Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/123

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BACH.
111
 

[17], 1669–1753. (See his name, p. 112.) Christoph's moral excellence, his constant striving after the highest ideals, his industry, and his technical proficiency, give him the most prominent place amongst the elder branch of the family. He was not only, as the old authorities tell us, one of the finest organ-players and greatest contrapuntists of his day, but he was altogether one of the most important artists and composers of the whole 17th century. He was regarded with undisputed consideration by the family, and both Johann Sebastian and his son Emanuel had the greatest respect for him. In spite of this, his importance during his life-time was not more widely recognised, and after his death he was but too soon forgotten; but this may be explained by the overpowering fame of his great nephew, by the quiet, reserved, simple nature of the man, who lived only for his art and his family, and lastly by the nature cf his compositions. His few remaining works prove him to have been of a thoroughly independent and original nature, which, though affected by the influences of the time, was so in its own individual way. Having no sympathy with the prevalent Italian style, he endeavoured to carry on the art in his own way, and therefore to a certain degree stood aloof from his contemporaries. The leading feature in the development of the 17th century is the rise of instrumental music,—the struggle of the modern scales with the old ecclesiastical modes, the development of homophony with its melodious character, and its richness of harmony, in contra-distinction to the old strict polyphony. These chief points in the general tendency of the time are not wanting in Johann Christoph. His cultivated sense of form enabled him to give his compositions that firm and compact structure which was a result of the new principles, while his natural musical feeling supplied due expression. His most important compositions are his vocal works, especially his motets; the few that exist only increase our regret at the loss of further proofs of his great ability. One of his best works was a kind of oratorio, for double chorus and orchestra, called 'The Combat of Michael and the Devil' (Rev. xii. 7–12); Johann Sebastian valued it very highly, and had it performed at Leipsic, as did Emanuel after him at Hamburg. Eight of his motets are given in the 'Musica Sacra' (of the Berlin 'Domchor') by Neidhart and Hertzberg; and others in a collection by Naue ('Neun Motette . . von Johann Christoph und Johann Michael Bach,' Leipzig, Hofuieister). The best known of them is 'Mi lasse dich nicht,' familiar in England under the title of 'I wrestle and pray,' for a long time attributed to Johann Sebastian himself, and in fact so published by Schicht in his six motets. His few remaining instrumental works—arrangements of chorales, and variations for klavier—are less important, owing perhaps to the absence of Italian influence, and were soon forgotten. Gerber was in possession of a MS. volume of organ music originally belonging to the Bach family, containing eight pieces by Johann Christoph; this invaluable book comprised works by all the celebrated organ-masters from 1680 to 1720, but has unfortunately been lost through the carelessness of Gerber's legatees. [App. p.526 "The list of J. Christoph Bach's motets is as follows:—(Printed) 'Lieber Herr Gott' (Naue, Neun Motette, etc., book ii. 4); 'Der Gerechte, ob er gleich zu zeitig stirbt' (Naue, i. 1); 'Unsers Herzens Freude hat ein Ende' (Musica Sacra, Berlin, Bote & Bock, vol. xvi. 18); and the doubtful 'Ich lasse dich nicht' (Naue, iii. 9, and elsewhere). The following are in manuscript:—'Der Mensch, vom Weibe geboren'; 'Sei getreu bis in den Tod'; 'Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener'; and 'Fürchte dich nicht, denn ich habe dich erlöst.'"]

Johann Ernst [18], the son of Johann Bernhard, of Eisenach, born 1722–77, studied law at the Leipsic University, and established himself as a lawyer at Eisenach. He was also so clever a musician as to be of great use to his father in his profession. He was at first appointed his assistant in 1748, and afterwards succeeded him; he also became Capellmeister at the court of Weimar, but kept up his house at Eisenach. Some of his vocal pieces are preserved, and show that he was superior to his time as a composer of sacred music, which was then rapidly declining. One or two of his compositions for klavier are to be found in Pauer's 'Alte Meister,' series 2, bk. 3.

Johann Michael [19], younger son of old Heinrich, and brother of Johann Christoph of Eisenach, born in 1648. He, like his brother, was educated by his father, whom he afterwards supported and helped in his professional duties. In 1673 he was appointed organist at Gehren near Arnstadt, where he died in 1694, in the prime of life. He had six children, a boy who died early, and five daughters, the youngest of whom, Maria Barbara [20], became the first wife of Johann Sebastian, and died 1720. Johann Michael had the same nature and character as his brother, the same simple pious mind and constant lofty aims. In depth of intention, flow of ideas, he vied with his brother, but the latter surpassed him in feeling for form. His invention is remarkable, but form is always his difficulty; in him we feel the want of certainty so characteristic of that time, which resulted from the constant seeking after new forms; and the defect is equally evident in his stiff counterpoint. We may however assume that with his great gifts Michael would have developed more in this direction but for his early death. The decline of the polyphonic style is especially felt in his motets, because he failed to build up his movements in the definite forms demanded by the new homophonic style. In instrumental music he seems to have been more important, perhaps because he was more accessible to the influence of Italy than his brother. Walther says that he wrote 'starke,' that is to say 'remarkable' sonatas, and his pieces were certainly longer esteemed than those of Johann Christoph. [App. p.526 "the expression 'starke Sonaten' is to be taken as equivalent to 'stark besetzte Sonaten,' and refers, not to the character of the compositions, but to the employment of several instruments in them. In Adlung's copy of Walther's Lexicon, now in the Royal Library at Berlin, is the following note in Adlung's hand:—'2 chorie (chörichte) sonatas by Joh. Mich. Bach were engraved on copper.' These are evidently the works referred to."] In the organ-book already mentioned there were no less than seventy-two fugued and figured chorale-preludes of his, showing how much those of his compositions were then valued. Of his vocal works, motets, arias, and church pieces with instrumental accompaniments, forerunners of Johann Sebastian's cantatas, some are still preserved, and give a highly favourable opinion of Michael's capacities. In the depth and force of his expression his relationship with Sebastian is clearly felt. (See the above-mentioned collections of Naue and Neidhardt). Michael