The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach - Vol. 1

The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach - Vol. 1

The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach - Vol. 1

The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach - Vol. 1


This book gives an account of the individual works of one of the greatest composers. The first volume of a two-volume study of the music of J. S. Bach covers the earlier part of his composing career, 1695-1717. By studying the music chronologically a coherent picture of the composer'screative development emerges, drawing together all the strands of the individual repertoires (e.g. the cantatas, the organ music, the keyboard music). The volume is divided into two parts, covering the early works and the mature Weimar compositions respectively. Each part deals with four categoriesof composition in turn: large-scale keyboard works; preludes, fantasias, and fugues; organ chorales; and cantatas. Within each category, the discussion is prefaced by a list of the works to be considered, together with details of their original titles, catalogue numbers, and earliest sources. Thestudy is thus usable as a handbook on Bach's works as well as a connected study of his creative development. As indicated by the subtitle Music to Delight the Spirit,, borrowed from Bach's own title-pages, Richard Jones draws attention to another important aspect of the book: not only is it a study of style and technique but a work of criticism, an analytical evaluation of Bach's music and an appreciationof its extraordinary qualities. It also takes account of the remarkable advances in Bach scholarship that have been made over the last 50 years, including the many studies that have appeared relating to various aspects of Bach's early music, such as the varied influences to which he was subjectedand the problematic issues of dating and authenticity that arise. In doing so, it attempts to build up a coherent picture of his development as a creative artist, helping us to understand what distinguishes Bach's mature music from his early works and from the music of his predecessors andcontemporaries. Hence we learn why it is that his later works are instantly recognizable as 'Bachian'.


This book, whose subtitle was suggested by a phrase from some of Bach's own title pages ('zur Gemüths Ergötzung'), represents the first volume of a projected twovolume study of the music of Bach. As far as possible, his compositions are covered chronologically: this volume deals with the first twenty years or so of his composing career—the early and Weimar periods (c. 1695—1708 and 1708—17 respectively)—while the second volume will cover the Cöthen and Leipzig periods (1717—23 and 1723—50).

Many fine studies of individual repertories are already in existence—notably Alfred Dürr on the cantatas (now available in English translation), David Schulenberg on the keyboard music, and Peter Williams on the organ music—but none so far in English that attempts to draw all the strands together. This book is intended to fill that gap, so it aims to be fairly comprehensive as far as coverage of Bach's music is concerned. Although the various genres are considered one at a time, many cross-references are made between them, and they are all brought together in the concluding chapter of each part of the book.

It must be emphasized that this book deals with the music only. Gone are the days when such a scholar as Philipp Spitta could cover Bach's life and works in equal detail and in comparable depth. Since 1950 Bach studies have proliferated to such an extent that a more up-to-date book of similar scope might well be beyond the powers of any individual Bach scholar. In the present book a small concession is made to biography: the circumstances in which Bach's music was composed are briefly sketched in an introductory chapter to each part. But issues that surround the music, such as textual criticism and performance practice, are deliberately left out of account. From the unremitting focus on the music itself—on its forms, style, and technique—it follows that much of the discussion is necessarily analytical. For this reason it is advisable for the reader to have scores at hand (and perhaps recordings too).

Volume I is divided into two parts, which cover Bach's early works and his mature Weimar compositions respectively. Each chapter deals with a number of work-groups in turn. The structure of 'Fugue and Fantasy I' (Part I, Chapter 3), for example, is indicated by the subtitles 'Prelude and Fugue', 'Fugue', and 'Fantasia and Prelude'. Each subtitle is followed by a list of the works to be considered, with their original titles, BWV (Bach catalogue) numbers, and their earliest source or sources, plus scribe and date if known. (The order of the works listed in general corresponds with the order in which they are discussed.) It is hoped that this structure will render the study usable as a handbook on Bach's music as well as a connected study of his creative development. That would answer the author's purpose in writing a book that, it is hoped, might be of interest not only to music students and Bach scholars but to performers of Bach, whether amateur or professional, and music lovers in general.

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