A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Bach, Johann Sebastian
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 received applications from various quarters. In 1707 he went to Mühlhausen in the Thüringen, and in the following year to Weimar as court-organist. From this time we may consider his studies to have been completed; at Weimar his fame as the first organist of his time reached its climax, and there also his chief organ compositions were written,—productions unsurpassed and unsurpassable. In 1714, when twenty-nine years of age, Bach was appointed 'Hof-Concertmeister,' and his sphere of activity became considerably enlarged. An interesting event took place at this time. Bach used to make yearly tours for the purpose of giving performances on the organ and clavier. On his arrival at Dresden in the autumn of 1717 he found there a French player of great reputation named Marchand, whose performances completely carried away his hearers, though he had made many enemies by his arrogance and intolerance of competition. Bach was induced to send a written challenge to the Frenchman for a regular musical contest, offering to solve any problem which his opponent should set him, of course on condition of being allowed to reciprocate. Marchand agreed, in his pride picturing to himself a glowing victory; time and place were fixed upon, and a numerous and brilliant audience assembled. Bach made his appearance—but no Marchand: he had taken himself off that very morning; having probably found an opportunity of hearing his opponent, and no longer feeling the courage to measure his strength with him.
On his return from Dresden in 1717 Bach was appointed Kapellmeister at Cöthen by Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen. This young prince, a great lover of music, esteemed Bach so highly that he could not bear to be separated from him, and even made him accompany him on his journeys. [App. p.527 "As Kapellmeister at Cöthen, Bach received the comparatively high salary of 400 thalers (1200 marks, or £60) a year. It is now certain that he went with the Prince to Carlsbad, not only in 1720, but in 1718. The journey to Hamburg, where he saw Reinken for the last time, took place not in 1721 , but in 1720, soon after the death of his first wife. In 1719 he was at Halle, where he tried to make the acquaintance of Handel, who was at that time on a visit to his family. This, and a second attempt in 1729, fell through, so that the two composers never met."] Bach's duties consisted merely in directing the Prince's chamber-music, as he had nothing to do with the church music or organ-playing. Accordingly this period of his life proved extraordinarily fertile in the production of instrumental music. A journey to Hamburg in 1721 brought him again in contact with the aged Reinken; on this occasion he was a candidate for the post of organist at the 'Jacobi Kirche,' where he was attracted by the splendid organ. In spite of his great fame, and notwithstanding his having again excited the most unmixed admiration by his organ-playing in Hamburg, he failed to obtain the post; an unknown and insignificant young man being preferred to him,—possibly because he offered to pay 4000 marks for the office. At length, in 1723, Bach was appointed cantor at the Thomas-Schule in Leipsic, and organist and director of the music in the two chief churches. Cöthen was no field for a man of his genius, and the Duke's love of music had considerably cooled since his second [App. p.527 "first"] marriage. He therefore quitted the place for his new post, though retaining sufficient interest in it to write a funeral ode (Trauer-Ode) on the death of the Duchess in 1727. [App. p.527 "The 'Trauermusik,' written by Bach at Cöthen in 1729, was not on the death of the Duchess, but on that of the Duke himself, which took place Nov. 19, 1728. The Trauer-Ode here referred to as written in 1727, was occasioned by the death of Christiane Eberhardine, Electress of Saxony, and was performed on Oct. 17, 1727. Besides the Trauermusik, Bach wrote for the court of Cöthen a whole series of occasional cantatas, proving his intimate connection with the Ducal family: for Dec. 10 (the Duke's birthday), in 1717, 1718, and 1720; for New Year's Day, 1719 and 1720 (Gratulationscantaten); for Nov. 30 (the birthday of the Duke's second wife), 1726. Only three of these compositions are preserved; most of the poems to which they were set were written by C. F. Hunold. Bach took up his residence in Leipzig in May 1723. He was appointed Cantor of the Thomasschule, and director of the music in the churches, but not organist; he never occupied an organist's post after leaving Weimar in 1717. As Cantor he had to teach singing, and, at first, to give a certain amount of scientific instruction; as director of music he had to superintend the choral music in the churches of St. Thomas and St. Nicholas. The choirs were composed of the scholars of the Thomasschule, with the addition of students and amateurs, the so-called 'Adjuvanten.' The size of the chorus, according to our present ideas, was very small; the average number for a four-part chorus was about 12 voices. These were supplemented by a body of instrumentalists averaging 18 in number, and composed of the town musicians with the assistance of students, scholars, and amateurs. Part of the duties of University Music-director were fulfilled by Bach, and from 1729 to 1736 he conducted a students' musical society, in which secular chamber music was practised, and which held for some time an important place in the musical life of the town. Several public concerts were also given by the society under Bach's direction.
Bach's official duties were not very pressing, and he had time enough for composition. The musical materials with which he had to deal were however far from satisfying his requirements, especially as compared with the state of music at the court. Besides this, his governing authorities, the town council of Leipzig, showed themselves entirely incapable of understanding the exceptional greatness of this musician. They did everything to impede his freedom of action, and pestered him with petty accusations. In the summer of 1730 Bach's irritation was so great that he nearly resolved to leave Leipzig altogether. His intercourse with the rector and colleagues of the Thomasschule was at first not unpleasant, and during the rectorate (1730–1734) of the celebrated philologist, Johann Mathias Gesner, it was very agreeable. Bach could not get on with the next rector, however, Johann August Ernesti, a man still very young and without any tact. Certain, differences as to the appointment of one of the choir-prefects, who had to direct the choir in the absence of the cantor, led to a breach which in the course of the year became quite irreconcileable. Bach, with all his great and noble qualities, was easily irritated, and possessed unyielding obstinacy. The protracted conflict had very bad results on the discipline and working of the school, and even ten years after Bach's death the rector and cantor were accustomed to regard each other as natural enemies.
Bach's position in Leipzig was a highly respected one, and he soon became a celebrity in the town. Few musicians went there without paying him a visit, and even the 'stars' of the Italian Opera in Dresden did not fail to pay him respect. He kept up a friendly intercourse with the musicians of the Saxon capital. Pupils came to him from far and near; his house was a centre of refined and earnest musical culture; with his wife, an excellent singer and an accomplished musician, his talented sons and daughters, and his numerous pupils, he could organise, in his spacious house, performances of vocal and instrumental works, even of those which required a large number of executants. That he mixed in the literary and University society of the town is proved by his relations with the poetess Mariane von Ziegler and Professor Gottsched. In later life he seems to have withdrawn more and more from society. In the new impulse which was given to music about the middle of the century by the influence of the rich mercantile element, and which resulted in the foundation of the 'Gewandh.ius Concerts,' Bach, so far as we can learn, took no part.
Bach made frequent journeys from Leipzig. As he was still Kapellmeister at Cöthen ('von Haus aus' as the phrase was), he had to appear there occasionally and to place his services at the disposal of the reigning family. At the same time he kept up his connection with the court of Weissenfels, to which he had been appointed Kapellmeister in 1723 (not 1736). He often went to Dresden, where, since his passage of arms with Marchand in 1717, he had been in high favour. In 1727 he was—as far as we know, for the last time—in Hamburg, and his native Thuringia had been visited occasionally. His most noteworthy journey was that of 1747 to the court of Frederick the Great at Potsdam and Berlin. The reception here accorded to him was extraordinarily complimentary.
Concerning Bach's last illness, it is to be noticed that as early as 1749 it made him at times so incapable of work that the town council thought seriously of appointing his successor. The statement that he engraved his own works on copper, and so injured his sight, is absolutely without proof. He had been accustomed from earliest youth to strain his naturally weak sight, and this brought on his blindness. The oculist to whom he ultimately had recourse was the English Taylor, who travelled through Germany in 1750 and 1751. An operation was performed, but was unsuccessful. By a curious coincidence the same oculist operated, a few years later, upon Handel, and also without success.
Bach's musical development proceeded from the sphere of organ music, and it is to this branch of art that the greatest and most important part of his compositions, up to the year 1717, belongs. It was in the time of his residence at Weimar that he reached his full greatness as an organ-player. At Cöthen he did not write much for the organ; the Orgelbuchlein, compiled there, consists for the most part of compositions of the Weimar, or even of an earlier, period. In all probability the celebrated G minor Fugue with the Prelude (Bachgesellschaft edition, vol. xv. p. 177) was composed in 1720 at the time of his journey to Hamburg. Of the great Preludes and Fugues only four can with certainty be ascribed to the Leipzig period:—C major, B minor, E minor, and E♭ major (Bachgesellschaft, xv. pp. 228, 199, 236; vol. iii. pp. 173 and 254): and of the chorale arrangements, probably not more are to be referred to this time than those twenty-one which constitute the chief part of the 'Clavierübung,' and the canonic variations on the Christmas hymn 'Vom Himmel hoch.' The six organ sonatas received their final corrections at Leipzig, but most of them date from Cöthen or earlier, and were not originally written for the organ, but for a pedal harpischord with two manuals.
The Cöthen period was principally devoted to instrumental chamber music. Here the great 'Brandenburg' concertos were completed in 1721; the first part of the 'Wohltemperirte Clavier' written in 1722 (the second part was finished about 1742); and in 1723 the Inventions and Symphonies for clavier were produced. Besides these, to this period are to be assigned the six 'French' and perhaps also the six 'English' suites, to which Bach added the six 'Partitas' (written in Leipzig between 1726 and 1731): very probably the sonatas and suites for violin and violoncello, as well as the sonatas for violin and clavier, are also to be ascribed to this time.Lastly, in the Leipzig period, the composer laid most stress upon church music for voices with instrumental accompaniment. He wrote some 300 so-called church cantatas, of which more than 200 are extant. Only a small number of these, about 30, belong to the earlier periods; the earliest is probably the Easter cantata, 'Denn du wirst meine Seele' (Bachgesellschaft, ii. No. 15); it seems to have been written at Arnstadt in 1704. A good number of cantatas can be assigned to the Weimar period, but to the Cöthen period belong only one or two. But to the Leipzig period are to be referred not only the great majority of cantatas, but also almost all the great church compositions. Of the five Passion settings only that according to St. Luke belongs to an early time; the 'John' Passion was performed for the first time in 1724, the 'Matthew' in 1729, while two are lost. The Christmas Oratorio was written in 1734, the Magnificat, apparently for Christmas, 1723, and the Mass in B minor between 1732 and 1738. The German sacred poems set by Bach are the work of Erdmann Neumeister, Salomo Franck, Chr. Fr. Henrici (Picander), Mariane von Zeigler, and others. Many of them were compiled by Bach himself."]
[ P. S. ]
Bach was twice married (Oct. 17, 1707, and Dec. 3, 1721); by his first wife, Maria Barbara, the daughter of Michael Bach of Gehren, he had seven children. She died at Cöthen in 1720, during her husband's absence at Karlsbad with the Prince. Three only of her children survived their father—an unmarried daughter and two sons, Wilhelm Friedemann and Philip Emanuel. His second wife, Anna Magdalena Wülkens, youngest daughter of the Weissenfels Hof-Trompeter, had a musical nature and a fine voice, and showed a true appreciation for her husband. She helped to encourage a strong artistic and musical feeling in his house, and besides attracting foreign artists, exerted a beneficial influence on the sons, who were one and all musically gifted. This marriage produced thirteen more children, nine sons, of whom only two survived the father, Johann Christoph Friedrich and Johann Christian.
In Johann Sebastian centres the progressive development of the race of Bach, which had been advancing for years; in all the circumstances of life he proved himself to be at once the greatest and the most typical representative of the family. He stood, too, on the top step of the ladder: with him the vital forces of the race exhausted themselves; and further power of development stopped short.
All the family traits and qualities of the Bachs to which we drew attention in the introduction to this article, and which were handed on by natural disposition as well as education and tradition, stand out in Johann Sebastian with full decision and typical clearness:—a deeply religious sentiment which, though in many points closely approaching to the pietism then developing itself, yet adhered with a certain naive severity to the traditional, orthodox, family views; a truly wonderful moral force, which, without any show, embraced the problem of life in its deepest sense; and a touching patriarchal spirit, which was satisfied with humble circumstances, rejoiced in the blessing of an unusually numerous family, and regarded the family life as the chief raison d'étre. With and above all this there was an artistic striving, founded exclusively on ideal views, and directed with complete self-forgetfulness to ideal aims alone. His art and his family,—those were the two poles around which Bach's life moved; outwardly, simple, modest, insignificant; inwardly, great, rich, and luxurious in growth and production. His activity was extraordinary and unceasing. Besides his official duties and his actual labour as a composer, which in themselves alone are astonishing, he made copies for himself of other composers' works, including those of the Bach family; he sometimes engraved on copper, and even occupied himself with the manufacture of instruments. He invented an instrument between the violoncello and viola, which he called viola pomposa, and devised a piano with catgut strings which he called lauten-clavicymbalum. At the same time he was a model paterfamilias, made the musical education of his sons his especial and peculiar care, wrote educational works for his pupils like the 'Klavierbüchlein' for his son Friedemann, and the famous 'Kunst der Fuge,' and also trained a great number of pupils who afterwards themselves became famous, such as Johann Caspar Vogler, Agricola, Altnikol, afterwards his son-in-law, Marpurg, Kirnberger, and Ludwig Krebs. Bachs development points to a steady and indefatigable pursuit of a definite and fixed aim, guided by his genius alone. He had a clear insight into his artistic mission; developed himself out of himself with a perfect unity of purpose, holding aloof from external influences in the field of art, but rather drawing them to himself and so appropriating them through the power of his genius as to mould them into a complete whole. If in a measure he ran counter to the continual encroachments of Italian opera, this may be attributed less to his artistic than to his moral and religious views.
Bach's importance for the history of music lies in the fact that, starting with instrumental music, and adhering to the spirit of it, he developed all forms and species of composition in an entirely new and independent manner. The old vocal style, which was founded exclusively on polyphony, was exhausted. Bach created an entirely new vocal style based on instrumental principles, carried it to the summit of perfection, and there left it.
Bach's masterly counterpoint is generally spoken of as the special mark of his genius; and unapproachable as he is in this branch, his real power lies less in the almost inconceivable facility and dexterity with which he manages the complicated network of parts, than in that formal conformation of the movements which resulted from this manner of writing; in this he exhibits a consistency, fertility, and feeling for organic completeness which are truly inimitable. His melody, his harmony, and his periods all seem to be of one mould: an indestructible spirit of severe logic and unalterable conformity to law pervades the whole as well as the parts. These formal principles are governed, pervaded, and animated from first to last by the idea of the musical composition; so that the materials, though in themselves void of expression, become imbued with an inexhaustible depth of meaning, and produce infinite varieties of form. This wonderful unity of idea and formal construction gives the stamp of the true work of art to Bach's compositions, and explains the magical attraction which they exert on those who make them their earnest study. Besides these less obvious qualities, Bach's importance in the history of music shows itself in the immediate influence he exerted in various ways towards its greater development. He first settled the long dispute between the old church modes and the modern harmonic system; in his chorales he often makes use of the former, but the harmonic principle is predominant in his works, just as it still lies at the root of modern music. Connected with this was the 'equal temperament' which Bach required for instruments with fixed intonation. He put this in practice by always tuning his pianos himself, and moreover embodied his artistic creed in relation to it in his famous 'Wohltemperirte Klavier,' a collection of preludes and fugues in all keys. Bach's influence on the technical part of piano-playing must not be forgotten. The fingering which was then customary, which hardly made any use of the thumb, and very seldom of the little finger, was inadequate for the performance of his works. But he stood entirely upon his own ground, and formed for himself a new system of fingering, the main principle of which was the equal use and development of all the fingers, thus laying the foundation of the modern school; on the other hand he laid down many rules which, though no longer binding, to a certain degree reconciled the old and the new schools, and gave the whole system a thoroughly personal stamp, making it appear, like everything else of Bach's, unique.
Bach wrote unceasingly in every form and branch, and the quantity of his works is enormous. A tolerably complete catalogue (by Emanuel Bach and Agricola) is given in Mitzler's 'Musikalisches Bibliothek' (1754), of which the following is a summary:—
1. Vocal Works. Five sets of Sacred Cantatas (Kirchen-Cantaten) for every Sunday and Holy-day in the year, besides many single ones, such as 'Gottes Zeit ist die beste Zeit'; and others for special occasions, such as the 'Trauer-ode' on the death of the Electress of Saxony; 5 Passions; the Christmas Oratorio (in 5 parts); the Grand Mass in B minor, and 4 smaller do.; Motetts; 2 Magnificats, 5 Sanctus, as also many Secular Cantatas, including two comic ones, a 'Bauern-Cantate' and a 'Coffee-Cantate.'
2. Instrumental Works. A vast number of piano pieces of all kinds—Inventions, in 2 and 3 parts; Suites (6 small, called 'French Suites,' and 6 large 'English Suites'; Preludes and Fugues, amongst them the 'Wohltemperirte Klavier' in two parts, 48 Preludes and Fugues in all keys; the 'Kunst der Fuge'; Sonatas for piano with one or more instruments, amongst them the famous 6 Sonatas for Piano and Violin; Solo-sonatas for Violin and for Violoncello; Solos, Trios, etc., for different instruments in various combinations; Concertos for 1 to 4 pianos; Do. for violin and other instruments with orchestra; Overtures and Suites for orchestra; lastly an endless quantity of organ compositions—Fantasias, Toccatas, Preludes, Fugues and arrangements of Chorales. Of this almost inexhaustible mass a few only were printed during Bach's lifetime. These were—the 'Klavier-Uebung,' or Clavier practice, a collection of pieces for piano and organ, in 4 parts (1731-42); the 'Musikalisches Opfer,' dedicated to Frederic the Great, and a few organ arrangements of chorales; and shortly after his death the 'Art of Fugue' (1752), engraved by Bach himself, and a collection of Chorales selected by Emanuel Bach from his father's Cantatas, and published in two volumes (1765-69). These were afterwards reprinted in a more complete form by Breitkopf & Härtel, and in 1843 a 4th edition in score, specially arranged, was published in Leipsic by C. F. Becker. The great mass of Bach's MSS. however lay untouched and unknown for many years; the vocal works seem to have been more especially ignored. The time immediately following Bach had no sympathy with the depth and individuality of his genius. True, his pupils and sons revered him as a consummate and inimitable contrapuntist and a masterly composer, and with true instinct set themselves to collect and copy all his existing works for piano and organ which they could procure. But with their generation all real interest in this mighty genius vanished, and it is not too much to say that within forty years after Bach's death, his fame, though still unapproachable, had become a mere historic tradition. How quickly and how generally this was the case is evident from the fact that the works of his son Emanuel were esteemed at least as highly as his own, and that even a man like Adam Hiller, one of the most prominent and influential musicians of Bach's school, and one of his successors as Cantor at St. Thomas', Leipsic, in his 'Lebensbeschreibung berühmter Musikgelehrten und Tonkünstler' (Leipsic, 1784) chiefly admires his counterpoint and part-writing, and finds his melodies 'peculiar' (sonderbar).
It was the revolution produced by the composers of the classical period succeeding that just mentioned which first paved the way back to the understanding of Bach; at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries the music publishers began to recollect the existence of these forgotten works. The 'Wohltemperirte Klavier' was published by Kollmann in London in 1799, and was soon followed by the firms of Nägeli at Zürich, Simrock at Bonn, Kühnel (now Peters) and Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipsic, with a number of piano and organ works. The six unaccompanied motets, for 5 and 8 voices, edited by Schicht, were published by Breitkopf & Härtel as early as 1802. In 1809 the performances of Bach's Fugues and Trios by Samuel Wesley and Benjamin Jacob on the organ of Surrey Chapel, London, (one of the very few pedal organs at that time in England,) caused an extraordinary sensation, which was followed up by the publication of the 48 Preludes and Fugues (Birchall, 1809) and the 6 organ trios, all by Wesley and Horn. But it was Mendelssohn who gave the permanent impetus to the growing worship of Bach in Europe by the performance of the Matthew Passion in Berlin, March 12, 1829, exactly one hundred years after its production. A powerful excitement seized the musical world; people began to feel that an infinite depth and fulness of originality united with a consummate power of formal construction was lying hidden in these neglected works. Performances of the Passion and of other vocal music of Bach took place in Berlin and elsewhere—e.g. in Breslau by the 'Sing-akademie,' under Mosevius—the editions increased in number and began to include the vocal works. The most important of these is that of Peters (dating from 1837), 'Gesammt Ausgabe der instrumentalen Werke Bach's,' edited by Czerny, Griepenkerl and Roitsch, with whom Hauptmann, David, Dehn, etc., were afterwards associated. This edition is still in progress, and includes 13 volumes of pianoforte works, 13 for pianoforte with accompaniment, 18 for other instruments, 9 for organ; and an excellent thematic catalogue by A. Dörffel (1866), specially referring to this edition. The same firm has begun an edition of the vocal works, and besides full and compressed scores of the Matthew and John Passions, the Christmas oratorio, the B minor Mass, and 4 smaller ditto, the 6 Motets, the Magnificat and 4 Sanctus, has published 10 Cantatas with piano accompaniment—all at the well-known low prices of this firm. Mention should be made of 4 Kirchengesänge, published in score with pianoforte arrangement by J. P. Schmidt (Trautwein; of 'Ein' feste Burg,' and the 117th Psalm, and 'Lob, Ehre, Weisheit' (8 voc.), issued by Breitkopfs, and of two comic Cantatas, edited by Dehn and published by Crantz—all harbingers of the edition of the Bach-Gesellschaft.
Mendelssohn was not content with the revival of the Passion music; through his efforts 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. 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. ]
- I owe this date to Mr. Carlyle, though he has omitted all mention of the occurrence in his Life of Frederick. [G.]
- This edition contains the Chorale which closes the original edition of the 'Art of Fugue.'
- See, for example, Burney's 'Present State,' etc. ii 245.
- The 3rd of these, 'Ich lasse dich nicht,' is now known to be by J. Christoph Bach.
- See Devrient's 'Recollections,' p. 38, etc., etc.
- 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).
- See his letter printed in the Appendix to Polko's 'Reminiscences' (Longmans 1889). Some of the pieces are headed 'arranged by Mendelssohn.'