Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/130

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

of the Passion music; through his efforts[1] a monument was erected, in 1842, which perpetuates the features of the great master in front of the 'Thomas schule,' over which he presided, and under the very windows of his study. Nor was the result of Mendelssohn's enthusiasm to stop here. In 1850, the centenary of Bach's death, the 'Bach-Gesellschaft' was founded at Leipsic for the publication of his entire works. This gave a real and powerful impulse to the worship of Bach; the discovery of the unsuspected treasures which were revealed even by the first annual volume led to the foundation of 'Bach Societies' all over Germany, which devote themselves to the performance of his works, especially the vocal works, and have thereby awakened such an enduring interest that now the Cantatas, Passions, and Masses of Bach rank with Handel's oratorios in the standing repertoires of all great German choral societies, and are regarded as tests for their powers of execution. No doubt the first impulse to these societies was given by the original Bach Society mentioned above. [See Bach-Gesellschaft.]

Besides all these efforts for diffusing the knowledge of Bach's works, we must mention the labours of Robert Franz, the famous song-writer at Halle. In the performance of Bach's great vocal works with instrumental accompaniment, the organ forms an essential part, being necessary for carrying out Bach's obligato accompaniments. At concerts, where Bach is most frequently to be heard now, an organ not being always attainable, Franz devoted himself to replacing the organ part by arranging it for the orchestral instruments now in use. His thorough understanding of Bach's manner of writing, the musical affinity of his own nature, make him pre-eminently fitted for this work. A number of his arrangements, some in full score, some arranged for piano, have been published by C. F. Leuckart at Leipsic.

Amongst the literature relating to Bach we must first mention a biography written by his son Emanuel and his pupil Agricola. It appeared in the 'Musikalische Bibliothek' of Mitzler in 1754, and is especially important because it contains a catalogue of Bach's works which may be considered authentic; it includes both the then published works and all the MS. works which could be discovered, and is the chief source of all investigations after lost MSS. The first detailed biography of Bach was written by Professor Forkel of Göttingen, 'Ueber Bach's Leben, Kunst und Kuntswerke,' 2 vols., Leipsic, 1802; afterwards, in 1850, there appeared, amongst others, Hilgenfeldt's 'J. S. Bach's Leben, Wirken, und Werke,' 4to.; in 1865 'J. S. Bach,' by C. H. Bitter (2 vols. 8vo., Berlin), and in 1873 the 1st vol. of Spitta's exhaustive and valuable 'J. S. Bach.' The English reader will find a useful manual in Miss Kay Shuttleworth's unpretending 'Life.' There are also biographical notices in Gerber, Fétis, and the other biographical dictionaries; and monographs by Mosevius on the 'Matthew Passion' (Trautwein, 1845) and on the sacred cantatas and chorales (Id. 1852). In von Winterfeld's well-known work, 'Der evangelische Kirchen Gesang,' there is frequent reference to Bach. Mention should also be made of Hauptmann's 'Erläuterungen' of the 'Art of Fugue' (Peters), and of the admirable Prefaces to the various annual volumes of the Bach-Gesellschaft.

In England the study of Bach has kept pace with that in Germany, though with smaller strides. The performances and editions of Wesley have been already mentioned. In 1844 or 45 Messrs. Coventry and Hollier published 14 of the grand organ preludes and fugues and two toccatas. These appear to have been edited by Mendelssohn.[2] They are printed in 3 staves, and a separate copy of the pedal part 'arranged by Signer Dragonetti' (probably at the instigation of Moscheles), was published for the Cello or Double Bass. About the same time Dr. Gauntlett edited some Choruses for the organ. In 1854 the Bach Society of London was formed, the results of which are given under that head. On April 6, 1871, took place the first performance of the Passion in Westminster Abbey, which has now become an annual institution, and has spread to St. Paul's and other churches.

[ A. M. ]

BACH-GESELLSCHAFT. A German society formed for publishing a complete critical edition of the works of John Sebastian Bach, in annual instalments, as a memorial of the centenary of his death—July 28, 1850. The idea originated with Schumann, Hauptmann, Otto Jahn, C. F. Becker, and the firm of Breitkopf & Härtel; was cordially endorsed by Spohr, Liszt, and all the other great musicians of the day (how enthusiastically would Mendelssohn have taken a lead, had he been spared but three years longer!), and the prospectus was issued to the public on the anniversary itself. The response was so hearty and immediate, both from musicians and amateurs, at home and abroad, as to leave no doubt of the feasibility of the proposal; the society was therefore definitely established. Its affairs were administered by a committee (Hauptmann, Becker, Jahn, Moscheles, Breitkopf & Härtel), whose headquarters were at Leipsic; the annual subscription was fixed at 5 thalers, or 15s., and the publications are issued to subscribers only, so as to prevent anything like speculation. The first volume appeared in December 1851, and contained a preface and list of subscribers, embracing crowned heads, nobility, public libraries, conservatoires and other institutions, and private individuals. The total number of copies subscribed for was 403, which had increased at the last issue (XXII—for 1872) to 519, the English contingent having risen at the same date from 23 to 56—or from 5.7 per cent to 10.8 per cent of the whole.

  1. See his Letters, Nov. 30, 39; Aug. 10, 40; Dec. 11, 42; and a paper by Schumann entitled 'Mendelssohn's Orgel-Concert,' in his 'Gesamnacite Schriften' (iii, 256).
  2. See his letter printed in the Appendix to Polko's 'Reminiscences' (Longmans 1889). Some of the pieces are headed 'arranged by Mendelssohn.'