Bach / Edition 1

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

Boston Globe

What there is to know about Bach, Christoph Wolff knows. And everything Wolff...knows about Bach's life, he has poured into this new and magisterial biographical portrait...[Bach] is user-friendly, helpful, and entertainingly informative. Direct and illuminating commentary on Bach's major works, and on the major musical issues that Bach confronted, fill the book...[Wolff's] main text surrounds the facts of Bach's life with an invaluable sense of context—additional facts about musical life, courts, patronage, church doctrine, ecclesiastical and municipal politics...Wolff has provided every lover of Bach with a book to learn from.
— Richard Dyer

Boston Globe - Richard Dyer
What there is to know about Bach, Christoph Wolff knows. And everything Wolff...knows about Bach's life, he has poured into this new and magisterial biographical portrait...[Bach] is user-friendly, helpful, and entertainingly informative. Direct and illuminating commentary on Bach's major works, and on the major musical issues that Bach confronted, fill the book...[Wolff's] main text surrounds the facts of Bach's life with an invaluable sense of context--additional facts about musical life, courts, patronage, church doctrine, ecclesiastical and municipal politics...Wolff has provided every lover of Bach with a book to learn from.
Jaroslav Pelikan
This volume will be useful not only to conductors, performers, and scholars, but to other listeners, myself included, who will be stimulated by it to find ever deeper levels of meaning in Bach's many-splendored genius...Christoph Wolff functions here as a philologist and palaeographer deciphering a complex manuscript, as a biographer contemplating the mysteries of continuity and change in the composer's long and productive career, as a demythologizer reviewing the legends about Bach with which we all grew up, as a social and intellectual historian placing the musical oeuvre into its total context, as a sensitive listener who even after all these years of research has not lost the capacity to hear and admire the miracle that is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Boston Globe
What there is to know about Bach, Christoph Wolff knows. And everything Wolff...knows about Bach's life, he has poured into this new and magisterial biographical portrait...[Bach] is user-friendly, helpful, and entertainingly informative. Direct and illuminating commentary on Bach's major works, and on the major musical issues that Bach confronted, fill the book...[Wolff's] main text surrounds the facts of Bach's life with an invaluable sense of context--additional facts about musical life, courts, patronage, church doctrine, ecclesiastical and municipal politics...Wolff has provided every lover of Bach with a book to learn from.
— Richard Dyer
Library Journal
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 life through his music. Written over a 25-year period, the essays are documented in an extensive bibliography and have been updated with postscripts when necessary. Whenever possible, Wolff has gone directly to Bach's manuscripts to form his theses. For example, the question of the final ``unfinished'' fugue in the ``Art of the Fugue'' is resolved by notes in Bach's own hand that were revealed by infra-red photography. The book is illustrated with facsimiles, tables, and musical examples. Although it contains considerable technical material, it is largely accessible to the knowledgeable layperson and will be welcomed by serious students and performers. Essential for music libraries and a valuable addition to larger serious music collections.-- Sherry Feintuch, Dauphin Cty . Lib. System, Harrisburg, Pa.
Booknews
The 32 essays in this collection, half of them heretofore not available in English, represent 25 years of scholarship by one of the preeminent authorities on J.S. Bach. Wolff's goals in his wide-ranging studies have been to uncover historical evidence of various kinds; to refine understanding of Bach's creative life, artistic development, and compositional intentions; and to illuminate the substance of his music. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674059269
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/1994
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 478
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Christoph Wolff is Adams University Research Professor at Harvard University.
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Table of Contents

Preface

Abbreviations

OUTLINES OF A MUSICAL PORTRAIT

New Perspectives on Bach Biography

The Family

Decisive Career Steps

Employers and Patrons

Buxtehude, Bach, and Seventeenth-Century Music in Retrospect

Bach and Johann Adam Reinken: A Context for the Early Works

Vivaldi's Compositional Art, Bach, and the Process of "Musical Thinking"

Bach and the Tradition of the Palestrina Style

NEW SOURCES: BROADENED PERSPECTIVES

The Neumeister Collection of Chorale Preludes from the Bach Circle

Bach's Audition for the St. Thomas Cantorate: The Cantata "Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn"

Origins of the Kyrie of the B Minor Mass

The Reformation Cantata "Em feste Burg"

The Handexemplar of the Goldberg Variations

Bach's Personal Copy of the Schubler Chorales

The Clavier-Ubung Series

Text-Critical Comments on the Original Print of the Partitas

Bach's Leipzig Chamber Music

New Research on the Musical Offering

Bach's Last Fugue: Unfinished?

The Compositional History of the Art of Fugue

The Deathbed Chorale: Exposing a Myth

CONCEPTS, STYLE, AND CHRONOLOGY

Chronology and Style in the Early Works: A Background for the Orgel-Buchlein

The Architecture of the Passacaglia

The Organ in Bach's Cantatas

Apropos the Musical Offering: The Thema Regium and the Term Ricercar

The Agnus Dei of the B Minor Mass: Parody and New Composition Reconciled

Principles of Design and Order in Bach's Original Editions

Toward a Definition of the Last Period of Bach's Work

EARLY RECEPTION AND ARTISTIC LEGACY

On the Original Editions of Bach's Works

Bach's Vocal Music and Early Music Criticism

On the Recognition of Bach and "the Bach Chorale": Eighteenth-Century Perspectives

"The Extraordinary Perfections of the Hon. Court Composer": An Inquiry into the Individuality of Bach's Music

Notes and Postscripts

Acknowledgments

Index of Works by Johann Sebastian Bach

Individual Compositions

Collections

Index of Archival Sources

General Index

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