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Life of Bach
Part 1

Astronomy of J.S. Bach

Daniel Joseph Min wrote (August 1, 2001):
Johann Sebastian Bach was born to Johann Ambrosius & Maria Elisabeth Lammerhirt- Bach at their house (a spacious home at the Fleischgasse, above the town center, where today is a small shop, the original home lost to antiquity) located at Lutherstrasse 35, D-99817 Eisenach, precise coordinates 10E19:18 50N58:21 (not to be confused with bachhaus museum located nearby at Frauenplan 21, coord. 50N58:17 10E19:22).

J.S. Bach was born on Saturday morning March 21st, 1685 OS. This is the same date as March 31, 1685 NS, realizing that Protestant (and Swedish) parts of Germany didn't switch to the Gregorian calendar until March 1, 1700 (there's a good reference for this at but for timezones etc use; J.S. Bach was baptised at the Georgenkirche two days later. The exact time of birth isn't known, and must be rectified.

I'll post the master's portrait in stars as time permits...

Lin 8080 wrote (August 2, 2001):
[To Daniel Joseph Min] Is it possible that the hororscopes of
29.07.-07 (vChr)
24.08.99 (nChr)
are nearly the same ?

for the real starviewers: turn on your simulators and see.

Sheep Defender wrote (August 3, 2001):
[To Linn 8080] Uranus is in the wrong relationship, for one..

Hamish wrote (August 2, 2001):
[To Daniel Joseph Min] Bach's Astronomy ? Never heard it. What key?
Ohhh - you meant astrology? Is not that the theory that the Planets composed Holtz?


Bach’s correct birth date? Help needed

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 4, 2001):
This may not be the correct time of year to be considering this and somehow I vaguely remember that this subject was brought up earlier this year, but I have read some conflicting facts regarding the correct birthdate to be assigned to Johann Sebastian Bach: March 21, March 23, March 31, and even April 1, 1685. Perhaps a problem with the calendar is responsible for the wide variety of dates. As I investigated further, I began to discover how shaky the ground is upon which normally reliable sources such as the MGG and New Grove's base their information.

As a case in point, Vladimir Horowitz is generally listed as having been born in Kiev on October 1, 1904, a date listed by such reliable sources as the New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians, but Horowitz himself went on record to dispute this date, a date that had been forged by his brother who changed it in his birth certificate so that Horowitz would be allowed to leave the Soviet Union in 1925. Had the authorities seen the correct date, October 1, 1903, Horowitz would not have received a visa, because he would then have been eligible for conscription.

One source for Bach's birthdate (March 21) is the "Genealogy of the Bach Family" with a surmised date of 1735 which does not exist in Bach's handwriting as I had thought, but rather only in handwritten copies by 1) Anna Carolina Philippina Bach (daughter of C.P.E. Bach); another copy by Johann Elias Bach? (uncertain); and 3) an unidentified handwriting. Then there is another important source (March 21) by Johann Gottfried Walther contained in his music lexicon (Leipzig, 1732). Spitta, among others, considers this source unreliable. No small wonder as there were 5 separate incorrect dates given for Bach's sons.

This leaves as incontrovertible evidence the baptismal record which states: On Monday after the Sunday of Oculi, March 23, 1685, the baptism of Johann Sebastian Bach in St. George Church, Eisenach took place. To Mr. Johann 'Ambrosio' Bach was born a son, G. Sebastian. Godparents are listed.

It seems reasonable to assume that the birth took place a few days earlier. But my real problem here is with the calendar: O.S. vs. N.S. [Old Style -(Julian) and New Style - (Gregorian)]. From what little I have been able to determine, the N.S. was very slowly adpoted throughout Europe. When England, for instance, adopted the calendary in 1752, 11 days were dropped from the calendar. The day after September 2nd was September 14th. Russia waited until 1918 and Greece until 1923 to make the changeover.

My question is: On which date in which year did the principality that Eisenach belongs to make this changeover? This would definitely affect the way we, in this century, would assign the actual birthdate of Johann Sebastian Bach to the calendar that we are now using. If the confusion in adopting a new calendar in Germany with its many principalities is in any way comparable to the switchover from one time zone to another and from standard to daylight savings time in the State of Indiana (USA) during the past half century, then trying to answer this question could become a veritable nightmare, but I hope this will not be the case.

Charles Francis wrote (October 5, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] The link below points to a relevant posting in :

For further details see the referenced link :

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 5, 2001):
[To Charles Francis] Thanks Charles for your help.

Unfortunately Google, the 1st link that you give, states that it is 'Unable to Retrieve Document.' Do you know a way around this problem?

The 2nd site seems to indicate 1700 as the year of the switchover for 'Protestant' Germany. Do you concur with this conclusion? This already would be a great help.

Charles Francis wrote (October 5, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] This will happen whenever a web address is too long to fit on one line of an email, in which case the email system automatically adds a "new-line" character in the middle of the web address. As a result when you "click" on the web address, only the top line is copied to your browser and the web address is therefore incomplete and you get an error. The solution is to copy the rest of the web address to your browser. You can type it in manualy if you want, but the quicker way is often 1) to select the text to be copied (e.g., the second line) using your mouse 2) type Control-C (i.e. press and hold the "Control" key and then press the "C" key) - this copies the selected text to an invisible "buffer" 3) move your mouse cursor to the end of the incomplete address shown in your browser 4) type Control-V (i.e. press and hold the "Control" key and then press the "V" key) - this pastes the contents of the invisible buffer into your web browser. This problem happens again and again, so its worth practicing this work-around.

< The 2nd site seems to indicate 1700 as the year of the switchover for 'Protestant' Germany. Do you concur with this conclusion? This already would be a great help. >
I'm afraid this is beyond my expertise, but if you want greater certainty you
could perhaps follow up some of the references and web links at the end of the
"post-office" article - see :

Good luck

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 5, 2001):
[To Charles Francis] Thanks again Charles. I missed the '' at the end and when I patched them the way you indicated, everything worked fine.

March 31, 1685 N.S. (our present calendar) is the correct date, otherwise reference books should write March 21, 1685 O.S. in order to be entirely correct.


Bach's own collection of music scores?

Jim Michmerhuizen wrote (March 9, 2002):
A friend - who really is already a far better scholar than I - asked for a list of the music scores that were known to be in Bach's own possession at the time of his death. Bach was of course an avid collector troughout his life; and I've seen lots of references to works by other composers for which we have copies in Bach's own hand or that of some member of his household.

But I don't think I've ever seen any effort to collect all of these citations into a single coherent list. Wolff's biography points out that no manuscripts of any sort were even mentioned in the formal inventory of his estate. So it would be a huge labor to identify the extant autographs, in Bach's hand, of works by other composers.

Can anybody point me somewhere on this? Has anything like this actually been done?

..kind of makes me glad I never went up for a PhD...

Simon Crouch wrote (March 9, 2002):
[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
Tommaso 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

Hollenfeltz J. wrote (March 14, 2002):
[To Jim Michmerhuizen] Bad news! At J.S.Bach's death, an inventory has been made of all he owned and could be sold. Probably the scores were not considered as sellable goods for (even in their entirety!) they are not mentionned in that list. It is known that the sons (mostly Wilhelm Friedemann (cantatas, etc.), Carl Philipp Emanuel (keyboard works, etc.) and Johann Christian) inherited them and departed it regarding their needs. Maybe you should seek there. I'm afraid I only know some music of Bach's sons but nothing else so I couldn't help further.

I hope this cam help.


Bach’s travels

Holly wrote (October 5, 2002):
Did Bach ever travel outside of Germany?

Aryeh Oron wrote (Octyober 6, 2002):
[To Holly] The question is how do you define Germany. If you mean modern Germany, than Bach was in Karlsbad with the Prince Leopold from Köthen. Today this place is called Karlovy Vary and it belongs to the Czech Republic. When Bach returned to Köthen after three months of absence, he found that his wife and some his kids were death.

Holly wrote (October 6, 2002):
[To Aryeh Oron] Thank you. Was there only this single trip out of (modern) Germany?


Bach "in the right place at the right time"

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 25, 2003):
<< Thomas Braatz wrote: [McCreesh] Far from the Leipzigers being crusty and uninterested and unappreciative of Bach, he was very much in the right place at the right time--and I'm sure that's why he stayed in Leipzig for so long, in spite of the practical problems there.<< [Here McCreesh seems to be blissfully unaware of Bach's numerous attempts to leave Leipzig.] >>
< Matthew Westphal wrote: Wouldn't it be a reasonable statement to say that Bach was "in the right place at the right time" for at least his first few years in
Leipzig? I had always understood that his first few years were a great success (which was probably why he worked so hard churning out cantatas and other sacred works). >
In The Cambridge Companion to Bach (ed. John Butt, Cambridge University Press, 1997) there is an article "Bach and the domestic politics of Electoral Saxony" by Ulrich Siegele. I just read this on Sunday afternoon. He presents the background, the political hullabaloo, surrounding Bach's appointment to the Leipzig post. Whew, an eye-opener! One political party was trying to change the nature of the post itself (cantor vs Kapellmeister), while the other party submitted names, as a compromise...and Bach was the sixth candidate out of the seven on his party's list.... Given the possibly shifting nature of the post, would the candidate be allowed to hire a substitute for himself for parts of the job he didn't really want (in Bach's case, the classroom teaching of Latin)? That's the sort of thing they were debating.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 26, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] And this sort of thing continued until his death. A year earlier, June of 1749, Harrer was already being auditioned for Bach's position and received promises that he "would not be passed over" then the time came. Wolff comments: "Bach had little choice but to perceive the whole affair as a humiliating gesture by the city council. He may not have been aware that the council had acted under direct pressure from Dresden; had he learned about it early on, he might have been all the more disgusted with the council's spineless action. He eventually realized what had happened, or was told about Count Brühl's role, a fact that did not encourage him to develop a forgiving attitude toward the council."

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (March 26, 2003):
I'm sure that's why he stayed in Leipzig for so long, in spite of the
< practical problems there.<< [Here McCreesh seems to be blissfully unaware of Bach's numerous attempts to leave Leipzig.] >
It's not that I doubt anyone-it's more like I'm too lazy to look them up, can anyone give me a few examples of Bach's "numerous attempts to leave Leipzig", and why they failed?

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 26, 2003):
Matthew Neugebauer, in reference to "Bach's attempts to leave Leipzig" asked:
>>It's not that I doubt anyone-it's more like I'm too lazy to look them up, can anyone give me a few examples of Bach's "numerous attempts to leave Leipzig", and why they failed?<<
A good place to start is Bach's letter to Georg Erdmann, dated October 28, 1730:

"Da aber nun (1) [ich] finde, daß dieser Dienst [in Leipzig] bey weitem nicht so erklecklich als mann mir Ihn beschrieben, (2) viele 'accidentia' dieser 'station' entgangen, (3) ein sehr theürer Orth u. (4) eine wunderliche und der 'Music' wenig ergebene | Obrigkeit ist, mithin fast in stetem Verdruß, Neid und Verfolgung leben muß, als werde genöthiget werden mit des Höchsten Beystand meine 'Fortun' anderweitig zu suchen. Solten Eu: Hochwohlgebohren vor einen alten treuüen Diener dasiges Ohrtes eine 'convenable station' wißen oder finden, so ersuche gantz gehorsamst vor mich eine hochgeneigte 'recommendation' einzulegen."

In essence: This position in Leipzig did not at all turn out the way it had been described to me. Many of the extra fees that I should be receiving are not forthcoming. This is a very expensive place to live. You can only wonder about the people in power here, who certainly feel no real dedication toward hearing good music performed here. I live in constant anguish, suffer from persecution, and am an object of envy. This has become so bad that I feel that it has become necessary to seek my fortune elsewhere with God's help. If you know of or come upon a convenient situation for me in your city [Danzig], I would sincerely request that you recommend me to the authorities.

The B-minor Mass (BWV 232) and the Dresden connection -- was this all just about W.F. Bach, or was Bach simply seeking for another courtly title to fortify himself against the Leipzig authorities, or was he hoping for a position that would require less of him and yet pay him a good salary?

Bach had great problems trying to make the connection with the Dresden court work for him. Could this be a reason why such attempts failed? Was there a personality flaw that made things so difficult for him? Yet, when it came to finding positions for his sons and students, he seemed to have much greater success.


What Bach didn't have in the house at his death

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 28, 2003):
Johann Sebastian Bach died in 1750. An inventory of his estate was prepared. It lists eight keyboard instruments (and many other instruments), but no clavichords among them. One of Bach's earliest biographers, Forkel, claimed that Bach's favorite keyboard instrument for private practice was the clavichord, and that claim found its way fairly securely into the literature. Also, one of Bach's most talented sons, Carl Philipp Emanuel, was one of the top performers and promoters of the clavichord (as reported by Burney and others); he even wrote a book about it. It's clear that JSB knew the clavichord at some point in his life, even if he did not own one (according to the estate records) at the time of his death. The clavichord was *the* home instrument par excellence: the least expensive, the most portable, the least likely to disturb family members or neighbors because it's so quiet...perfect for home use. (I have one, too.) It was popular during Bach's lifetime, especially in Germany. It was, and remains, the most generic keyboard instrument: the simplest and most elegant mechanical design of any keyboard instrument, and allowing the player to practice or perform any single-manual music without pedal. For all these practical reasons, it is a virtual certainty that Bach had one or more around the house at some point in his life.

JSB's familiarity with the clavichord is disputed today only by extreme skeptics who must use the following three arguments together: (1) he didn't own one when he died; (2) there is no extant music written by him that is absolutely, unequivocally, for clavichord as opposed to other keyboard instruments; (3) Forkel was an unreliable writer, in general and on this point specifically. Such skeptics need all three of these points to be true, to have credibility for a claim that Bach never used a clavichord as much as Forkel said he did.

That was just an example. Let's try another one.

I have taught several keyboard students using Bartok's Mikrokosmos as a textbook of musical examples, and pieces for them to learn. Why? Because I believe it is a wonderful resource for learning beautiful touch, and finger independence, and stretching the mind to conceive sound combinations outside familiar habits. That's what Bartok himself said his purpose was; he also said that some of the pieces would work well on harpsichord, and I agree: so did my harpsichord students, who said they really enjoyed playing these on harpsichord and learned a lot from it. Bartok's Mikrokosmos is analogous to Bach's Inventions and Sinfonias; the same basic purpose, and equally useful today. Fair enough? Now, if I were to die today, and somebody did an inventory of my estate, they would learn that I do not actually own a copy of Bartok's books 1-5; only book 6. I've played through them all (both as a piano student, and later), and used pieces from the earlier books in my own harpsichord concerts, but I used borrowed copies of books 1-5. I just haven't got around to buying them yet. When I taught from these, I required my students to obtain their own copies. These books are good teaching material, even though I don't currently own a copy. Someone looking only at the roster of my estate might come to the wrong conclusion that I never knew these books, since I don't own them. My students would know, if anyone bothered to ask them what I taught from, but the written evidence of that would be very shaky; I never signed any copy of my students' music, or wrote comments into their copies with my own hand. There is no WRITTEN proof that I ever taught Mikrokosmos to anyone (except this Internet posting today, of course). That lack of written proof doesn't demonstrate that I didn't do it; only that there aren't any extant records that I did.


Now let's try another one. Johann Peter Kellner was 20 years younger than Bach, and one of the most important copyists of his music; he may not have taken lessons directly from Bach, but they did work together. (For example, he and Bach jointly made a copy of BWV 548.) He knew Bach; there is no dispute about that. This same Kellner, at some point in his life, also owned a manuscript that was supposedly some written material derived from Bach's own teachings of basso continuo: a handwritten document whose title page is a revision of a passage from a published book (we'll get to that in a minute), and whose musical examples are also drawn from that other book. That is, this manuscript was in the possession of someone (Kellner) who worked with Bach. It doesn't prove that the manuscript was by Bach, or ever seen by Bach, but at least there is some circumstantial evidence: Bach could have had some role in the creation and/or practical use of this manuscript.

This manuscript's text and examples derive from the book Musicalische Handleitung by Friedrich Erhard Niedt (1674-1708), first published in 1700 (when Bach was 15 years old) and republished several times later. It was (therefore) a readily available book in Bach's society, at least at some point during Bach's life. Furthermore, Niedt himself had been a music student of Bach's relative Johann Nicolaus Bach (1669-1753). JSB himself may or may not have worked with this book himself as a student; he also may or may not have used it in his own teaching of others. We don't know for sure, one way or the other. The existence of Kellner's manuscript suggests that he probably did; so does the above family connection with Bach.

Kellner's manuscript has the title: Vorschriften und Grundsaetze zum viersspielen des General-Bass oder Accompagnement. The entry about this in the Oxford Composer Companions: J S Bach has this to say about it: "Its only surviving source is a manuscript copy in the Brussels Conservatory, dated 1738 and ascribed to Bach. Bach's authorship has been questioned, however, but H-J Schulze's identification of the Bach pupil C A Thieme as the scribe of the title-page and several corrections to the text at least places the treatise in the Bach circle. It includes instruction, with worked examples, in four-part harmonization of a figured bass, and is more a written harmony primer than a textbook on continuo playing. The first nine chapters are closely based on Part 1 of F E Niedt's Musicalische Handleitung (1700)."

Furthermore, the connection of this manuscript with Bach's circle has also been described in published articles and books by Christoph Wolff, Arthur Mendel, Hans David, John Butt, Laurence Dreyfus, P L Poulin, the aforementioned H J Schulze, and others; it is quite well established as musicological "fact." This fact could still be wrong, conceivably, but it is unlikely (for all the reasons I've presented here).

Yet, this is what our Mr Braatz would have us believe (through his repeated assertions): because a copy of Niedt's 50-year-old book was not found in Bach's house at the time of his death, Bach therefore never saw one (that we can determine), and therefore Niedt is not a reliable source on ANY issue of the performance of Bach's music; and any scholar who relies on Niedt is a fool, and not to be trusted. That is an extraordinarily shaky chain of conclusions....

Heck, I have had lessons directly from a copy of Niedt's work, as part of my graduate school training, in a music theory course. I enjoyed it. How much can my handwritten notes surviving from this course be trusted? And as I pointed out above, from the written evidence of manuscripts and estates, how can we ever know for sure
that Bach had a clavichord, or that I myself have taught harpsichord students using books by Bartok, or that Bach taught from Niedt's work? We can't. And I can't "prove" to anyone that I myself actually studied any part of Niedt's work (although it's true), since that paper trail is not readily available to anyone; it's probably in one of my many boxes in the basement, my piles of tidbits from graduate school. The closest anybody could get, at this point, would be to notice that I own a copy of The Bach Reader, a book that reproduces these musical examples from the Thieme/Kellner manuscript.

Since nothing is certain here in this type of inquiry, we must instead rely on what is most probable: from the evidence, from the credibility of witnesses, and from common sense.

That said, let's look briefly at the following, point by point:

Thomas Braatz wrote:
< (...) You still refuse to correct your false assumptions, based upon the work of others whose names you invoke without seriously considering the evidence that I have already presented and which completely refutes their unverifiable myths that maintain that there was some meaningful connection between Bach and Niedt.
Let me refer you to item 433 in the "Bach-Dokumente."
Here are some facts, which I hope are also correctly reported in the books you use as a reference in regard to the Bach-Niedt connection:
1) Absolutely nothing of this manuscript consisting of a title page and 21 handwritten pages is in Bach's handwriting. >

< 2) The title page ascribes the contents to be by Bach [perhaps the two unknown individuals whose handwriting appears in this document hoped to increase the importance of the document by making it appear this way.] >
True, and the conjecture is reasonable.

< 3) This document was never published. Only this obscure copy exists. [Very likely this would not be in existence today, if it were not for Bach's authorship or personal direction indicated on the title page. Can you imagine some older students in Leipzig in the 1830's approaching some rich freshman greenhorns with an offer: "Hey, buddy. We've got some valuable information here that you will get nowhere else. It'll only cost you ....] >
It is true that this document was never published; it should also be remembered that publication was extremely expensive both for the publisher and the consumer. (For example, the book of Bach's partitas cost as much to buy as a harpsichord did!) The conjecture starting with "Very likely..." here is irrelevant.

< 4) There is no proof that Bach ever possessed a copy of Niedt's book. >
True; neither is there no proof that he NEVER possessed or saw a copy of it. My section at the beginning of this posting addresses this.

< 5) A comparison of Niedt's book with the passages written out here indicates that there are numerous substantial changes in the text. There is no way to confirm that the parts not traceable to Niedt were really by Bach. [Certainly some characteristic of the great master would show up in the additional passages.] >
True. So?

The speculation "Certainly some characteristic of the great master would show up" is tantalizing, but: how would we know what this characteristic of the great master is, and be able to sort it out with certainty from the rest of it?

< 6) The musical examples given are fraught with mistakes. [How would Bach even allow such a manuscript to represent his name and his ideas?] >
People make mistakes. Your point here is that Bach never gave any written approval of this document anyway; so what? My professors didn't go through the notes I took in university courses and private keyboard lessons, signing my handwritten notes, to authorize that I have recorded their ideas properly. Does any teacher do that, going scrupulously through the written records of anything he ever said or showed to a student, lest his great name as a teacher be sullied?

Regarding the errors in this document, Mendel's and David's suggestion (in The Bach Reader) is that the musical examples perhaps came from dictation: one of Bach's students writing down what he heard in lessons with Bach, and this copy eventually making its way from the student to Kellner's collection. That's a plausible explanation. Other explanations are also plausible. The presence of mistakes is not "proof" that Bach never had ANY role in the creation of this document.

< 7) Spitta originally thought he had detected the handwriting of Johann Peter Kellner on the title page. Spitta later revised this when he made the connection of some of the passages coming from the Niedt book. <
Perhaps Kellner did not write the title page himself; but Kellner definitely owned this manuscript. And, as noted above, the handwriting is now attributed to Thieme.

< 8) Other than the fact that some sections were copied from Niedt's book, the origin and provenance of this manuscript remain a complete mystery. >
True. But they are not ANY sort of "proof" that Bach himself never knew Niedt's work.

< All of these points deal a serious blow to the credibility of this document. >
A "serious blow to credibility" is in the mind of the beholder....

< In a nutshell, to establish a connection between Niedt and Bach upon this single spurious document is an action not representative of a musicological scholarship that wishes itself to be taken seriously. >
I agree. The existence of this document, in itself, is not sufficient to prove a Bach/Niedt connection.

Neither do you have any proof that in the years between 1700 (NIedt's publication) and 1750 (Bach's death) Bach never owned and/or consulted a copy of it.

Yet, that seems to be the whole basis of your attempt to discredit Niedt as a reliable source on the accompaniment of recitative. Further, you say that any scholar who makes a Niedt/Bach connection in the discussion of recitative is not to be trusted in anything else he says. This extreme leap of logic allows you to discard any evidence you do not wish to address, by simply claiming that the people involved (including Niedt, and a host of modern scholars) are all mentally incompetent for their jobs.


Which is more likely:
(1) That Johann Sebastian Bach (a learned musician, well-respected by his peers) in 50 years NEVER looked at one of the standard textbooks available in his culture?
(2) Or that he did so, actually owning one at some point, but his copy has somehow been misplaced or destroyed, or in the possession of someone else? He could very easily have given, lent, or sold it to a friend, pupil, or one of his own children; or he could have simply lost it; or it could have been stolen or damaged; ...there are plenty of plausible reasons why it was not in his house at the time of his death.
(3) Or that Bach simply used a borrowed copy instead of shelling out his own money for the published book, and hand-copied whichever parts he liked for use in his own study and teaching? And then his students and anyone else may have made their own copies, either directly from his copy or from dictation in lessons?

I personally believe that (2) and (3) are orders of magnitude more likely than (1).

Meanwhile, Tom would have us believe (1); and he desperately needs it to be true so he can yank a stone out of the edifice of performance practice regarding recitatives, discrediting Niedt and anyone who relies on Niedt. Tom's hope is that the destruction of a Niedt/Bach connection will "prove" that he is right, and that all the musicologists are wrong. This is extraordinary. I'm not even going to say a couple of phrases that come to mind at this point.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 28, 2003):
One other rhetorical question I'd thought of earlier, but forgot to include with this posting:

How likely is it for a 65-year-old man to have in his house 100% of the books he's ever consulted in his lifetime? Or even 10% of them?

The cornerstone of Tom's argument here is of course the fact that Bach didn't own a copy of Niedt's Musicalische Handleitung at the time when he died, and therefore (according to Tom's reasoning, by this negative inference) Bach never knew this work.

Here is a quick list of five books that I do not have in my house. (I'm not 65, but just for the sake of this illustration....) Someone, please tell me if I have in fact ever read and studied them, or not:
(1) Paradise Lost by John Milton
(2) The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
(3) Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
(4) The full score of Cesar Franck's symphony
(5) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J K Rowling

And, if you say I haven't ever used them (from someone else's copy, or from a copy I no longer own), how do you KNOW that?

In a similar exercise, here are five books that I do have; which ones have I actually read closely, or even opened? And how do you know one way or the other, unless you're able to find markings in my own handwriting in the margins, or a clearly authoritative document elsewhere that proves I've read them?
(1) Goedel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter
(2) On Playing the Flute by Johann Joachim Quantz
(3) Play Bridge With Mike Lawrence by Mike Lawrence
(4) Baroque Music Today: Music as Speech by Nikolaus Harnoncourt
(5) Europe: A History by Norman Davies

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 29, 2003):
Brad Lehman concludes: >>Meanwhile, Tom would have us believe (1); and he desperately needs it to be true so he can yank a stone out of the edifice of performance practice regarding recitatives, discrediting Niedt and anyone who relies on Niedt. Tom's hope is that the destruction of a Niedt/Bach connection will "prove" that he is right, and that *all* the musicologists are wrong. This is extraordinary. I'm not even going to say a couple of phrases that come to mind at this point.<<
Once again from the MGG:
[„As a composer Niedt, judging from some selections from his writings, never rose above mediocrity, a fact that can easily be understood from his own statements such as when he says that the whole matter of counterpoint is simply a ‘stupid’ occupation for dull, lazy people, and another statement where he admits that he had banned (removed) all fugues and hallelujahs from his cantatas, because the only effect which they had was one of repulsion and annoyance.”]

And such a person as Niedt is brought into the company of Mattheson, Heinichen and Bach in order to prove that shortened accompaniment in secco recitatives in Bach’s time was the rule and not simply an exception!!!

Do you really believe that Bach would take such a ‘composer’ as Niedt seriously, knowing full well what he stood for? Why should anyone do this?

Is there no way to assess the relative merits of an individual based upon his works? Would a Tom Braatz at the beginning of the 17th century, an amateur musician and writer who occasionally dabbled in describing compositional techniques, but who also detested and attacked just about everything that J. S. Bach represented in his church music have come to the attention of Bach? Yes, perhaps, if not only for his kooky ideas!

[If you read Mattheson, which you have, I am sure, you will be aware of how closely compositional techniques and, on the other hand, performance practice techniques are intertwined.]

If I, as this fictitious amateur, wrote a description of secco recitative accompaniment in church compositions, a description that disagreed with other opinions of the day (Heinichen), what are the chances that Bach, knowing full well where I came from, would side with my description of this practice, or even deign to take me seriously?

What if musicologists, centuries later, discovered my printed works, or even found portions of my text embedded in a single manuscript, and used the information gleaned from them to bolster their theories about how Bach’s music should be composed and played. What does that say about these musicologists?

What if Bach threw a copy of my book into the fireplace, something that he would not normally do because books were quite expensive? No one would know how he really felt about this book.

Imagine his despair when he found out that one of his pupils by the name of Thieme had sold to one of his students (Kellner) a few sheets of manuscript with his (Bach’s) name given as the author. Not only that – but embedded were a few paragraphs from the book he had destroyed which was now beginning to haunt him! All he could think of saying was: “Get that out of my house immediately! I will not write a favorable recommendation for you, if I ever see that in my house again.” Somehow the manuscript survived, but the actual story behind its origin was lost forever. Now it can only be conjectured as to what had really happened.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 29, 2003):
Brad stated: >>Johann Sebastian Bach died in 1750. An inventory of his estate was prepared. It lists eight keyboard instruments (and many other instruments), but no clavichords among them.<<
Paragraph 8 of the estate inventory states:

"Und weiln der jüngste Herr Sohn, Herr Johann Christian Bach 3. 'Clavire' nebst 'Pedal' von dem Defuncto seelig bey Lebzeiten erhalten und bei sich hat, solches auch um deßwillen nicht in die 'Specification' gebracht worden, weil derselbe solche von dem 'Defuncto' seelig geschenckt erhalten zu haben angeführet, und dieserwegen unterschiedene Zeügen angegeben...."

[And because the youngest son, Johann Christian Bach received (and still has in his possession) from the deceased while still alive 3 'Clavire' [elsewhere in the same document the words 'Claviçin' or 'Clavesin' and 'Lauten Werck' are used to designate the harpsichords or Lautenwerk, and since 'Clavire' mostly likely does not refer to an organ although there is a 'Pedal' involved -- it seems most likely that J.C. Bach inherited 3 clavichords, or less likely 2 clavichords and 1 harpsichord + pedal - or were there ever 'pedal' clavichords? Perhaps Bach was working on such a combination with Silbermann.] and a 'Pedal', these instruments are not included in the normal listing of instruments in Bach's possession at the time of his death. To attest to this fact, a number of witnesses alisted...."]

Doesn't it appear ironic that C.P.E. Bach, who did much more to further the cause of the clavichord, did not receive a single one of these instruments (if they are indeed clavichords.)

The problem here is that 'Clavire' simply designates a keyboard instrument in German. By the process of elimination, and knowing full well from descriptions of Bach's contemporaries that he played the clavichord, it seems reasonable to surmise that these instruments, or at least some of them were clavichords.

Bach-Dokumente Item 996 (a report by Reichardt - Berlin, 1796, based on earlier sources)

"Er machte... die Vervollkommung des Klavichords wichtig und nothwendig, worin Silbermann ihm so glücklich zu Seite ging.

["He [Bach] made important and necessary the perfection of the clavichord with the help of Silbermann who fortunately assisted him in this matter."]

Bach-Dokumente Item 808 (Agricola)

In reference to Bach's solo violin compositions, Agricola states: "Ihr Verfasser spielte sie selbst oft auf dem Clavichord, und fügte von Harmonie so viel dazu bey, als er für nöthig befand." ["The composer (Bach) himself frequently played these pieces on the clavichord and added as much harmony to them as he felt was necessary."]

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 29, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] I know Bach had the three "Clavire" and the set of pedals, and handed them off to JC while he (JSB) was still alive; you also know this, for the same reasons. You seem to be missing my main point entirely. The simple list of the instruments Bach actually DID have in his house at his death didn't include clavichords. That is plain to see. The main point is: skeptical people who wish to argue that Bach never used clavichords point to that list triumphantly as "evidence" from what is not there. I'm saying that that sort of reasoning is bunkum, even though people do it. It is faulty reasoning. That is the point. Faulty reasoning is bad. One should not do it. But that's the sort of reasoning you've been using yourself, about Niedt...which was my point.

Now, I see, you've changed your tune. This time Bach did know Niedt's work after all, but decided it was best used as fuel to heat his house. At least that idea is marginally more plausible.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 29, 2003):
Brad stated: >>I know Bach had the three "Clavire" and the set of pedals, and handed them off to JC while he (JSB) was still alive.<<
Why don't you call these 'Clavire' clavichords which they really are. And what does it matter, that they were not physically present at the time of the enumeration of items in Bach's estate? Bach most likely possessed these clavichords for many years until probably the last year or so of his life, at which point he gave them to J. C. Bach. Everyone in the family was aware of this gift as stated in the document referred. What further proof is needed here? Why state:

>>For all these practical reasons, it is a virtual certainty that Bach had one or more around the house at some point in his life.<<
It is not a 'virtual' certainty, but rather a certainty attested to and clearly documented 'in the division of the spoils.'

'Clavire' as used here = clavichord.

Next question: Have you ever heard of a 'pedal clavichord?'

The MGG states:

"Interessante Sonderformen sind die Pedalclavichorde, wie sie schon im Traktat des Paulus Paulirinus, Prag, um 1460 als Übungsinstrument für Orgel erwähnt werden, und das Cembal d'amour Gottfried Silbermanns, Freiberg/Sachsen 1722, trotz des eigenartigen Namens ein Clavichord mit Tangentenanschlag auf doppelt lange Saiten."

[Pedal clavichords are interesting, special forms of the common clavichord. The 1st existence of such an instrument is documented in a treatise by Paulus Paulirinus, Prague c. 1460. It was a practice instrument as a substitute for playing the organ when this was not possible. There was also the 'Cembal d'amour' made by Gottfried Silbermann (Freiberg, Saxony) in 1722, which despite its strange name (it sounds as though this might be a harpsichord which it is not) is nevertheless a clavichord with strings of double length and struck by tangents.]

Hugo Saldias wrote (March 30, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] I always wanted to know if JSB cembalos hat 16 foot stops...

In the description in german given below with the description of the instruments is there a notes of the stops of each manual(pedal with 16 f are normal ) but some cembalos like Neupert have 16 on the manuals...

May be Dr Lehman can help?...

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 30, 2003):
Hugo Saldias asked: >>I always wanted to know if JSB cembalos hat 16 foot stops... In the description in german given below with the description of the instruments is there a notes of the stops of each manual(pedal with 16 f are normal ) but some cembalos like Neupert have 16 on the manuals...<<
John Koster has an excellent, up-to-date article on Bach's harpsichords in Oxford Composer Companions: J.S.Bach [Boyd] (Oxford, 1999). Some interesting statements from this article are:

1) "No harpsichord owned by Bach or proven to be played by him has survived."

2) "There is no record of his preferences, although documented connections between Bach and the makers Michael Mietke and Zacharias Hildebrandt might suggest where his tastes lay."

3) "Recent research has been able to question earlier views that Bach's harpsichords were mainly of Italian and Flemish origin and that the best and most typical German 2-manual harpsichords were made in the French style."

4) The instruments that Bach played were from the native harpsichord-making traditions (not Italian, Flemish or French traditions.)

5) Instruments with 2 manuals were made after 1700.

6) The 1-manual instruments usually had 2 8' sets of strings. Sometimes a 3rd set of jacks plucked one of these sets at a different point causing a nasal sound. Sometimes the 3rd set of strings (4') an octave higher was added.

7) The 2-manual instruments often had 3 stops: 8' and 4' on the lower manual and 8' on the upper (with coupler) or 16' and 8' on the lower manual and 8' (nasal) and 4' on the upper.

8) "Of considerable interest are documents indicating that Mietke made haprsichords with 16' stops and that a Hildebrandt harpsichord, presumably made in Leipzig before 1750, had a lower manual with 16' and 8', an upper with 8' and 4', plus a nasal 8' in the bass, and a coupler."

9) There was also the ability to use the 'buff' stop on one of the existing sets of strings.

Hugo Saldias wrote (March 31, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thanks for the above.

I will show this to a cembalo teacher in New York to see if this is true.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 1, 2003):
David Schulenberg, in his articles on ‘clavichord’ and ‘clavier’ in the “Oxford Composer Companions:J.S.Bach” [Boyd], Oxford, has perpetuated some misinformation on the meaning of ‘clavier’ in Bach’s time. Luckily, he does mention in both articles J. N. Forkel’s understanding of what this word meant to Bach: “Bach was undoubtedly familiar with the clavichord, and indeed J. N. Forkel reported it was his favorite keyboard instrument” and “J.N. Forkel, however, appears to have used the specific word ‘Clavichord’ wherever a distinction was crucial (as in his famous but often questioned assertion that the ‘Clavichord’ was the instrument on which best liked to play.)”

Schulenberg’s statement : “Nevertheless, German organists sometimes practiced on instruments comprised of as many as three clavichords placed atop one another, with a pedal-board attached to the lowest; the account of Bach’s estate suggests that he owned such an instrument” reveals what we are discussing: that Bach had such an instrument in his possession for years (it is difficult to discern for how many) and gave it to J. C. Bach shortly before he died.

On the definition of the word ‘clavier’ in German, Schulenberg asserts:

“The word ‘Clavier,’ sometimes translated as ‘clavichord,’ acquired that specific meaning only after Bach’s death.” [Not accurate]

“In later 18th-century German it acquired the more specific meaning of ‘clavichord.’” [Not a]

He then states: “Therefore modern translations of titles, and indeed of all documents containing terms for keyboard instruments, must be carefully scrutinized to ensure that the original language has not been misinterpreted.” [True]

This is just what has happened in Bach scholarship since Forkel’s time, a gross misinterpretation. To be sure, there are situations where Bach uses ‘clavier’ to refer to the physical keyboard (not to the method used to create the sound {tangents, plectra, air being released into organ pipes,}) but if the entire instrument as such is meant and not simply the keyboard(s), then the preferred meaning of the word is generally ‘clavichord’ even during Bach’s lifetime.

When Bach refers to a harpsichord, he uses the word ‘Clavesin’ [letter to Johann Heinrich Martius, Leipzig, March 20, 1748,] but in a letter from Leipzig dated September 26, 1726 addressed to the city council of Plauen, Bach states “fernerhin spielet Er eine gute Orgel und ‘Clavier’” where Bach's choice of this word would certainly include 'clavichord' along with 'harpsichord.'

When Bach writes recommendations for his students, he uses ‘Clavier’ [for Georg Gottfried Wagner, Leipzig, November, 20, 1723; for Jacob Ernst Hürner, Leipzig, July 20, 1726; Friedrich Gottlieb Wild, Leipzig, May 18, 1727; Johann Adolph Scheibe, Leipzig, April 4, 1731; Johann Christoph Dorn, Leipzig, May 11, 1731; Johann Ludwig Krebs, Leipzig, August 24, 1735; Christian Gottlob Wunsch, Leipzig, December 16, 1743] to refer to keyboard instruments generally.

In his dedication to the Musical Offering (BWV 1079), Bach reminds the king that he had given him [Bach] a theme as the subject of a fugue which he then played “auf dem Clavier” [on a keyboard instrument, of which Frederick the Great must have owned quite a few of different types.] Bach’s title pages for his “Clavir/Clavier Ubung/Vbung[the latter has an umlaut over the ‘V’] are frequently followed by the specific keyboard instrument intended: “vor die Orgel” [organ] “vors Clavicimbal” [harpsichord] “vor ein Clavicymbel mit zweyen Manualen” [harpsichord with 2 manuals] and, of course, “Das Wohltemperirte Clavier” [autograph, 1722] which in numerous 19th-century printed editions appeared with the French title: “Le Clavecin bien tempéré” giving this work a ‘spin’ that it never originally had and only added to the confusion surrounding the term ‘Clavier.’ “Clavier-Büchlein” makes us ponder the question remains: “On which particular instrument did beginners learn to play on a keyboard?” Most likely the clavichord.

On the receipts of money received for renting out one of his keyboard instruments (he had quite a number of them of different types (clavichords [even with pedal], harpsichords [single and double manual], Lautenwercks, spinets in his house), Bach always used the designation ‘Clavier’ when he writes ‘Clavier Zinß’ referring to the rental fee for one of these instruments. The most likely ‘Clavier’ referred to here would be the harpsichord which would be used in concerts (probably one of Bach’s fancier harpsichords.)

In his assessments of church organs, Bach used both ‘Claviere’ and ‘Clavitur’ to refer only to the keyboard portion or specific manual of the organ. ‘Claviere’ can also refer to each specific key of the keyboard: ‘…die Clavire nicht so tief fallen’ [‘that the individual keys {of a manual} do not have to be pressed down too far’] In this instance Bach equates ‘Clavibus’ (a word he also uses) with ‘Claviere.’

The source for my information on the dictionary definition is an extremely reliable and valuable one. If someone really wanted to find out the actual documented usage of a word in English including its semantic history, the best source would be the OED (The full, expanded with additional volumes, version of the Oxford English Dictionary. There is an equivalent to this dictionary for the German language: the DWB (Deutsches Wörterbuch) which was initiated by the Grimm Brothers Jacob and Wilhelm (the latter was primarily responsible for the famous collection of fairy tales.)

Johann Leonhard Frisch – Dictionary (extremely long title) (Berlin, 1730) indicates that the second meaning of ‘clavier’ is ‘clavichord’ (the 1st meaning is simply the collection of keys – a keyboard for a harpsichord, organ, or glockenspiel.) This meaning “’clavier’ = ‘clavichordium’” already exists in another dictionary by Johannes Rädlein (Leipzig, 1711.)

Johann Gottfried Walther’s Lexikon (Leipzig, 1732) indicates the following about the clavichord:

“Dieses sehr bekannte Instrument, ist, so zu reden, aller Spieler erste ‘Grammatica;’ denn, so sie dieses mächtig sind, können sie auch auf ‘Spinetten, Clavicymbeln, Regalen,’ Positiven und Orgeln, zurechte kommen.“

[This very well-known instrument is, so to speak, provides the first ‚grammar’ for all {beginning keyboard} players because, those that have achieved complete control of it, will then also be able to play on spinet, harpsichords, and small and large organs.”]

In regard to the use of the title name “Das Wohltemperirte Clavier” as given by Bach himself (title page, 1722) (the title is missing however for WKII in the early manuscript copy by Altnickol) was Bach thinking of ‘Klavier’ = ‘clavichord’ in the same way as Walther explains this instrument above? Very likely.


1) J. C. Bach inherited prematurely from his father a single instrument consisting of 3 keyboards and a pedal board. This was a ‘pedal’-clavichord that was primarily used as a practice instrument for organists. Interestingly enough, the word ‘clavichord’ was not used to designate this instrument in the estate listing, but rather ‘Clavier,’ more specifically: ‘3. Clavire nebst Pedal’ where the word ‘nebst’ = ‘samt’ implies a togetherness, a belonging together with.

2) The specific meaning of ‘Clavier’ meaning ‘clavichord’ in the German language can be traced back to 1711 in Leipzig according to a very important source: DWB.

3) ‘Clavier’ also had the more general meaning of ‘keyboard’ instrument before and during Bach’s lifetime.

4) Forkel’s insight into Bach’s use of the term ‘Clavier’ is confirmed by the DWB and by Bach’s own use of the term.

5) For Bach the term “Clavier” could, in a broad sense, be used to mean any keyboard instrument or any keyboard as such irregardless of how the sound was being produced, but in a more specific sense, ‘clavichord’ probably ranked among the most preferred meanings that he had in mind when he used this term as in “Clavier-Büchlein” or “Das Wohltemperirte Clavier.”

Hugo Saldias wrote (April 1, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] You forgot to mention the name:


The most majestic of all instruments to give an idea of the glorious Trinity is the organ. In the Klavieruebung III part (organ mass or catechism) Bach opens the set with a prelude PRO ORGANO PLENO. There is no doubt that is is for organ...

Other organ works very powerful in inspiration are also PRO ORGANO PLENO.

About the Pedal cembali(2 manuals and a 32 note pedal board) two men from Boston MA had them: Anthony Newman and Edward P Biggs.

Both of them recorded organ works on this instrument. We do not need to go far away for examples when we have them right here in our USA...

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 1, 2003):
3 claviers and pedals

[To Thomas Braatz] Clavichords can indeed be stacked up like that.

Another possibility is a set of silent practice k[with or without silent pedals], really literally, only keyboards. (Mozart had a silent keyboard that traveled with him, for composition and practice; and does it need to be mentioned that Mozart knew J C Bach?)

Another common set of pedals is a pedal harpsichord: with its own strings (sometimes even two or more sets) and harpsichord action, but a pedalboard. The body of it looks like a long, flat, triangular box, with this pedalboard emerging from the wide end. This is set up under any normal harpsichord, whether or not it was designed directly to go with that particular harpsichord. I've played some of these.... I've also played one (by a modern builder) that has dowels designed to push up through a slot in the bottom of the harpsichord above it, and play the keys by pushing up their back ends (the same way some organ pedalboards work).

Silent pedals are fun. During one of my church jobs, I spent many boring sermons improvising two-part counterpoint and practicing my technique with the pedal stops all turned off, and nobody ever knew.

Dick Wursten wrote (April 1, 2003):

[To Bradley Lehman] Just for the record.

During the festival for Old Music in Antwerp a concert was given on a clavi-organum, i.e. a combination of an italian clavecimbel placed on top of a continuo-organ or chest-organ. The 'clavier' (keyboard) could be shifted in such a way that it served either for the organ, the clavecin or for both at the same time. These kinds of instruments seem to have been in production around 1700. In live performance the clavecimbel sounded excellent, the organ didnot. Total impression: curiosum, for Ripleys museum of oddities ?


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