Bach: Essays on His Life and Music

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Harvard University Press, 1991 - Biography & Autobiography - 461 pages
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Step into the classroom with Christoph Wolff

Johann Sebastian Bach holds a singular position in the history of music. A uniquely gifted musician, he combined outstanding performing virtuosity with supreme creative powers and remarkable intellectual discipline. More than two centuries after his lifetime, Bach's work continues to set musical standards.

The noted Bach scholar Christoph Wolff offers in this book new perspectives on the composer's life and remarkable career. Uncovering important historical evidence, the author demonstrates significant influences on Bach's artistic development and brings fresh insight on his work habits, compositional intent, and the musical traditions that shaped Bach's thought. Wolff reveals a composer devoted to an ambitious and highly individual creative approach, one characterized by constant self-criticism and self-challenge, the absorption of new skills and techniques, and the rethinking of riches from the musical past.

Readers will find illuminating analyses of some of Bach's greatest music, including the B Minor Mass, important cantatas, keyboard and chamber compositions, the Musical Offering, and the Art of Fugue. Discussion of how these pieces "work" will be helpful to performers--singers, players, conductors--and to everyone interested in exploring the conceptual and contextual aspects of Bach's music. All readers will find especially interesting those essays in which Wolff elaborates on his celebrated discoveries of previously unknown works: notably the fourteen "Goldberg" canons and a collection of thirty-three chorale preludes.

Representing twenty-five years of scholarship, these essays--half of which appear here in English for the first time--have established Christoph Wolff as one of the world's preeminent authorities on J. S. Bach. All students, performers, and lovers of Bach's music will find this an engaging and enlightening book.

  

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Bach: essays on his life and music

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Bach's life and work has been of interest to musicians and scholars for over 200 years. This collection of essays by Wolff ( The New Grove Bach Family , Norton, 1983) illuminates aspects of Bach's ... Read full review

Contents

New Perspectives on Bach Biography
3
The Family
14
Decisive Career Steps
23
Employers and Patrons
32
Buxtehude Bach and SeventeenthCentury Music in Retrospect
41
A Context for the Early Works
56
Vivaldis Compositional Art Bach and the Process of Musical Thinking
72
Bach and the Tradition of the Palestrina Style
84
New Research on the Musical Offering
239
Unfinished?
259
The Compositional History of the Art of Fugue
265
Exposing a Myth
282
A Background for
297
The Architecture of the Passacaglia
306
The Organ in Bachs Cantatas
317
The Thema Regium and
324

BROADENED PERSPECTIVES
105
The Neumeister Collection of Chorale Preludes from the Bach Circle
107
The Cantata Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn
128
Origins of the Kyrie of the B Minor Mass
141
The Reformation Cantata Ein feste Burg
152
The Handexemplar of the Goldberg Variations
162
Bachs Personal Copy of the Schiibler Chorales
178
The ClavierUbung Series
189
TextCritical Comments on the Original Print of the Partitas
214
Bachs Leipzig Chamber Music
223
Parody and New Composition
332
Principles of Design and Order in Bachs Original Editions
340
Toward a Definition of the Last Period of Bachs Work 3 59
359
On the Original Editions of Bachs Works
371
Bachs Vocal Music and Early Music Criticism
377
Notes and Postscripts
399
7
437
Index of Archival Sources
449
Copyright

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About the author (1991)

He is a William Powell Mason Professor of Music at Harvard University, is coauthor of the Bach Compendium.

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