Bach

Bach

Bach

Bach

Synopsis

The year 2000 has been declared a "Bach Year," marking the 250th anniversary of the great composer's death. Around the world, there will be major celebrations in honor of his astonishing body of work. This major biography of Bach, now completely revised and boasting 25% more material, is published to coincide with these events.
In the new edition of this widely acclaimed study, biographical chapters alternate with commentary on the works, to demonstrate how the circumstances of Bach's life helped to shape the music he wrote at various periods. We follow Bach as he travels from Arnstadt and Muhlhausen to Weimar, Cothen, and finally Leipzig, these journeys alternating with insightful discussions of the great composer's organ and orchestral compositions. As well as presenting a rounded picture of Bach, his music, and his posthumous reputation and influence, Malcolm Boyd considers the sometimes controversial topics of "parody" and arrangement, number symbolism, and the style and meaning of Bach's late works. Recent theories on the constitution of Bach's performing forces at Leipzig are also present. The text and the appendixes (which include a chronology, personalia, bibliography, and a complete catalogue of Bach's works) have been thoroughly revised to take account of the research undertaken by Bach scholars, including the gold mine of new information recently uncovered in the former USSR.
An authoritative account of the life and work of Johann Sebastian Bach, this volume will be essential reading for everyone interested in the classical composers.

Excerpt

It is not to excuse any shortcomings in the present volume if I say that the task of writing about J. S. Bach is a more formidable one in the 1980s than it was in 1900 or 1947, when my predecessors in the Master Musicians series published their studies of the composer. At that time the image of Bach as a devout Lutheran, his art and life wholly directed towards the improvement of church music, was well established, and seemingly on the firmest foundations. After all, hadn’t Philipp Spitta thoroughly researched archival sources for his exhaustive book on the composer published in 1873–80? Hadn’t he established a chronology for Bach’s works based on the most rigorous scientific methods, including the study of paper types, watermarks, and calligraphy? And didn’t the monumental edition of the music published by the Bach-Gesellschaft in 1851–99 provide as complete and accurate a text as any scholar could wish for?

What might be called the Spitta image of Bach survived until the 1950s, when the new chronology, affecting particularly the Leipzig cantatas, was proposed by Alfred Dürr at Göttingen and Georg von Dadelsen at Tübingen; the cantatas were now seen to occupy only the early years of Bach’s cantorate. The wider implications of this discovery were expounded by Friedrich Blume in an essay, presented at the 1962 Bachfest in Mainz, which was regarded, indeed intended, as an earthquake, with the chronology of Dürr and Dadelsen at its epicentre. Despite recent attempts, notably by Piero Buscaroli, to bring the new Bach image into focus, it will not be seen clearly until the tremors set up by that earthquake have subsided. Meanwhile, other issues have also claimed the attention of Bach scholars in the wake of the new collected edition (Neue Bach-Ausgabe) initiated in 1950: questions of textual criticism and attribution, the evaluation of different versions and adaptations, and the relevance to Bach’s music of Affektenlehre, Figurenlehre, numerology . . .

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