the difference between "Stylus phantasticus" and "Galant"! The level of confusion displayed in your postings astonishes me, regularly. What did they teach you in music history classes, David?

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (November 5, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] So was Bach, except in that field. He still was (especially in the Keyboard works) a Baroque composer, meaning that he left ornamentation pretty much to the performer (that is why, as you are aware, there are parenthetical ornaments in many of his Keyboard works).

As to the "l'Art de toucher le Clavecin", there is no dispute that it was published when it was, since it is a theoretical book. The issue, however, is the dates of the publication of the Quatre Livre de Pieces de Clavecin. Here I am willing to acknowledge my error. However, they still beg the question of Rococo as opposed to Galant. I wholeheartedly acknowledge that he (Couperin le Grand) was a Galant composer. My issue is whether or not he was a Rococo composer. Here, I would still have some doubts. Here are the question points:

1.) I have read (in Grout(?)) where musicologists have arbitrarilly set the beginning point of the Rococo at 1720s (I have seen either 1720, late 1720s, or even 1730). Would you based on this still define Couperin as a Rococo performer?

2.) I have looked at all available copies of the scores of his works. I have seen no strong tendency to definite ornamentation. In other words, ornamentation other areas are still left up to the performer. Does this jive with your understanding of Rococo style? As far as I have understood it (both from studying the scores of its chief German proponents (Telemann, Emanuel Bach and his brothers, and Sebastian Bach's pupils) and by reading the classic theory books of the time), things are stringently written down. In many of Couperin's works there is no tempo or dynamics markings,and very little help as to the intended interpretive style.

As to the "Stylus Phantasticus", it was still prevalent until the mid-18th century. Bach's organ works have (I have read and heard) been refered to as the last examples of the "Stylus Phantasticus". This was also the style of Louis and Francois Couperin.

 

JS Bach and Italian Baroque composers

Barry Murray wrote (November 26, 2003):
Recently, I think on the BachRecordings list, there was discussion about which works or recordings of JS Bach you would play to someone who is new to Bach.

If I think more widely, and ask, which composer's work would I use to convince a beginner of the worth of Baroque music. I'm not 100% certain of the answer, but I think I would probably go with Vivaldi. I can't really explain why. There is technically better music written by others, but I find that there is something especially cheerful about Vivaldi's music - I always feel that little bit better after listening.

So, how does all of this relate to Bach? Well, I began thinking about the harpsichord, and particularly Bach's music. I asked myself the same question. Which works would I play to a harpsichord neophyte? I believe that the answer lies with Bach's transcription of the works of Italian composers like Vivaldi, Albinoni and Marcello. Again, we're not talking about technically the top of the repertoire, but something which a new listener could get hold of. These concerto transcriptions have easy melodic lines for the listener to follow. They are fairly short in duration.

I recently found - quite by accident - a CD of some of these works. This is by no means the only recording, just the only one I happen to have. I highly recommend this music, particularly to listeners who find the WTC books and other works too heavy going.

Here are the details:
CATALOGUE NR: Elatus 2564603622
COMPOSER: Johann Sebastian Bach
TRACKS: Concerto in G BWV973 after Vivaldi Concerto op.7/8 RV299. Concerto in G Minor BWV975 Vivaldi Concerto op.4/6 RV3116. Concerto in G BWV980 after Vivaldi Concerto op.4/1 RV381. Concerto in D BWV972 after Vivaldi Concerto op.3/9 RV230. Concert in C BWV976 after Vivaldi Concerto op.3/12 RV265. Concerto in F BWV978 after Vivaldi Concerto op.3/3 RV310. Italian Concerto in F major BWV971.
ARTIST: Oliver Baumont

Elatus is a fairly new, mid price label, which is re-releasing some earlier Warner recordings.

Another one to watch in this series is the re-release of Alessandro Stradella's San Giovanni Batista, performed by Les Musicienes Du Louvre, Marc Minkowski.

What do other members think of this suggestion of an Italian road into the keyboard works of JS Bach?

John Pike wrote (November 26, 2003):
[To Barry Murray] Bach's Italian Concerto would be a good piece of introduction to Bach.

 

Bach's influences/ Wolff excerpt

Jack Botelho wrote (March 30, 2004):
"Curiously, C.P.E. Bach's list of the masters his father had 'loved and studied' contains no mention of Vivaldi and the two Marcellos, or of Corelli, Torelli and other late Baroque Italian composers. Forkel compensated for this by his emphasis on the importance of Vivaldi's concertos, without citing any particular source to support his claim. Indeed, it was Vivaldi who exercised what was probably the most lasting and distinctive influence on Bach from about 1712-13, when a wide range of the Italian repertory became available to the Weimar court orchestra. Bach drew from Vivaldi his clear melodic contours, the sharp outlines of his outer parts, his motoric and rhythmic conciseness, his unified motivic treatment and his clearly articulated modulation schemes. His confrontation with Vivaldi's music in 1713-14 provoked what was certainly the strongest single development towards his own personal style. In Forkel's words, Vivaldi 'taught him to think musically'; his musical language acquire its enduring quality and unmistakable identity through his coupling of Italianisms and complex counterpoint, marked by busy interweavings of the inner voices as well as harmonic refinement. It is impossible to describe Bach's personal style by means of simple formulae; but the process of adaptation and mutation that can be felt throughout his output seems to have taken a particularly characteristic turn at that point in 1713-14 whose principal landmarks are the 'Orgel-Buchlein' and the first Weimar series of cantatas. His adaptation and integration of various contemporary and retrospective styles represent his systematic attempt at shaping and perfecting his personal music al language ('unlike that of any other composer', according to C.P.E. Bach) and expanding its structural possibilities and its expressive powers."

Wolff, Christoph: "Bach, Johann Sebastian. Background, Style, Influences" in
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
Stanley Sadie, general editor
2001 edition

 

Bach influence on modern piano composers

Mark John wrote (August 31, 2004):
It's always interesting to hear how composers from distant eras influence today's musicians. I was listening to a new album called "The Darkness and The Light" from the www.cdbaby.com site which is new piano compositions by a pianist named Arthur Dobrucki. There are a couple of original minuets using the form of the popular minuets from the Anna Magdalena notebook but with interesting modern voicings.

(I know the minuets are attributed to Pezold, but the Bach connection is there).

Turning back to the originals, Kipnis is always insightful.

 

Continue on Part 2

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Last update: żNovember 22, 2008 ż02:15:59