The Chorale Preludes of J.S. Bach: A Handbook

The Chorale Preludes of J.S. Bach: A Handbook

The Chorale Preludes of J.S. Bach: A Handbook

The Chorale Preludes of J.S. Bach: A Handbook

Excerpt

In recent years markedly increased interest has been shown not only in the chorale preludes of J. S. Bach, but in those of his contemporaries and predecessors. This interest is not confined to organists, nor are all organists concerned in it. The incomparable works in this field of Bach and others of his time are still all too little known to the very people who should be playing them regularly. Even those players who have made some study of the preludes limit their use of them to a comparatively few examples which happen to make a ready appeal to recital audiences or which are based upon tunes as well known in England as in Germany. By such limitation they deprive themselves of a great deal, both in actual playing material and in self-education, for to know these preludes well is to widen one's horizon to an almost unbelievable extent. It is certainly to render oneself more conscious of the qualities of Bach's work in other fields, for without a deep knowledge of the part played by the chorale melodies in Bach's musical, and by the hymns in his religious outlook, how shall we fully comprehend the message of the Passions, the Christmas Oratorio, or the two hundred cantatas?

The object of this book is to widen the organist's acquaintance with some of the sublimest music ever conceived for his instrument, or indeed for any instrument. It attempts to show the growth of the chorale prelude from its beginnings in the sixteenth century, not exhaustively--for that would demand a work of far greater scope and scholarship, much greater than the writer can claim--but in sufficient detail for the reader to grasp its essentials and perhaps pursue the subject further for himself. It seeks, if the metaphor be allowed, to lead him to the water. He must do his own drinking.

The indebtedness of this book to the scholarly researches of Schweitzer, Sanford Terry, Harvey Grace, Hubert Parry, Spitta, and Pirro will be evident on every page, and indeed quotations from the works of those writers occur frequently. The author feels that this indebtedness to other workers will be the book's chief--indeed its only--justification. For the observations of the scholars named occur for the most part passim in their surveys of the music of Bach as a whole, and none of them has found it possible to treat the chorale preludes . . .

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