Everything BACH - on Classical TV
Your source for Johann Sebastian Bach: the composer's life and music, all online at Classical TV...
WATCH PERFORMANCES OF BACH COMPOSITIONS:
David Lively plays excerpts from Bach's Art of Fugue at the Herkulessaal in Munich.
Watch Bach's Saint John Passion
The acclaimed Neubeuerm Choral Society and Bach Collegium perform in the baroque church in Gösseweinstein, Bavaria with soloists Pamela Coburn, Natalie Stutzman, Claes-Hakon Ahnsjo, Robert Swenson, Tobias Pfulb, Thomas Quasthoff, and Andreas Scheibner.
Watch Choral Works by Bach
This concert of sacred music celebrating Christmas was recorded at Melk, one of Austria's finest baroque monasteries. Nicholas Harnoncourt conducts the renowned early music ensemble, Concentus Musicus Vienna.
Jacques Loussier Trio Performs Bach Classics
In this concert, recorded live from the Munich Philharmonie, Loussier plays piano with Vincent Charbonnier on bass and Andre Arpino on percussion.
"Close Your Eyes, Smile, and Repeat These Words: “Aah, Bach."
The musical achievements of Johan Sebastian Bach are without apparent limit — and almost impossible to summarize. But Michael Clive gives it a try.
In many colleges and universities, the basic survey course on the history of Western music is split into two jam-packed semesters. The first semester covers music up to 1750; the second semester, everything after that. So…what happened in 1750? In that year, the death of Johan Sebastian Bach separated “early music” from everything that followed.
Coming to terms with Bach’s inexhaustible genius isn’t easy. The late Nicolas Slonimsky, famous for his infallibly pithy renderings of composers’ lives and achievements, called J.S. Bach “supreme arbiter and lawgiver of music, a master comparable in greatness of stature with Aristotle in philosophy and Leonardo da Vinci in art.” It’s an accurate encomium, but don’t let it mislead you: Bach did not suddenly transform music history through the brilliance of his compositions. Despite his relative success and the renown of his musical family, generations would pass before the profundity of Bach’s complex, expressive craft would find full appreciation.
Born in 1685 in Germany, where he spent his entire life, Bach came to music when its long domination by medieval and renaissance church practices became animated by the baroque era: harmonies became more complex. Driving rhythms pulsed through pieces fast and slow. Secular music came out into the open, and suites of music — the forerunners of later forms such as symphonies — began to take shape. Instruments began to look and sound as they do in today’s orchestras, taking on more advanced capabilities.
Bach was an early adopter of new technologies whose encyclopedic grasp of these developments brought them to fruition in the greatest musical works of his era. Perhaps the most significant of these developments was the well-tempered tuning system: now standard, it was a challenging breakthrough in Bach’s day, adjusting the relative pitch of each note in the scale to have a fixed mathematical relationship to the half-tone above and below it. With well-tempered tuning, composers were free to compose in any key and change keys as they wished. In his masterpiece The Well-Tempered Klavier, Bach seized upon the new system to limn the possibilities of music as no one ever had: preludes and fugues in every possible major and minor key, modulating with no limits except the composer’s genius.
Today, pianists spend a lifetime probing the depths of Bach’s keyboard works such as the Well-Tempered Klavier and the Goldberg Variations. These works show Bach’s mastery as a secular composer whose suites and concertos remain staples at the concert hall. But then there’s the sacred Bach, whose choral cantatas (over two hundred of them) and towering oratorios, the Saint John and Saint Matthew Passions and the Mass in b Minor, expanded music’s capacity to express the deepest human emotions.
geniuAnd what about Bach the organist? He was one of the greatest of all performers and composers for the most demanding of all instruments. Though most of Bach’s organ compositions are lost to history, you know at least one of them well if you’ve seen any vintage horror movies: the Toccata and Fugue in d Minor.
It’s all a bit daunting. But as Hawkeye Pierce suggested to Radar O’Reilly when he was trying to impress the smart nurse, we can always just close our eyes, smile and say “Aah, Bach.”
BACH IN THE NEWS:
"Bach in Business:" Why Johan Sebastian [Bach] is ripe for remixing. (from The Guardian)
"A modern composition technique championed by 20th century composers may have been presaged two centuries earlier by Johann Sebastian Bach. NPR host Liane Hansen speaks with Eric Altschuler, who writes in the current issue of Musical Times about discovering a 12-tone row in a Bach prelude."
Featured in Elle magazine, a collaboration between U.S. label Ruffian and Dutch cellist Anne Koch offers prints of Bach's score for Sonata for Solo Violin No. 1 in G minor for a Fall 2009 collection. (from OperaChic)
A discussion of a new book Bach And Tuning by Johnny Reinhard that challenges the notion Bach "created equal temperament" by analyzing the type of tuning Bach used. (from Sequenza 21)
The New York Times reviews the New York Philharmonic's recent Bach performances - a full-orchestra production the writer dubs old-fashioned.
Seven Things You May Not Have Known About Bach's Life:
Bach was an orphan at the age of ten; his parents died within eight months of each other. Bach subsequently moved in with his organist older brother, and thus began his musical studies and performances.
The restless soul? Bach would blow off regular work and, in one instance, even walked 213 miles to hear a performance by organist Buxtehude instead.
Both Bach and Handel admired Buxtehude so much, either would have jumped at the chance to be the organist's "amanuensis," but with a stipulation of marriage to Buxtehude's daughter, both composers passed on the opportunity.
A devoted music teacher, Bach wrote The Little Organ Book for his eldest son, filled with hymn tunes to train aspiring organists.
According to its secretary report, the Weimar court jailed Bach for a month in 1717 before firing him, "for too stubbornly forcing the issue of his dismissal."
Bach fathered at least twenty children: His first wife, Maria Barbara, he had seven; Bach's second wife, Anna Madgalena, bore 13.
"Unsuccessful" is the very word, isn't it? Near his death, Bach became practically blind. British eye surgeon John Taylor operated on Bach in 1750; Bach died later that year. A newspaper cited the cause of death as an "unhappy consequence of the very unsuccessful eye operation."
BOB HUGHES' SIX DEGREES OF MOZART - FOR BACH
As part of All-Time Classics, we bring you "Six Degrees of Mozart" ... for Bach. The great Mozart's musical, and sometimes personal, influence is pretty much everywhere imaginable. See where Bach falls in the web of Mozart:
* At his wife's urging, Mozart began studying what he called "early" music and arranged five fugues from part two of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier.
* Haydn's "Dialogue Quartets," Op. 33, showed Mozart how to use Bach's counterpoint and polyphony in "modern" works.
* Bach is all over Mozart's Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551 (the "Jupiter"), with its great contrapuntal finale written in "invertible" counterpoint.
* In 1762, when Mozart was six-years-old and living with his family in London, Bach's son, Johann Christian, befriended him.
* The last movement of Mozart's D major Concerto (K. 40) was taken from Philipp Emanuel Bach.
* Mozart visited Leipzig in 1789; he went to the St. Thomas Church, where Bach had been cantor, to play the organ, and improvised for an hour on Bach works such as themes from Bach's chorale, Jesu, meine Zuversicht.