Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/126

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114
BACH.
 

the cyclical sonata-form, and new treatment of the orchestra.

His compositions in all departments are extraordinarily numerous: a complete list of them will be found in Gerber. Historically his instrumental compositions are the most valuable, because the development of the larger forms of instrumental music is the great characteristic of modern times. His vocal music, chiefly for the church, is for the most part flat and monotonous, a quality perhaps partly due to the dry and unenthusiastic rationalism of that day. Most important of all are his numerous compositions for the clavier—210 Solo pieces; 52 Concertos with orchestral accompaniments; Sonatas, Trios, etc.—in which he has exhibited and developed his father's principles of technique. Many of these pieces have been republished in the various collections of ancient music; and his principal work 'Sonaten, nebst Rondos und freien Phantasien, für Kenner und Liebhaber' (6 parts, 1779-87), was republished a few years since by Baumgart. Of his orchestral works, 18 in number, several have been recently reissued by Breitkopf & Härtel, and have excited so much interest as to procure them a place in the programmes of Orchestral Concerts. Bach's vocal works comprise—2 Oratorios, 'Die Israeliten in der Wüste' and 'Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu'; a celebrated 'Heilig' (Sanctus) for 2 Choirs; 'Melodien' to Gellert's sacred songs; 22 Passions; sacred Cantatas; Singspiele; secular songs, etc., etc. That he was not without ability in literature is shown by his great work 'Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen' (2 parts, 1780) with examples and 18 specimen pieces. This book deserves notice as the first methodical treatise on clavier-playing; but it is more important still as containing the foundation of those principles which were first laid down by the great John Sebastian, and were afterwards developed by Clementi, Cramer, Field, and Hummel, into the pianoforte-playing of the present day. Bach lays special stress on refinement and taste in execution, in connection with which he gives detailed rules for the execution of the ornaments or 'Manieren' then considered so indispensable, and in this respect, as the most complete and authentic authority, his work will always possess considerable value. It has recently been re-edited (1857) by Schelling.

[ A. M. ]

BACH, Johann Sebastian—'to whom,' in Schumann's words, 'music owes almost as great a debt as a religion owes to its founder'—youngest son of Ambrosius Bach, was born at Eisenach March 21, 1685. His life, like that of most of his family, was simple and uneventful. His father began by teaching him the violin, and the old-established family traditions and the musical importance of Eisenach, where the famous Johann Christoph was still actively at work, no doubt assisted his early development. In his tenth year the parents both died, and Sebastian was left an orphan. He then went to live with his elder brother, Johann Christoph, at that time organist at Ohrdruff, and under his direction began the clavier, at the same time carrying on his education at the Ohrdruff 'Lyceum.' The remarkable genius of the boy began at once to show itself. He could soon play all his lessons by heart, and aspired to more advanced music. This impulse his brother it seems did not encourage. We are told that he possessed a MS. volume containing pieces by Frohberger, Pachelbel, Kerl, Buxtehude, and other celebrated composers of the day. This book became an object of longing to the young Sebastian, but was strictly withheld from him by his brother. Determined nevertheless to gain possession of the volume, the boy managed with his little hands to get it through the latticed door of the cupboard in which it was kept, and at night secretly copied the whole of it by moonlight, a work which occupied him six months. When the stern brother as [App. p.526 "at"] last discovered the trick, he was cruel enough to take away from the boy his hardly-earned work.

At the age of fifteen (1700) Johann Sebastian entered the 'Michaelis' school at Lüneburg; his beautiful soprano voice at once procured him a place among the 'Mettenschuler,' who took part in the church music, and in return, had their schooling free. Though this gave him an opportunity of becoming acquainted with vocal music, instrumental music, especially organ and pianoforte playing, was always his chief study. Bohm, the organist of St. John's at Lüneburg, no doubt had an inspiring effect upon him, but the vicinity of Hamburg offered a still greater attraction in the person of the famous old Dutch organist Reinken. In his holidays Bach made many expeditions to Hamburg on foot to hear this great player. Another powerful incentive to his development was the ducal 'Hof-kapelle' at Celle, which, being in a great measure composed of Frenchmen, chiefly occupied itself with French instrumental music, and thus Bach had many opportunities of becoming acquainted with a branch of chamber and concert music, at that time of great importance. After remaining three years at Lüneburg he became for a time 'Hofmusikus' at Weimar in the band of Prince Johann Ernst, brother of the reigning duke, and in 1703 was made organist at Arnstadt in the 'new church.' [App. p.526 "His appointment to the 'new church' at Arnstadt took place on Aug. 14, 1703, and at Easter of the same year he had gone to Weimar as Hofmusikus, so that his residence at the latter place can only have lasted a few months. His journey to Lübeck took place at the end of Oct. 1705. This detail is worthy of mention, since it proves that he went in order to hear the 'Abendmusiken' there, which were held on the two last Sundays after Trinity, and on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Sundays in Advent. [See Buxtehude, vol. i. 286.]"] Here he laboured with restless eagerness and energy at his own development in both technique and theory, and very possibly neglected the training of the church choir. In 1705 he obtained a month's leave to visit Lübeck in order to make acquaintance with the organist Buxtehude and hear his famous evening performances on the organ during Advent. He seems to have considered his stay there of so much importance that he prolonged it for three months. This liberty, and his habit in accompanying the services of indulging his fancy to the disturbance of the congregation, drew upon him the disapprobation of the church authorities, but without interfering with his position as organist—a fact which proves that the performances of the young genius were already appreciated. It seems that his reputation as an organist was even then so great that he had