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Both amateurs and professional musicians already regarded him with admiration when, in , Marchand, the French virtuoso, a celebrated Clavier and before the future Frederick i. Bach's feet, an admirer recorded, ' flew over the pedal-board as if they had wings. Forkel records the famous contest with Marchand, the French Organist, at Dresden in The latter's post was still vacant and a new and particularly large Organ sixty-three speaking stops was being erected.
The authorities pressed Bach to submit himself to the prescribed tests, and he complied so far as to compose a Cantata and to conduct a performance of it. On his return to Weimar he received a formal invitation to accept the post. After some correspondence Bach refused it, partly, perhaps chiefly, on the ground that the income was inadequate. The refusal was answered by the groundless accusation that he had merely entertained the Halle proposal in order to bring pressure upon Weimar for a rise of salary.
The misunderstanding was cleared away by , when Bach visited Halle again. In the interval Zachau's post had been given to his pupil, Gottfried Kirchhoff. The whole matter is discussed at length in Spitta, i. Like Couperin, 3 his musical ideas were weak to the point of banality, as we may judge from his compositions. Volumier, Concertmeister at Dresden, 5 was aware of these circumstances, and knowing that the young German had his in- strument and his imagination under the fullest control, determined to arrange a contest between the two men in order to give his sovereign the satisfaction of judging their merits.
With the King's approbation, a message was dispatched 1 Frederick Augustus i. He died In Honore, Paris. His arrival in Dresden was due to his being in disgrace at Versailles. Whether or not he was offered a permanent engagement at the Saxon Court, he was regarded as the champion of the French style, and as such the challenge was issued to him by Bach. Gervais, Paris. Forkel's judgment upon his art is not supported by modern criticism. See Pirro, p. Eitner, ' Quellen Lexikon,' says that he was born in Spain and educated in France. Grove's ' Dictionary ' declares him a Belgian. In he was appointed Concertmeister to the Saxon Court.
He died at Dresden in Bach accepted the invitation and set out at once on his journey. Upon his arrival at Dresden Volumier procured him an opportunity to hear Marchand secretly. Far from being discouraged by what he heard, Bach wrote a polite note to the French artist challeng- ing him to a trial of skill, and offering to play at sight anything Marchand put before him, provided the Frenchman submitted himself to a similar test.
Marchand accepted the challenge, a time and place for the contest were fixed, and the King gave his approval. At the appointed hour a large and distinguished company assembled in the house of Marshal Count Flemming. After considerable delay he was sought at his lodging, when it was discovered, to the astonishment of all, that he had left Dresden that morning without taking leave of anybody.
Bach therefore performed alone, and excited the admiration of all who heard him, though Volumier was cheated of his intention to exhibit the in- feriority of French to German art. Bach was overwhelmed with congratulations ; but the dis- honesty of a Court official is said to have inter- 1 It is more probable that Bach was at Dresden either expressly to hear Marchand or upon one of his autumn tours.
He entered at once upon his new office 3 and held it for about six years. According to this story of the event, Bach, summoned from Weimar, attended Marchand's concert incognito, and after hearing Marchand perform, was invited by Volumier to take his seat at the Clavier. Bach thereupon repeated from memory Marchand's theme and variations, and added others of his own. Having ended, he handed Marchand a theme for treatment on the Organ and challenged him to a contest.
Marchand accepted it, but left Dresden before the appointed hour. Bach was, therefore, already known to him and showed the greatest regard for him both at Cothen and after he had left his service. The post was given to Drese's son. On August 1, , just before or after his Marchand triumph, Bach was appointed Kapellmeister to the Court of Cothen. Duke Wilhelm Ernst refused to release him from his engagement, and Bach endured imprisonment from November 6 to December 2, , for demanding instant permission to take up his new post.
Pro- bably his last work at Weimar was to put the ' Orgelbiichlein ' into the form in which it has come down to us see articles by the present writer in ' The Musical Times ' for January-March With his departure from Weimar in Bach left behind him the distinctively Organ period of his musical fertility. Though his com- positions were still by no means generally known, as a player he held an unchallenged pre-eminence. He was appointed to Cothen on August 1, , and was inducted at Leipzig on May 31, The veteran Reinken he was nearly one hundred years old was particu- larly impressed by Bach's performance.
After he had treated the Choral ' An Wasserflussen Babylon ' for half an hour in variation after variation in the true Organ style, 1 Reinken paid him the compliment of saying, ' I thought this art was dead, but I see that it survives in you. His praise therefore was particularly flattering to Bach. Thomas' School, Leipzig, 4 a position which he were in connection with the Prince's band. The yearning to get back to the Organ, which eventually took him to Leipzig in , shows itself in his readiness to entertain an invitation to Hamburg in James, vacant by the death of Heinrich Friese in September He was not able to stay to take part in the final tests, nor was he asked to submit to them, since his visit to Hamburg had given him an oppor- tunity to display his gifts.
In the result the post was given to Johann Joachim Heitmann, who acknowledged his appointment by forthwith paying marks to the treasury of the Church. See Spitta, ii. Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen had great regard for him and Bach left his service with regret.
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Thomas' he was appointed honorary Kapellmeister to the Duke of Weissenfels 4 and, in the following year 1 Forkel has practically nothing to say regarding the Leipzig period of Bach's musical life. That a professed historian of music, setting before the public for the first time the life of one whom he so greatly extolled, and with every inducement to present as complete a picture of him as was possible, should have taken no trouble to carry his investigations beyond the point C.
Bach and Agricola had reached in the ' Nekrolog ' of is almost incredible. The only reason that can be adduced, apart from the lack of a really scientific impulse, is that Forkel was almost entirely ignorant of the flood of concerted church music which poured from Leipzig from to His criticism of Bach as a composer is restricted practically to Bach's Organ and Clavier works. Latterly his interest in music had waned. The fact, along with Bach's concern for the education of his sons and his desire to return to the Organ, explains his abandonment of the more dignified Cothen appointment.
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Matthew Passion,' which he was then writing, with the first chorus of the 'Trauer- Ode ' as an opening of the extemporised work. He retained also his Cothen appointment. Thomas' School. So widely was Bach's skill recognised by this time that the King, who often heard him praised, was curious to meet so great an artist. More than once he hinted to Carl Philipp Emmanuel that it would be agreeable to welcome his father to Potsdam, and as Bach did not appear, desired to know the reason.
Carl Philipp did not fail to acquaint his father with the King's interest. But for some time Bach was too occupied with his duties to accede to the invitation. However, as Carl Philipp continued to urge him, he set out for Potsdam towards the end of , in company with his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann. Bach had petitioned for the appointment in a letter dated July 27, Spitta, iii.
Thomas' Cantorate. Bach applied for it in , taking advantage of the recent accession of the new sovereign, Augustus m. One evening, 1 when he had got out his flute and the musicians were at their desks, an official brought him a list of the strangers newly arrived at Potsdam. Flute hi hand the Bang ran through the names, and suddenly turning to the waiting musicians, said with considerable excitement, ' Gentlemen, Old Bach has arrived. Wilhelm Friedemann, who accompanied his father, often told me the story. Nor am I likely to forget the racy manner hi which he related it.
The courtesy of those days demanded rather prolix compliments, and the first introduction of Bach to so illustrious a monarch, into whose presence he had hurried without being allowed, time to change his travel- ling dress for a Cantor's black gown, obviously invited ceremonial speeches on both sides. I will not dwell on them ; Wilhelm Friedemann related 1 May 7, , according to Spitta, quoting Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg's ' Historisch-kritische Beytrage zur Aufnahme der Musik,' which appeared in 5 vols.
On the other hand, Spener, who first records the event, states briefly : ' May 11, His Majesty was informed that Kapellmeister Bach had arrived in Potsdam, and that he was in the Bang's ante-chamber, waiting His Majesty's gracious permission to enter, and hear the music. His Majesty at once commanded that he should be admitted ' Spitta, iii. If the Marpurg and Spener dates are reliable, it looks as though Friede- mann's story of his father, travel-stained and weary, being hurried incontinent into the presence of the King is a piece of picturesque embroidery.
After some time he asked the King to give him a subject for a Fugue, that he might treat it extempore. The King did so, and expressed his astonishment at Bach's profound skill in developing it. Anxious to see to what lengths the art could be carried, the King desired Bach to improvise a six-part Fugue. But as every subject is not suitable for polyphonic 1 Clearly this was a story that Wilhelm Friedemann prided himself on the telling, and Forkel's remark suggests the need for caution in accepting all its details. Frederick's courtesy to Bach, however, tends to discredit the story that ten years earlier Handel deliberately refused to meet the King at Aix-la-Chapelle owing to the peremptori- ness of his summons.
Streatfield p. Bach was already familiar with his Claviers with hammer action, and indeed had offered useful criticism of which Silbermann had taken advantage. He collected fifteen. I hear that they all now stand, unfit for use, in various corners of the Royal Palace. His Majesty ex- pressed a wish to hear him on the Organ also.
Accordingly, next day, Bach inspected all the Organs in Potsdam, 1 as the evening before he had tried the Silbermann pianofortes. On his return to Leipzig he developed the King's theme in three and six parts, added Canoms diversi upon it, engraved the whole under the title ' Musikalisches Opfer ' and dedicated it to the royal author of the theme. The indefatigable diligence he had shown all his life, and particularly in his younger years, when successive days and nights were given to study, seriously affected his eye-sight.
The weakness grew with age and became very distressing in character. On the advice of friends who placed great confidence in the skill of a London oculist lately come to Leipzig, 3 Bach submitted to an 1 According to another account, which Spitta iii. The King does not appear to have been present.
The extemporisation of the six- part Fugue took place in Frederick's presence on the evening of that day. He calls it ' a musical offering, of which the noblest portion is the work of Your Majesty's illustrious hand. The operation took place in the winter of He lost his sight completely in consequence, and his hitherto vigorous constitution was undermined by the drugs administered to him. He sank gradually for full half a year, and expired on the evening of July 30, , in the sixty-sixth year of his age.
A few hours later he was seized by an apoplexy and inflammatory fever, and notwithstanding all possible medical aid, his weakened frame suc- cumbed to the attack. Such was the career of this remarkable man. I will only add that he was twice married, and that he had by his first wife seven, and by his second wife thirteen children ; in all, eleven sons and nine daughters. Streatfield ' Handel,' p. Bach was working to the very moment of his collapse on July Probably his last work was the Choral Prelude Novello bk.
An addendum to the Genealogy, in C. Bach's hand, gives July 30 as the date of his father's death. Of the five sona of the first marriage, two were famous, two died in infancy, and the fifth abandoned a pro- mising musical career for the law. Of the six sons of the second marriage, one was imbecile, three died in infancy, two were famous. Thomas' School at nine o'clock on the morning of Monday, May 31, He died in his official residence there at a quarter to nine on the evening of Tuesday, July 28, He was buried early on the morning of Friday, July 31, in the churchyard of St.
John's, Leipzig. The announcement of his death, made from the pulpit of St. Thomas' School of this town. The Cantor of St. Thomas' was charged for- merly with the musical direction of four Leipzig 1 See Introduction, p. Thomas', St. Nicolas', St. Peter's, and the New Church. He was also responsible for the music in the University Church of St.
Paul, the so-called ' old service,' held originally on the Festivals of Easter, Whit, Christmas, and the Reformation, and once during each University quarter. On high days music also had to be provided at St. John's Church. Bach, as Cantor, succeeded to a more restricted responsibility, which dated from the early years of the eighteenth century. The New Church, originally the Church of the Franciscans, had been restored to use in In Georg Philipp Telemann, who came to Leipzig as a law student three years before, was appointed Organist there.
Not until did the Society pass under Bach's direction and its members become available as auxiliaries in the church choirs under his charge. Notwithstanding that Bach's predecessor Kuhnau had protested against Telemann' s independence, the direction of the New Church's music passed out of the Cantor's control, though the School continued to provide the choristers. Six years later the University Church of St. Paul also began an independent course.
In the authorities resolved to hold a University service in the church every Sunday. Kuhnau asserted his prerogative as Cantor. Nicolas' since , to control the music both of the c old ' and ' new ' services, for which the University provided the choir. Not until after a direct appeal to the King did Bach succeed, in , in compelling the University to restore to the Cantor his emoluments in regard to the ' old service,' the conduct of which had been restored to him on his appointment as Cantor.
As to St. Peter's, its services, which had entirely ceased, were revived in The music, however, was simple, and consisted only of hymns. Thus Bach, as Cantor, was responsible for the music in the two principal churches, St. Thomas' and St. The School also provided the choir for St. Peter's and the New Church. The junior and least competent singers sang at St. The rest were pretty equally distributed between the other three churches.
At the New Church the music was performed under the direc- tion of a Chorprafect. At St. Nicolas' Bach personally directed the concerted music. At the great Festivals, New Year, Epiphany, Ascen- sion Day, Trinity Sunday, and the Annunciation, Cantatas were sung at both churches, the two choirs singing at Vespers in the second church the Cantata performed by them in the morning at the other church. On these occasions the second choir was conducted by a Chorprafect. The principal Sunday service in both churches began at seven in the morning, ended at eleven, and observed the following order : 1.
Organ Prelude. Motet, related to the Gospel for the Day ; omitted in Lent and replaced by the Benedictus. Kyrie, sung alternately, in German and Latin. The Lord's Prayer, intoned at the altar. Collect, intoned in Latin ; preceded by the preces ' Dominus vobiscum ' and ' Et cum spiritu tuo. Litany, in Advent and Lent only ; intoned by four boys, the Choir responding. Hymn, appropriate to the Gospel. Prelude, followed by a Cantata, lasting about twenty minutes ; on alternate Sundays in each church. The Creed in German, ' Wir glauben all' an einen Gott,' sung by the congregation.
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Sermon, lasting one hour A. Hymn, ' Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend',' followed by the reading of the Gospel, on which the Sermon had been based. General Confession, prayers, and Lord's Prayer. Communion Service ; Hymns and Organ extemporisation. Vespers began at a quarter past one and was a comparatively simple service ; the music con- sisted of Hymns, a Motet, and the Magnificat. The Organ was silent. A festal hymn followed the Benediction. The three great Festivals were each observed for three consecutive days, on the first and second of which Cantatas were sung at both churches.
On the third day concerted music was sung at only one of the two churches. Michael the Archangel. The Reformation Festival was kept on October 31, or if that date was a Saturday or Monday, on the previous or following Sunday. On Good Friday the Passion was performed in the two principal churches alternately. Leipzig adopted no official Hymn-book. The compilation from which the Hymns were chosen by Bach was the eight-volumed ' Gesangbuch ' of Paul Wagner, published at Leipzig for Dresden use in It contained over five thousand Hymns but no music, merely the name of the tune being stated above the Hymn.
Otherwise the power of selection was in the hands of the Cantor, and Bach's exercise of it caused some friction with the clergy in The provision and direction of the music at weddings and funerals was in the Cantor's hands. He arranged the choirs and the music sung at the scholars' annual processions and perambulations of the town, which took place at Michaelmas, New Year, and on St. Martin's and St. Gregory's Days.
Augmenting the School's choristers, the Town Musicians took part in the Church services and were under the Cantor's direction. Their numbers and efficiency were inadequate. Upon the staff of the School the Cantor ranked third after the Rector and Sub-Rector, and took a share in the general instruction of the scholars. Class III. Singing classes were held by the Cantor on three days of the week, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, at nine and noon, and on Fridays at noon.
His instruction in singing was given to the four upper classes only. On Saturday afternoons the Cantata was rehearsed. Once hi four weeks the Cantor took his turn to inspect the scholars. He rose at five in summer, at six in winter, dined at ten and supped at five in the afternoon.
Holidays were numerous. At Midsummer the School had a month of half-holidays. Whole holidays were given on the birthdays of the four upper masters. There were no morning lessons on Saints' Days, on the occasion of funeral orations in the University Church, and on the quarterly Speech Days.
Hence, though Bach's office carried large respon- sibility, it left him considerable leisure for com- position. As Cantor Bach had an official residence in the left wing of the School House. In , the Cantor's wing was of two storeys only, dwarfed by the greater elevation of the main edifice and under the shadow of the church. Bach brought to Leipzig four children of his first marriage, and his second wife, Anna Magdalena, presented him with a son or daughter annually from to The accommodation of the Cantor's lodging therefore rapidly became inadequate.
In the spring of Bach found a house elsewhere while an additional storey was added to it, which provided a new music-room, a good-sized apart- ment whence a passage led to the big schoolroom in the main building. From thenceforward till his death eighteen years later Bach's occupancy was not disturbed. The wing continued to be the official residence of the Cantor until the School moved to the suburbs of the city in About 12 thalers came to him from endowments.
In kind he was entitled to 16 bushels of corn and 2 cords of firelogs, together with 2 measures of wine at each of the three great Festivals. From the University, after his successful protest, he received 12 thalers for directing the ' old service. They were of three kinds : 1 School monies, 2 funeral fees, 3 wedding fees. The School monies repre- sented perquisites derived from funds obtained by the scholars, partly by their weekly collections from the public, partly from the four annual processions or perambulations of the city. From the weekly collections a sum of six pfennigs multiplied by the number of the scholars was put aside for the four upper masters, among whom the Cantor ranked third.
Martin's Day processions the Rector took a thaler, the Cantor and the Sub-Rector each took one-eleventh of the balance, sixteen thirty- thirds went to the singers, and one-quarter of what remained fell to the Cantor. Out of the money collected on St. Gregory's Day March 12 the Rector took one- tenth for the entertainment of the four upper masters, and the Cantor took one-third of the residue.
For funerals one thaler 15 groschen was paid when the whole school accompanied the procession and a Motet was sung at the house of the deceased. When no Motet was sung the Cantor's fee was 15 groschen. For weddings he received two thalers. Reckoned in modern currency, and judged by the standard of the period, the Cantor's income was not inadequate and served to maintain Bach's large family hi comfort. When he died in , in addition to a mining share valued at 60 thalers, he possessed in cash or bonds about thalers, silver plate valued at thalers, instruments valued at thalers, house furniture valued at 29 thalers, and books valued at 38 thalers.
His whole estate was declared at thalers, or somewhat less than the savings of two years' income. But for the inequitable distribu- tion of his property, owing to his intestacy, which left Anna Magdalena only about thalers and the mining share, Bach's widow and unmarried BACH AT LEIPZIG, 39 daughters ought not to have been afflicted with excessive poverty, as in fact they were. At the beginning of his Cantorate Bach worked amid discouraging and unsatisfactory conditions.
The Rector, Johann Heinrich Ernesti, was over seventy years of age in The School was badly managed, its discipline was relaxed, the better-to-do citizens withheld their sons from it, and its numbers were seriously diminished. In the junior classes contained only 53 as against in Ernesti' s earlier years. The proximity and operatic traditions of Dresden and Weissenfels also had a bad effect ; the St. Thomas' boys, after attaining musical proficiency, were apt to become restless, demanding release from their indentures, and even running away to more attractive and lucrative occupations.
More- over, the governors of the School were the Town Council, a body which had little sympathy with or appreciation of Bach's artistic aims and tem- perament. To these difficulties must be added another. The Town Musicians, on whom Bach relied for the nucleus of his orchestra, were few in number and inefficient. So long as Ernesti lived, there was little prospect of reform. But, after his death, in October , Bach made vigorous representations to the Town Council. Already he had remonstrated with the Council for presenting to foundation scholarships boys who lacked musical aptitude.
He was declared to be ' incorrigible ' and it was resolved August 2, to sequestrate the Cantor's income, in other words, to withhold from him the perquisites to which he was entitled for the conduct of the Church services. The document reveals the conditions amid which Bach worked. Its repre- sentations may be summarised : The foundation scholars of St. Thomas' are of four classes : Trebles, Altos, Tenors, Basses. A choir needs from four to eight ' concertists ' solo singers and at least two ' ripienists ' to each chorus part, i.
The foundation scholars number fifty-five, by whom the choirs of the four Churches, St. Peter's, and the New Church are provided. For the instrumental accompaniments at least twenty players are required : viz. To fill these places there are eight Town Musicians, and at the moment there are no players available for third Tromba, Timpani, Viola, Violoncello, Contra- basso, third Oboe or Taille. To augment the Town Musicians the Cantor has been wont in the past to employ University students and instrumental players in the School.
But the Council, by its recent resolution, no longer affords the Cantor the means to employ them. To place the scholars hi the orchestra weakens the choir, to which they natur- ally belong. By presenting to foundation scholarships boys unskilled and ignorant of music, the resources at the Cantor's disposal are still farther lessened. Hence, Bach concludes, ' in ceasing to receive my perquisites I am deprived of the power of putting the music into a better condition. But with the advent of Johann Matthias Gesner as Rector in September a happier period dawned upon the 'incorrigible' Cantor. In Gesner pro- cured the withdrawal of the Council's ban on Bach's perquisites.
The fallen fortunes of the School revived, and Bach did not again make an effort to leave Leipzig. Bach's early misunderstanding with the Uni- versity cut him off from association with the most dignified, if not the most important, institution in Leipzig, and deprived him of opportunity to display his genius beyond the radius of his Church duties. The situation changed in , when he became director of the University Society, and he held the post for about ten years.
The Society gave weekly concerts on Fridays, from 8 to 10, and an extra concert, during the Fair season, on Thursdays at the same hour. It performed vocal and instrumental music and was the medium through which Bach presented his secular Can- tatas, Clavier and Violin Concertos, and Orchestral Suites to the public. The proficiency of his elder sons and pupils, and his wife's talent as a singer, were a farther source of strength to the Society, whose direction undoubtedly made these years the happiest in Bach's life.
He took his rightful place in the musical life of the city, and relegated to a position of inferiority the smaller fry, such as Corner, who had presumed on Bach's aloofness from the University and Municipality to insinuate themselves. His increasing reputation as an organist, gained in his annual autumn tours, also enlightened his fellow-townsmen regarding the superlative worth of one whom at the outset BACH AT LEIPZIG, 43 they were disposed to treat as a subordinate official.
The Leipzig of Bach's day offered various oppor- tunities for musical celebration ; official events in the University, ' gratulations ' or ' ovations ' of favourite professors by their students, as well as patriotic occasions in which town and gown par- ticipated. The recognised fee for pieces d? Bach's conductorship of the University Society enabled him to perform festival works with the resources they required, and to augment the band and chorus needed for their adequate performance.
Even before he undertook the direction of the University Society, Bach more than once pro- vided the music for University celebrations. On August 3, , his secular Cantata, 'Der zufried- engestellte Aeolus,' was performed at the students' celebration of Doctor August Friedrich Miiller's name-day. In he revived an old Cantata 1 to celebrate the birthday of another of the Leipzig teachers.
In the same year the appointment of Dr. On November 21, 1 Steigt freudig in die Luft,' first performed at Cothen, set to a new text, ' Schwingt freudig euch empor. But Bach's activity as a secular composer at Leipzig was chiefly expended on patriotic celebra- tions. His compositions of this character are particularly numerous during the years , while he was seeking from the Dresden Court the post of Hof-Componist. The first of these cele- brations took place on May 12, , the birth- day of Augustus n. The King was present and listened to the performance from a convenient window.
The music is lost. Six years elapsed before Bach was invited to collaborate in another celebration of the royal House. On September 5, , less than two months after his application for the post of Hof-Componist, the University Society celebrated the eleventh birth- day of the Electoral Prince by performing Bach's dramma per musica, ' Die Wahl des Herkules,' or ' Herkules auf dem Scheidewege. The music had already done duty in Dr. Muller's honour in On the following October 5, , when the King visited Leipzig, Bach's hurriedly written Cantata, ' Preise dein Gliicke, gesegnetes Sachsen,' whose first chorus became the ' Osanna ' of the B minor Mass, was performed hi the Market Place.
Two days later, on October 7, , the King's birthday was celebrated by another Bach Cantata, ' Schleicht spielende Wellen,' performed by the Collegium Musicum. In , having received the coveted title of Hof- Componist in the interval , Bach performed a work ' Willkommen, ihr herrschenden Gotter der Erden ' now lost, in honour of the marriage of the Princess Maria Amalia of Saxony to Charles of Sicily, afterwards Charles m. Apart from his musical activities and the house in which he lived there is little that permits us to picture Bach's life at Leipzig.
Gottsched and his musical wife, Johann Abraham Birnbaum, among the Pro- fessoriate, Picander and Christian Weiss, Bach's regular librettists, suggests the amenities of an academic and literary circle. And few men had a happier home life. While his elder sons were at home the family concerts were among his most agreeable experiences. As his fame increased, his house became the resort of many seeking to know and hear the famous organist.
Late in the thirties he resigned his directorship of the Uni- versity Society. His sons were already off his hands and out of his house, and he turned again to the Organ works of his Weimar period. Their revision occupied the last decade of his life, and the hitherto constant flow of Church Cantatas ceased. Pupils resorted to him and filled his empty house, to one of whom, Altnikol, he gave a daughter in marriage. Four, perhaps only three, contemporary portraits of Bach are known. The second hung in St. Thomas' School and is reproduced at p.
It was painted in and restored in The third portrait belonged to Bach's last pupil, Kittel, and used to hang on the Organ at Erfurt, whence it disappeared after , during the Napoleonic wars. Recently Professor Fritz Volbach of Mainz has discovered a fourth portrait, which is printed at p. He supposes it to be none other than the Erfurt portrait, as indeed it well may be, since it repre- sents a man of some sixty years, austere in countenance, but of a dignity that is not so apparent in Haussmann's portraiture.
In consequence his widow, Anna Magdalena, burdened with the charge of a step-daughter and two daughters, was entitled to only one-third of her husband's estate. Neither 1 The well-known portrait by C. Liszewski in the Joachimsthal Gymnasium, Berlin, was painted in , twenty-two years after Bach's death. It represents him at a table with music-paper before him and an adjacent Clavier.
Pirro uses for his frontispiece a portrait by Geber, which bears no resemblance whatever to the Haussmann or Volbach pictures. Mention must also be made of a singularly engaging picture of Bach at the age of thirty-five. It is reproduced as the frontispiece of this volume. But the fact cannot excuse gross neglect of their father's widow.
Her own sons were in a position to make such a contribution to her income as would at least have kept want from her door. In fact she was per- mitted to become dependent on public charity, and died, an alms-woman, on February 27, , nearly ten years after her great husband. The three daughters survived her. One died in , the second in The third, Regine Susanna, survived them, her want relieved by gifts from a public that at last was awakening to the grandeur of her father.
Beethoven contributed generously. Regine Susanna died in December , the last of Bach's children. In her nephew, Johann Christoph Friedrich's son, also died. With him the line of Johann Sebastian Bach expired. From the picture by Haussmann. His method greatly differed from that of his contemporaries and predecessors, but so far no one has attempted to explain in what the difference consisted.
The same piece of music played by ten dif- ferent performers equally intelligent and com- petent will produce a different effect in each case. Each player will emphasise this or that detail. This or that note will stand out with differing emphasis, and the general effect will vary consequently. And yet, if all the players are equally competent, ought not their per- formances to be uniform?
The fact that they are not so is due to difference of touch, a quality which to the Clavier stands as enunciation to human speech. Distinctness is essential for the enunciation of vowels and consonants, and not less so for the articulation of a musical phrase. But there are gradations of distinctness. On the other hand, over-emphasis of words or notes is to be avoided. Otherwise the hearer's attention will be diverted from the tout ensemble.
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To permit the general effect to be appreciated every note and every vowel must be sounded with balanced distinctness. I have often wondered why Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach's ' Essay on the Right Manner of playing the Clavier ' 1 does not elucidate the qualities that constitute a good touch. For he possessed in high degree the technique that made his father pre-eminent as a player. True, in his chapter on ' Style in Performance,' he writes, ' Some persons play as if their fingers were glued together ; their touch is so deliberate, and they keep the keys down too long ; while others, attempting to avoid this defect, play too crisply, as if the keys burnt then: fingers.
The right method lies between the two extremes. As he has not done so, I must try to make the matter as clear as is possible in words. Bach placed his hand on the finger-board so that his fingers were bent and their extremities poised perpendicularly over the keys in a plane 1 His ' Versuch fiber die wahre Art das Klavier zu spielen ' was published Part I.
Observe the consequences of this position. First of all, the fingers cannot fall or as so often happens be thrown upon the notes, but are 'placed upon them in full control of the force they may be called on to exert. In the second place, since the force communicated to the note needs to be maintained with uniform pressure, the finger should not be released perpendicularly from the key, but can be withdrawn gently and gradually towards the palm of the hand.
In the third place, when passing from one note to another, a sliding action instinctively instructs the next finger regarding the amount of force exerted by its predecessor, so that the tone is equally regulated and the notes are equally distinct. In other words, the touch is neither too long nor too short, as Carl Philipp Emmanuel complains, but is just what it ought to be. I point out merely the most important of them. To begin with, if the fingers are bent, their movements are free. The notes are struck without effort and with less risk of missing or hitting too hard, a frequent fault with people who play with their fingers elongated or insufficiently bent.
In the second place, the sliding finger-tip, and the consequently rapid transmission of regulated force from one finger to another, tend to bring out each note clearly and to make every passage sound uniformly brilliant and distinct to the hearer without exertion. In the third place, stroking the note with uniform pressure permits the string to vibrate freely, im- proves and prolongs the tone, and though the Clavichord is poor in quality, allows the player to sustain long notes upon it.
And the method has this advantage : it prevents over-expenditure of strength and excessive movement of the hand. We gather that the action of Bach's fingers was so slight as to be barely perceptible. Only the top joint seemed to move. His hand preserved its rounded shape even in the most intricate passages. His fingers rested closely upon the keys, very much in the position required for a ' shake.
Bach preferred the older Clavier, or Clavichord, which could be regulated, as the other could not, by nicety of touch. See note, p. It is hardly necessary to say that other limbs of his body took no part in his performance, as is the case with many whose hands lack the requisite agility. To be a first-rate performer many other qualities are needed, and Bach possessed them all in a notable degree.
Some fingers are longer and stronger than others. Hence players are frequently seduced to use the stronger whenever they can readily do so. Conse- quently successive notes become unequal in tone, and passages which leave no choice as to the finger to be used may become impossible to play. Bach recognised this fact very early in his career. To get over the difficulty he invented exercises for his own use in which the fingers of both hands were made to practise passages in every con- ceivable position.
By this means every finger on both hands equally became strong and service- 1 Schweitzer i. Of Handel's touch, Burney writes quoted by Rockstro, p.
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They were so curved and compact when he played, that no motion, and scarcely the fingers themselves, could be discovered. Besides these improvements, Bach invented a new system of fingering. Even so it was not customary to use every one of the twenty-four major and minor keys. The Clavichord was still what we term ' gebunden ' ; that is, several keys struck the same string, which, therefore, could not be accurately tuned.
Again, 1 At the beginning of the seventeenth century, as Spitta points out ii. Speaking generally, neither thumb nor little finger was employed. It was not until the beginning of the eighteenth century that a scientific method emerged, a development rendered necessary by the advance in the modes of musical expression. Bach, quoted by Schweitzer i.
But he lived in an epoch when there came about gradually a most remarkable change in musical taste, and therefore found it necessary to work out for himself a much more thorough use of the fingers, and especially of the thumb, which, besides performing other good services, is quite indispensable in the difficult keys, where it must be used as nature intends.
Arnold Dolmetsch, Clavichords with special strings for each note bundfrei were known in Bach's time. But when Bach began to melodise harmony so that his middle parts not merely filled in but had a tune of their own, when, too, he began to deviate from the Church modes then in general vogue in secular music, using the diatonic and chromatic scales indifferently, and tuning the Clavier in all the twenty-four keys, he found himself compelled to introduce a system of fingering better adapted to his innovations than that in use, and in particular, to challenge the convention which condemned the thumb to in- activity.
It is held by some writers that Couperin forestalled Bach's method of fingering, in his 4 L'Art de toucher le Clavecin,' published in But that is not the case. In the first place, Bach was above thirty years old in , and had already developed a distinctive method of his own. And in the second place, Couperin's system differs materially from Bach's, though both made more frequent use of the thumb than was so far customary. When I say ' more frequent use ' I do so advisedly ; for whereas in Bach's system the thumb is the principal finger for the difficult keys, as they are called, are unplayable without it it is not equally indispensable with Couperin, whose thematic material was not so intricate as Bach's, nor did he compose or play in such difficult keys.
We need only compare Couperin's with Bach's system of fingering, as Carl Philipp Emmanuel explains it, 1 to discover that Bach's permits every passage, however intricate and polyphonic, to be played with ease, whereas Couperin's is hardly effective even for his own compositions. Bach was acquainted with Couperin's works and highly esteemed them, 2 as he did those of other French Clavier composers, for their finish and brilliance. But he considered them affected in their excessive use of ornaments, scarcely a single note being free from them.
He held them, also, superficial in matter. Bach's easy, unconstrained use of the fingers, his musical touch, the clearness and precision of every note he struck, the resourcefulness of his fingering, his thorough training of every finger of both hands, the luxuriance of his thematic material and his original method of stating it, all contributed to give him almost unlimited power over his instrument, so easily did he surmount the difficulties of its keyboard.
Whether he im- provised or played his compositions from notes, he systematically employed every finger of each hand, and his fingering was as uncommon as the compositions themselves, yet so accurate that he 1 In the ' Essay ' already referred to. For a discussion of Couperin's method see Spitta, ii. Moreover, he read at sight other people's compositions which, to be sure, were much easier than his own with the utmost facility.
Indeed, he once boasted to a friend at Weimar that he could play at sight and without a mistake anything put before him. But he was mistaken, as his friend convinced him before the week was out. Having invited Bach to breakfast one morning, he placed on the Clavier, among other music, a piece which, at a first glance, seemed perfectly easy. On his arrival, Bach, as was his custom, sat down at the Clavier to play or look through the music. Meanwhile his friend was in the next room preparing breakfast. In a short time Bach took up the piece of music destined to change his opinion and began to play it.
He had not proceeded far before he came to a passage at which he stopped. After a look at it he began again, only to stop at the same place. It can't be done. He found no more difficulty in piecing together the 1 No doubt the friend who prepared this trap for Bach was Johann Gottfried Walther. His compositions frequently were characterised by intricacy. If a Continue part, however badly figured, was put before him he could im- provise a Trio or Quartet upon it. Nay, when he was in the mood and at the height of his powers, he would convert a Trio into a Quartet by extemporising a fourth part.
On such occasions he used a Harpsichord with two manuals and pedal attachment. Bach preferred the Clavichord to the Harpsi- chord, which, though susceptible of great variety of tone, seemed to him lacking in soul. The Pianoforte was still in its infancy and too coarse. When visiting St. No score being to be obtained, they handed him the separate parts, and it was interesting to observe his manner of reading them, holding some in his hands, some on his knees, placing some on chairs around him ; seeming thoroughly lost to everything, and not rising till he had thoroughly satisfied bis curiosity ' Holmes, ' Life of Mozart,' ed.
Dent, p. The oldest, the Clavichord, as a rule, had two strings to every note, set in motion by a ' tangent ' striking them from below. Its advantage was that it permitted the tone to be regulated by the touch. For that reason, though its tone was weak, Bach preferred it. The Clavicembalo, or Harpsichord, as it is called in the text, was in general known as the ' Fliigel,' the strings being plucked, or flipped by a quill or metal pin, after the manner of the modern mandoline.
The third instrument was the ' piano e forte,' or Hammerclavier. He held the Harpsichord, or Clavicembalo, incapable of the gradations of tone obtainable on the Clavichord, an instrument which, though feeble in quality, is extremely flexible. No one could adjust the quill plectrums of his Harpsichord to Bach's satisfaction ; he always did it himself. He tuned his Harpsichord and Clavichord, and was so skilful in the operation that it never took him more than a quarter of an hour.
It enabled him to play in any key he preferred, and placed the whole twenty-four of them at his disposal, so that he could modulate into the remoter as easily and naturally as into the more nearly related keys. Those who heard him frequently could hardly detect the fact that he had modulated into a distant key, so smooth were his transitions. In chromatic movements his modulation was as easy and sequent as in diatonic. His ' Chromatic Fantasia,' which is now published, 1 bears out my statement.
In his extemporisation he was even freer, more brilliant and expressive. The Clavicembalo was also built with two keyboards, like an Organ, and a pedal-board provided with strings. It was for this instrument that the so-called Organ Sonatas of Bach were written. He possessed five Clavicembali, but not a single Clavichord at the time of his death. For that reason it has been questioned whether Forkel is accurate in stating that Bach preferred the latter instrument. Peters bk. He contrived to introduce so much variety that every piece became a sort of conversation between its parts.
If he wished to express deep emotion he did not strike the notes with great force, as many do, but expressed his feeling in simple melodic and harmonic figures, 1 relying rather on the internal resources of his art than external dynamics. Therein he was right. True emotion is not suggested by hammering the Clavier. All that results is that the notes cannot be heard distinctly, much less be connected coherently. The Clavier and Organ have points in common, but in style and touch are as different as their respective uses.
What sounds well on the Clavier is ineffective on the Organ, and vice versa. The most accomplished Clavier player may be, and usually is, a bad organist unless he realises the differing natures of the two instruments and the uses they serve. I have come across only two men who can be regarded as exceptions to this general rule Bach and his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann.
Both were finished Clavier performers, but no trace of the Clavier style was apparent when they played the Organ. Melody, harmony, and pace were carefully selected with due regard to the nature and distinctive use of each instrument. When Wilhelm Friedemann played the Clavier his touch was elegant, delicate, agreeable. When he played the Organ he inspired a feeling of reverent awe.
On the other he was solemn, im- pressive. So also was his father, and to an even greater degree. Wilhelm Friedemann was a mere child to him as an organist, and frankly admitted the fact. His improvisation was even more inspired, dignified, and impressive : for then his imagination was untrammelled by the irksomeness of expressing himself on paper. What is the essence of this art?
Let me, though imperfectly, attempt an answer. When we compare Bach's Clavier compositions with those written for the Organ it is at once apparent that they differ essentially in melodic and harmonic structure. Hence we conclude that a good organist must select fitting themes for his instrument, and let himself be guided by its character and that of the place in which it stands and by the objects of its use. Its great body of tone renders the Organ ill-adapted to light and jaunty music. Its echoes must have liberty to rise and fall in the dim spaces of the church, otherwise the sound becomes confused, blurred, and unintelligible.
What is played upon it 1 Forkel writes as though he were in a position by personal knowledge to compare the gifts of Bach and his son. In fact he was born in and was less than two years old when Bach died. Occasionally and exceptionally a solo stop may be used in a Trio, etc. But the proper function of the Organ is to support church singing and to stimulate devotional feeling. The composer therefore must not write music for it which is congruous to secular surroundings. What is commonplace and trite can neither impress the hearer nor excite devotional feeling.
It must therefore be banished from the Organ-loft. How clearly Bach grasped that fact! Even his secular music disdained trivialities. Much more so his Organ music, in which he seems to soar as a spirit above this mortal planet. Of the means by which Bach attained to such an altitude as a composer for the Organ we may notice his harmonic treatment of the old Church modes, his use of the obbligato pedal, and his original registration. The remoteness of the ecclesiastical modes from our twenty-four major and minor keys renders them particularly ap- propriate to the service of religion.
Any one who looks at Bach's simple four-part Hymn tunes Choralgesdnge will at once convince himself of the fact. But no one can realise how the Organ sounds under a similar system of harmonic treatment unless he has heard it. Compare the following chords in divided harmony : with these : which is the more usual form organists employ. We realise instantly the effect when music in four or more parts is played in the same manner.
Bach always played the Organ so, adding the obbligato pedal, which few organists know how to use properly. He employed it not only to sound the low notes which organists usually play with the left hand, but he gave it a regular part of its own, often so complicated that many organists would find it difficult to play with their five fingers. To these qualities must be added the exquisite art Bach displayed hi combining the stops of the Organ.
Very early in his career he made a point of giving to each part of the Organ the utterance best suited to its qualities, and this led him to seek unusual com- binations of stops which otherwise would not have occurred to him. Nothing escaped his notice which had the slightest bearing on his art or pro- mised to advance it.
For instance, he made a point of observing the effect of large musical compositions in different surroundings. The prac- tised ear, which enabled him to detect the slightest error hi music even of the fullest and richest texture, and the art and rapidity with which he tuned his instrument, alike attest his intuitive skill and many-sidedness. When he was at Berlin in he was shown the new Opera House.
He took in its good and bad qualities at a glance, whereas others had done so only after experience.