Harmony by M. Praetorius, Translation by C. Herodes hostis impie, by Sedelius in the 5th century. An imitation of the Gregorian hymn, O Lux beata Trinitas. Translation adapted from R. According to the spirit of the Reformation, the One Church was to be, not a corporation, but a communion—the communion of saints; and the unity of mankind, in its many nations, was to be a unity of the spirit in the bond of mutual peace. The two great works of Martin Luther were those by which he gave to the common people a vernacular Bible and vernacular worship, that through the one, God might speak directly to the people; and in the other, the people might speak directly to God.
Concerning the hymns of Luther the words of several notable writers are on record, and are worthy to be prefixed to the volume of them. All flows and falls in the sweetest and neatest manner, full of spirit and doctrine, so that his every word gives outright a sermon of his own, or at least a singular reminiscence. There is nothing forced, nothing foisted in or patched up, nothing fragmentary.
In Germany the hymns are known by heart by every peasant; they advise, they argue from the hymns, and every soul in the church praises God like a Christian, with words which are natural and yet sacred to his mind. Luther loved music; indeed, he wrote treatises on the art. Accordingly his versification is highly harmonious, so that he may be called the Swan of Eisleben. Not that he is by any means gentle or swan-like in the songs which he composed for the purpose of exciting the courage of the people.
In these he is fervent, fierce. The old cathedral trembled when it heard these novel sounds. The very rooks flew from their nests in the towers. That hymn, the Marseillaise of the Reformation, has preserved to this day its potent spell over German hearts. But indeed if every great man is intrinsically a poet, an idealist, with more or less completeness of utterance, which of all our great men, in these modern ages, had such an endowment in that kind as Luther? He it was, emphatically, who stood based on the spiritual world of man, and only by the footing and power he had obtained there, could work such changes on the material world.
As a participant and dispenser of divine influence, he shows himself among human affairs a true connecting medium and visible messenger between heaven and earth, a man, therefore, not only permitted to enter the sphere of poetry, but to dwell in the purest centre thereof, perhaps the most inspired of all teachers since the Apostles. With words he had not learned to make music—it was by deeds of love or heroic valor that he spoke freely. Nevertheless, though in imperfect articulation, the same voice, if we listen well, is to be heard also in his writings, in his poems. Luther wrote this song in times of blackest threatenings, which, however, could in no sense become a time of despair.
Till such time as either by proofs from holy Scripture, or by fair reason or argument, I have been confuted and convicted, I cannot and will not recant. Here I stand—I cannot do otherwise—God be my help, Amen. In a very different style of language, but in a like strain of eulogy, writes Dr. All were to take part in worship, and the chanting of the clergy was to be succeeded by the psalmody of the people. Luther, accordingly, in translating the psalms, thought of adapting them to be sung by the church. Thus a taste for music was diffused throughout the nation.
Poetry received the same impulse. In celebrating the praises of God, the people could not confine themselves to mere translations of ancient anthems. The souls of Luther and of several of his contemporaries, elevated by their faith to thoughts the most sublime, excited to enthusiasm by the struggles and dangers by which the church at its birth was unceasingly threatened, inspired by the poetic genius of the Old Testament and by the faith of the New, ere long gave vent to their feelings in hymns, in which all that is most heavenly in poetry and music was combined and blended.
Hence the revival, in the sixteenth century, of hymns, such as in the first century used to cheer the martyrs in their sufferings. We have seen Luther, in , employing it to celebrate the martyrs at Brussels; other children of the Reformation followed his footsteps; hymns were multiplied; they spread rapidly among the people, and powerfully contributed to rouse it from sleep.
The earliest hymn-book of the Reformation—if not the earliest of all printed hymn-books—was published at Wittenberg in , and contained eight hymns, four of them from the pen of Luther himself; of the other four not less than three were by Paul Speratus, and one of these three, the hymn Es ist das Heil, which caused Luther such delight when sung beneath his window by a wanderer from Prussia. But the critics can hardly be mistaken in assigning as early a date to the ballad of the Martyrs of Brussels.
It is appropriate to the commemorative character of the present edition that in it the hymns should be disposed in chronological order. The tunes which are here printed with the hymns of Luther are of those which were set to them during his lifetime.
Some of them, like the hymns to which they were set, are derived from the more ancient hymnody of the German and Latin churches. His enthusiasm for it overflows in his Letters and his Table Talk. He loved to surround himself with accomplished musicians, with whom he would practise the intricate motets of the masters of that age; and his critical remarks on their several styles are on record.
But perhaps Edition: current; Page: [ xviii ] the most direct testimony to his actual work as a composer is found in a letter from the composer John Walter, capellmeister to the Elector of Saxony, written in his old age for the express purpose of embodying his reminiscences of his illustrious friend as a church-musician.
With whom I have passed many a delightful hour in singing; and oftentimes have seen the dear man wax so happy and merry in heart over the singing as that it was well-nigh impossible to weary or content him therewithal. And his discourse concerning music was most noble. So he himself made the notes over the Epistles, and the Gospels, and the Words of Institution of the true Body and Blood of Christ, and sung them over to me to get my judgment thereon. He kept me three weeks long at Wittenberg, to write out the notes over some of the Gospels and Epistles, until the first German Mass was sung in the parish church.
It was no satisfaction to him that the scholars should sing in the streets nothing but German songs. We see, and hear, and clearly apprehend how the Holy Ghost himself wrought not only in the authors of the Latin hymns, but also in Luther, who in our time has had the chief part both in writing the German choral hymns, and in setting them to tunes; as may be seen, among others in the German Sanctus Jesaia dem Propheten das geschah how masterly and well he has fitted all the notes to the text, according to the just accent and concent.
At the time, I was moved by His Grace to put the question how or where he had got Edition: current; Page: [ xix ] this composition, or this instruction; whereupon the dear man laughed at my simplicity, and said: I learned this of the poet Virgil, who has the power so artfully to adapt his verses and his words to the story he is telling; in like manner must Music govern all its notes and melodies by the text. The composers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries practised their elaborate artifices upon it. The supreme genius of Sebastian Bach made it the subject of study.
But very thankful acknowledgments are also due to English translators, who have made this work possible within the very scanty time allotted to it. Full credit is given in the table of contents for the help derived from these various translators. But the exigencies of this Edition: current; Page: [ xx ] volume were peculiarly severe, inasmuch as the translation was to be printed over against the original, and also under the music.
Not even Mr. The whole credit of the musical editorship belongs to my accomplished associate, Mr. Nathan H. Allen, without whose ready resource and earnest labor the work would have been impossible within the limits of time necessarily prescribed. In the choice of harmonies for these ancient tunes, he has wisely preferred, in general, the arrangements of the older masters.
The critical musician will see, and will not complain, that the original modal structure of the melodies is sometimes affected by the harmonic treatment. And now the proper conclusion to this Introduction, which, like the rest of the volume, is in so slight a degree the work of the editor, is to add the successive prefaces from the pen of Luther which accompanied successive hymn-books published during his life-time and under his supervision. That it is good, and pleasing to God, for us to sing spiritual songs is, I think, a truth whereof no Christian can be ignorant; since not only the example of the prophets and kings of the Old Testament who praised God with singing and music, poesy and all kinds of stringed instruments but also the like practice of all Christendom from the beginning, especially in respect to psalms, is well known to every one: yea, St.
Paul doth also appoint the same 1 Cor xiv. Paul saith 1 Cor. These songs have been set in four parts, for no other reason than because I wished to provide our young people who both will and ought to be instructed in music and other sciences with something whereby they might rid themselves of amorous and carnal songs, and in their stead learn something wholesome, and so apply themselves to what is good with pleasure, as becometh the young. Beside this, I am not of opinion that all sciences should be beaten down and made to cease by the Gospel, as some fanatics pretend; but I would fain see all the arts, and music in particular, used in the service of Him who hath given and created them.
Therefore I entreat every pious Christian to give a favorable reception to these hymns, and to help forward my undertaking, according as God hath given him more or less ability. The world is, alas, not so mindful and diligent to train and teach our poor youth, but that we ought to be forward in promoting the same. God grant us his grace. Wittemberg, Anno m. For that they should sorrow who have no hope is not to be wondered at, nor indeed are they to be blamed for it, since, being shut out from the faith of Christ, they must either regard and love the present life only, and be loth to lose it, or after this life look for everlasting death and the wrath of God in hell, and be unwilling to go thither.
But we Christians who from all this have been redeemed by the precious blood of the Son of God, should exercise and wont ourselves in faith to despise death, to look on it as a deep, sound, sweet sleep, the coffin no other than the bosom of our Lord Christ, or paradise, the grave nought but a soft couch of rest; as indeed it is in the sight of God, as he saith in St.
John, xi. In like manner also St. Paul, 1 Cor. We sing, withal, beside our dead and over their graves, no dirges nor lamentations, but comforting songs of the forgiveness of sins, of rest, sleep, life and resurrection of the departed believers, for the strengthening of our faith, and the stirring up of the people to a true devotion. For it is meet and right to give care and honor to the burial of the dead, in a Edition: current; Page: [ xxiii ] manner worthy of that blessed article of our creed, the resurrection of the dead, and to the spite of that dreadful enemy, death, who doth so shamefully and continually prey upon us, in every horrid way and shape.
Accordingly, as we read, the holy patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and the rest, kept their burials with great pomp, and ordered them with much diligence; and afterwards the kings of Judah held splendid ceremonials over the dead, with costly incense of all manner of precious herbs, thereby to hide the offense and shame of death, and acknowledge and glorify the resurrection of the dead, and so to comfort the weak in faith and the sorrowful.
In like manner, even down to this present, have Christians ever been wont to do honorably by the bodies and the graves of the dead, decorating them, singing beside them and adorning them with monuments. Of all importance is that doctrine of the resurrection, that we be firmly grounded therein; for it is our lasting, blessed, eternal comfort and joy, against death, hell, the devil and all sorrow of heart.
As a good example of what should be used for this end, we have taken the sweet music or melodies which under popish rule are in use at wakes, funerals and masses for the dead, some of which we have printed in this little book; and it is in our thought, as time shall serve, to add others to them, or have this done by more competent hands. But we have set other words thereto, such as shall adorn our doctrine of the resurrection, not that of purgatory with its pains and expiations, whereby the dead may neither sleep nor rest.
The notes and melodies are of great price; it were pity to let them perish; but the words to them were unchristian and uncouth, so let these perish. It is just as in other matters they do greatly excel us, having splendid rites of worship, magnificent convents and abbeys; but the preachings and doctrines heard therein do for the most part serve the devil and dishonor God; who nevertheless is Lord and God over all the earth, and should have of everything the fairest, best and noblest.
So also have they costly vestments, chasubles, palliums, copes, hoods, mitres, but what are they that be clothed therewithal? Just in the same way have they much noble music, especially in the abbeys and parish churches, used to adorn most vile, idolatrous words. Wherefore we have undressed these idolatrous, lifeless, crazy words, stripping off the noble music, and putting it upon the living and holy word of God, wherewith to sing, praise and honor the same, that so the beautiful ornament of music, brought back to its right use, may serve its blessed Maker and his Christian people; so that he Edition: current; Page: [ xxiv ] shall be praised and glorified, and that we by his holy word impressed upon the heart with sweet songs, be builded up and confirmed in the faith.
Yet is it not our purpose that these precise notes be sung in all the churches. Let each church keep its own notes according to its book and use. For I myself do not listen with pleasure in cases where the notes to a hymn or a responsorium have been changed, and it is sung amongst us in a different way from what I have been used to from my youth. The main point is the correcting of the words, not of the music. There are certain who, by their additions to our hymns, have clearly shown that they far excel me in this matter, and may well be called my masters. But some, on the other hand, have added little of value.
And inasmuch as I see that there is no limit to this perpetual amending by every one indiscriminately according to his own liking, so that the earliest of our hymns are more perverted the more they are printed, I am fearful that it will fare with this little book as it has ever fared with good books, that through tampering by incompetent hands it may get to be so overlaid and spoiled that the good will be lost out of it, and nothing be kept in use but the worthless. We see in the first chapter of St.
Luke that in the beginning every one wanted to write a gospel, until among the multitude of gospels the true Gospel was wellnigh lost. So has it been with the works of St. Jerome and St. Augustine, and with many other books. In short, there will always be tares sown among the wheat. After these, are arranged the others, such as we deem good and useful. Every man can for himself make his own hymn-book, and leave this of ours alone without additions; as we here beg, beseech and testify. For we like to keep our coin up to our own standard, debarring no man from making better for himself.
Many and divers sacrifices had men to offer, of all that they possessed, both in house and in field, which the people, being idle and covetous, did grudgingly or for some temporal advantage; as the prophet Malachi saith, chap. Cheerful and merry must we be in heart and mind, when we would sing. Who earnestly believes this cannot but sing and speak thereof with joy and delight, that others also may hear and come. But whoso will not speak and sing thereof, it is a sign that he doth not believe it, and doth not belong to the cheerful New Testament but to the dull and joyless Old Testament.
Therefore it is well done on the part of the printers that they are diligent to print good hymns, and make them agreeable to the people with all sorts of embellishments, that they may be won to this joy in believing and gladly sing of it. And inasmuch as this edition of Valtin Bapst [Pope] is prepared in fine style, God grant that it may bring great hurt and damage to that Roman Bapst who by his accursed, intolerable and abominable ordinances has brought nothing into the world but wailing, mourning and misery.
Either by mistake or of purpose this is printed in most books. Ut timearis. The Hebrew reading is as in Matthew xv. Accordingly this is the meaning in this place: Since forgiveness of sins is nowhere else to be found but only with thee, so must they let go all idolatry, and come with a willing heart bowing and bending before thee, creeping up to the cross, and have thee alone in honor, and take refuge in thee, and serve thee, as living by thy grace and not by their own righteousness, etc. Psalm XII. Psalm XIV. Psalm CXXX. Translation in part by R.
The first stanza an ancient German Christmas Hymn. Six stanzas added by Luther. Translation chiefly by R. The irregularities of the German versification may be explained in part by the two-fold authorship, in this and other hymns. The first stanza from an ancient German hymn. The other stanzas added by Luther. The German Sanctus. Psalm XLVI. The genuine text is here given, and the English version is conformed to it.
A Christmas Song. Luke, ii. Quoted in the Christian Examiner, , p. This much-quoted phrase is from Richter. This interesting and characteristic document was printed first in the Syntagma Musicum of Michael Praetorius, many of whose harmonies are to be found in this volume. It has been repeatedly copied since.
Hamburg, Edition: current; Page: [ i ] The Hymns of Luther. First Melody, Harmony by H. Schein, Harmony by A. Haupt, Harmony by Haupt, This is the tune in common use with this psalm in northern Germany. Edition: current; Page: [ vi ] III. Translation from R. Harmony by John Sebastian Bach, about Edition: current; Page: [ vii ] VII. Melody that of the Latin hymn.
Ancient German Church Melody. Harmony by Bennett and Goldschmidt, Melody of the eighth century. Harmony by John Sebastian Bach. Harmony after John Sebastian Bach. Translation chiefly that of Arthur Tozer Russell. Original Latin Melody. Harmony after Erythraeus, Melody in Walter, Harmony in von Tucher, Melody derived from some older one, Harmony, A. First Melody, of Harmony by Gesius, Second Melody, of Harmony by Landgraf Moritz, Harmony by Erythraeus, Melody, Ancient German Melody.
Harmony from an ancient source. Melody, ? Melody derived from the Latin. Harmony by W. Sterndale Bennett, Harmony in von Tucher, 18—. Edition: current; Page: [ xiv ] Concerning the hymns of Luther the words of several notable writers are on record, and are worthy to be prefixed to the volume of them. Autore Ioanne Walthero.
To the Hymn-book printed at Wittenberg by Joseph Klug, By Dr. Lady Musick Speaketh. Of all the joys that are on earth Is none more dear nor higher worth, Than what in my sweet songs is found And instruments of various sound. Where friends and comrades sing in tune, All evil passions vanish soon; Hate, anger, envy, cannot stay, All gloom and heartache melt away; The lust of wealth, the cares that cling, Are all forgotten while we sing. But yet more thanks are due from us To the dear Lord who made her thus, A singer apt to touch the heart, Mistress of all my dearest art.
To God she sings by night and day, Unwearied, praising Him alway; Him I, too, laud in every song, To whom all thanks and praise belong. Translation by Catharine Winkworth. A Warning by Dr. Viel falscher Meister itzt Lieder tichten Sihe dich fuer und lern sie recht richten Wo Gott hin bawet sein Kirch und sein wort Da will der Tenfel sein mit trug und mord. Wittenberg, ; Leipzig, Four years later he was appointed its Director of Music, and from to conducted the weekly concerts of the Sing-Akademie. In he received from the University the doctorate of philosophy. That Forkel is remembered at all is due solely to his monograph on Bach.
Written at a time when Bach's greatness was realised in hardly any quarter, the book claimed for him pre-eminence which a tardily enlightened world since has conceded him. By his generation Forkel was esteemed chiefly for his literary activity, critical ability, and merit as a composer. His principal work, Allgemeine Geschichte der Musik, was published in two volumes at Leipzig in and But the curtailed History cleared the way for the monograph on Bach, a more valuable contribution to the literature of music.
Forkel already had published, in three volumes, at Gotha in , his Musikalisch-kritische Bibliothek, and in completed his critical studies by publishing at Leipzig his Allgemeine Literatur der Musik. Forkel was also a student of the music of the polyphonic school. He prepared for the press the scores of a number of sixteenth century Masses, Motets, etc. For, in , after the Battle of Jena, the French impounded the plates and melted them down.
Forkel's proofs are still preserved in the Berlin Royal Library. He was diligent in quest of Bach's scattered MSS. He took an active interest in the proposal of Messrs. Thomas's, [pg xii] Leipzig, he was also associated with Breitkopf and Haertel's publication of five of Bach's six extant Motets in As a composer Forkel has long ceased to be remembered.
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The original edition bears a dedication to Gottfried Baron van Swieten 1 , Prefect of the Royal Library, Vienna, and sometime Austrian Ambassador in Berlin, a friend of Haydn and Mozart, patron of Beethoven, a man whose age allowed him to have seen Bach, and whose career makes the association with Bach that Forkel's dedication gives him not undeserved. It was he, an ardent Bach enthusiast, who introduced the youthful Mozart to the music of the Leipzig Cantor.
For the moment the fact deserves emphasis that, inadequate as it is, it presented a fuller picture of Bach than so far had been drawn, and was the first to render the homage due to his genius. In an illuminating chapter xii. Isolated voices, raised here and there, acclaimed his genius. But such appreciations were rare. Little of Bach's music was in print and available for performance or critical judgment. Even at St. Thomas's, Leipzig, it suffered almost complete neglect until a generation after Forkel's death.
The bulk of Bach's MSS. In these circumstances it is not strange that Bach's memory waited for more than half a century for a biographer. Forkel, however, was not the first to assemble the known facts of Bach's career or to assert his place in the music of Germany. The authors of this appreciation give it an intimacy which renders it precious. But Mizler's periodical was the organ of a small Society, of which Bach had been a member, and outside its associates can have done little to extend a knowledge of the subject of the memoir.
The article is valuable chiefly for Agricola's exposition of Bach's opinions upon Organ and Clavier building. As in Hiller's case, Gerber, whose father had been Bach's pupil, was chiefly interested in Bach as an organist. Coincidently with Gerber, another of Bach's pupils, Johann Martin Schubart, who succeeded him at Weimar in , sketched his characteristics as a performer in the Aesthetik der Tonkunst, published at Berlin by his son in the Deutschen Monatsschrift in In appeared at Leipzig the first volume of a work which Spitta characterises as fantastic and unreliable, so far as it deals with Bach, Friedrich Carl Gottlieb Hirsching's Historisch-literarisches Handbuch of notable persons deceased in the eighteenth century.
Last of Forkel's forerunners, A. Little, if any, information of value, therefore, had been added to the Nekrolog of when Forkel, in , produced his monograph on Bach and his music.
Es Kostet Viel, Ein Christ Zu Sein
Nor, viewed as a biography, does [pg xvi] Forkel much enlarge our knowledge of the conditions of Bach's life. He had the advantage of knowing Bach's elder sons, but appears to have lacked curiosity regarding the circumstances of Bach's career, and to have made no endeavour to add to his imperfect information, even regarding his hero's life at Leipzig, upon which it should have been easy for him to obtain details of utmost interest.
It would be little profitable to weigh the value of Forkel's criticism. But Forkel's monograph is notable on other grounds. It was the first to claim for Bach a place among the divinities. It used him to stimulate a national sense in his own people. Bach's is the first great voice from out of Germany since Luther. Of Germany's own Kisorgimento, patently initiated by Goethe a generation after [pg xvii] Johann Sebastian's death, Bach himself is the harbinger.
In his assertion of a distinctive German musical art he set an example followed in turn by Mozart, Weber, and Wagner. In his Preface, and more emphatically in the closing paragraph of his last Chapter, he presents Bach as the herald of a German nation yet unformed. It is a farther distinction of Forkel's monograph that it made converts.
With its publication the clouds of neglect that too long had obscured Bach's grandeur began to melt away, until the dizzy altitude of his genius stood revealed. The publication of the five Motets was followed by that of the Magnificat in , and of the Mass in A in Matthew Passion at Berlin, which the youthful Mendelssohn, Zelter's pupil, [pg xviii] conducted in March , exactly one hundred years after the first production of the mighty work at Leipzig. In the following years it was given at Dresden and many other German towns. Leipzig heard it again after a barren interval in , and did tardy homage to its incomparable composer by erecting the statue that stands in the shadow of St.
Thomas's Church, hard by the Cantor's home for a quarter of a century. Meanwhile, in and the St. Matthew Passion and St. John Passion had been engraved, and by the B minor Mass was in print. The credit of having revived it belongs to Johann Nepomuk Schelble , conductor of the Frankfort Caecilienverein, though the Berlin Sing-Akademie was the first to give a performance, considerably curtailed, of the whole work in But the publication of the Cantatas proceeded slowly. Only fourteen of them were in print in , when the foundation of the Bachgesellschaft, on the centenary of Bach's death, focused a world-wide homage.
When it dissolved in its mission was accomplished, the entire works 2 of Bach were published, [pg xix] and the vast range of his genius was patent to the world. It remains to discuss the first English version of Forkel's monograph, published in , with the following title-page:. The book was published in February ; it was announced, with a slightly differently worded title-page, in the New Monthly Magazine and Universal Register for March p. The New Monthly states the price as 5s.
It has neither Introduction, notes other than Forkel's , nor indication of the translator's identity. Much of the translation is so bad as to suggest grave doubts of the translator's comprehension of the German original; while his rendering of Forkel's critical chapters rouses a strong suspicion that he also lacked technical equipment adequate to his task. It is, in fact, difficult to understand how such an unsatisfactory piece of work found its way into print.
The character of the translation has a close bearing upon its authorship. In the article on Bach in the new Grove it is attributed to Samuel Wesley , an attractive suggestion, since Wesley was as enthusiastic a Bach pioneer in this country as Forkel himself was in Germany. But the statement is not correct. In Samuel Wesley's Letters to Mr.
Jacobs relating to the Introduction into this Country of the Works of J. Bach London, we find the clue. Stephenson the Banker a most zealous and scientific member of our Fraternity has translated into English from the German of Forkel. Unfortunately, it is impossible to identify Stephenson precisely, or to detect his activities in the musical circle in which Wesley includes him. Rowland Stephenson, a man of about forty in that year. The firm was wound up in bankruptcy in , Stephenson having absconded to America the previous year. He appears to have been the only banker of that name holding such a recognised position as Wesley attributes to him, though it remains no more than a conjecture that he was the author of the translation issued in [pg xxi] For the facts of Bach's life, and as a record of his artistic activities, Forkel admittedly is inadequate and often misleading.
Stephenson necessarily was without information to enable him to correct or supplement his author. Recent research, and particularly the classic volumes of Spitta and Schweitzer, have placed the present generation in a more instructed and therefore responsible position. The following pages, accordingly, have been annotated copiously in order to bring Forkel into line with modern scholarship. His own infrequent notes are invariably indicated by a prefixed asterisk.
It has been thought advisable to write an addendum to Chapter II. Readers of Spitta's first volume probably will remember the effort to follow the ramifications of the Bach pedigree unaided by a genealogical Table. It is unfortunate that Spitta did not [pg xxii] set out in that form the wealth of biographical material his pages contain. In Chapter IX. Forkel gives a list of Bach's compositions known to him.
It is, necessarily, incomplete. For that reason Appendices I. The Clavier works also can be dated with some approximation to closeness. The effort is more speculative in the case of the Organ music. In his Preface Forkel suggests the institution of a Society for the publication and study of Bach's works. The proposal was adopted after half a century's interval, and in Appendix III. The Society's issues for have not yet reached this country. The present writer had an opportunity to examine them in the Library of the Cologne Conservatorium of Music in the spring of this year.
In this Introduction will be found a list of works bearing on Bach, which preceded Forkel's [pg xxiii] monograph. Appendix IV. Grateful acknowledgment is made to Mr. Ivor Atkins, of Worcester Cathedral, and to Mr. Whittaker, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who have read these pages in proof, and improved them by their criticism. Many years ago I determined to give the public an account of the life of Johann Sebastian Bach, with some reflections upon his genius and his works. The brief article by Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach 4 and Herr Agricola, 5 formerly composer to the Court of Prussia, contributed to the fourth volume of Mizler's Musical Library, 6 can hardly be deemed adequate by Bach's admirers and, but for the desire to complete my [pg xxv] General History of Music, 7 I should have fulfilled my purpose long ago.
As Bach, more than any other artist, represents an era in the history of music, it was my intention to devote to the concluding volume of that work the materials I had collected for a history of his career.
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But the announcement that Messrs. For Bach's works are a priceless national patrimony; no other nation possesses a treasure comparable to it. Their publication in an authoritative text will be a national service and raise an imperishable monument to the composer himself. All who hold Germany dear are bound in honour to promote the undertaking to the utmost of their power. I deem it a duty to remind the public of this obligation and to kindle interest in it in every true German heart.
To that end these pages [pg xxvi] appear earlier than my original plan proposed; for they will enable me to reach a larger number of my fellow countrymen. The section on Bach in my History of Music probably would have been read by a handful of experts or musical artists. Here I hope to speak to a larger audience. For, let me repeat, not merely the interests of music but our national honour are concerned to rescue from oblivion the memory of one of Germany's greatest sons. One of the best and most effective means of popularising musical masterpieces is to perform them in public.
In that way works of merit secure a widening audience. People listen to them with pleasure in the concert room, church, or theatre, remember the agreeable impression they created, and purchase them when published, even though they cannot always play them. But Bach's works unfortunately are rarely heard nowadays; for the number of persons capable of playing them adequately is at best inconsiderable.
It would have been otherwise had Bach given touring performances of his music, 9 a labour for which he had neither time nor liking. Many of his pupils did so, and though their skill was inferior to their master's, the admiration [pg xxvii] and astonishment they excited revealed the grandeur of his compositions. Here and there, too, were found persons who desired to hear on their own instrument pieces which the performer had played best or gave them most pleasure. They could do so more easily for having heard how the piece ought to sound.
But, to awaken a wide appreciation of musical masterpieces depends upon the existence of good teachers. The want of them is our chief difficulty. In order to safeguard their credit, the ignorant and incompetent of their number are disposed to decry good music, lest they should be asked to play it. Consequently, their pupils, condemned to spend time, labour, and money on second-rate material, will not after half a dozen years, perhaps, show themselves farther advanced in sound musical appreciation than they were at the outset.
Whereas, under a good teacher, half the time, labour, and money produces progressive improvement. Time will show whether this obstacle can be surmounted by making Bach's works accessible in the music shops and by forming a Society among the admirers of his genius to make them known and promote their study. At any rate, if music is really an art, and not a mere pastime, its masterpieces must be more widely known and performed than in fact they are.
And here Bach, prince of classic composers, can render yeoman service. Moreover, Bach, whose influence pervades every musical form, can be relied on more than any other composer to correct the superficiality which is the bane of modern taste. Neglect of the classics is as prejudicial to the art of music as it would be fatal to the interests of general culture to banish Greek and Latin writers from our schools. Modern taste exhibits no shame in its preference for agreeable trifles, in its neglect of everything that makes a demand, however slight, upon its attention.
To-day we are menaced by a proposal [pg xxix] to banish the classics from our schoolrooms. Equally short-sighted vision threatens to extinguish our musical classics as well. And is it surprising? Modern art displays such poverty and frivolity that it well may shrink from putting itself in context with great literature, particularly with Bach's mighty and creative genius, and seek rather to proscribe it. I fain would do justice to the sublime genius of this prince of musicians, German and foreign!
Short of being such a man as he was, dwarfing all other musicians from the height of his superiority, I can conceive no greater distinction than the power to comprehend and interpret him to others. It may even hint the flattering prospect that, if circumstances had opened up the same career, similar results might have been forthcoming. I am not presumptuous to suggest such a result in my own case. On the contrary I am convinced that there are no words adequate to express the thoughts Bach's transcendent genius stirs one to utter.
The more intimately we are acquainted with it the greater must be our admiration. Our utmost eulogy, our deepest expressions of homage, [pg xxx] must seem little more than well-meant prattle. No one who is familiar with the work of other centuries will contradict or hold my statement exaggerated, that Bach cannot be named except in tones of rapture, and even of devout awe, by those who have learnt to know him. We may discover and lay bare the secrets of his technique. But his power to inspire into it the breath of genius, the perfection of life and charm that moves us so powerfully, even in his slightest works, must always remain extraordinary and insoluble.
I do not choose to compare Bach with other artists. Whoever is interested to measure him with Handel will find a just and balanced estimate of their relative merits, written by one fully informed for the task, in the first number of the eighty-first volume of the Universal German Library, pages So far as it is not derived from the short article in Mizler's Library already mentioned, 14 I am indebted for my information to the two eldest [pg xxxi] sons of Bach himself.
The world knows them as great artists. But probably it is not aware that to the last moment of their lives they spoke of their father's genius with enthusiastic admiration. It was a frequent theme of conversation and correspondence between us. Thus, having been in a position to inform myself on all matters relating to Bach's life, genius, and work, I may fairly hold myself competent to communicate to the public what I have learnt and to offer useful reflections upon it.
I take advantage [pg xxxii] of my opportunity the more readily because it permits me to draw attention to an enterprise 18 that promises to provide a worthy monument to German art, a gallery of most instructive models to the sincere artist, and to afford music lovers an inexhaustible source of sublimest pleasure. If there is such a thing as inherited aptitude for art it certainly showed itself in the family of Bach. For six successive generations scarcely two or three of its members are found whom nature had not endowed with remarkable musical talent, and who did not make music their profession.
Veit Bach, 20 ancestor of this famous family, [pg 2] gained a livelihood as a baker at Pressburg in Hungary. When the religious troubles of the sixteenth century broke out he was driven to seek another place of abode, and having got together as much of his small property as he could, retired with it to Thuringia, hoping to find peace and security there. He settled at Wechmar, a village near Gotha, 21 where he continued to ply his trade as a baker and miller. His taste for music descended to his two sons 24 and their children, and in time the Bachs grew to be a very numerous family of professional musicians, [pg 3] Cantors, Organists, and Town Musicians, 25 throughout Thuringia.
Not all the Bachs, however, were great musicians. But every generation boasted some of them who were more than usually distinguished. In the first quarter of the seventeenth century three of Veit Bach's grandchildren showed such exceptional talent that the Count of Schwarzburg-Arnstadt thought it worth while to send them at his expense to Italy, then the chief school of music, to perfect themselves in the art. We do not know whether they rewarded the expectations of their patron, for none of their works has survived.
The fourth generation 27 of the family produced musicians of exceptional distinction, [pg 4] and several of their compositions, thanks to Johann Sebastian Bach's regard for them, have come down to us. The most notable of these Bachs are:. Besides these three men, the Bachs boasted several able composers in the generations preceding Johann Sebastian, 40 men who undoubtedly would have obtained higher positions, wider reputation, and more brilliant fortune if they could have torn themselves from their native Thuringia to display their gifts elsewhere in Germany or abroad. But none of the Bachs seems to have felt an inclination to migrate.
Modest in their needs, frugal by nature and training, they were content with little, engrossed in and satisfied by their art, and wholly indifferent [pg 7] to the decorations which great men of that time were wont to bestow on artists as special marks of honour. The fact that others who appreciated them were thus distinguished did not rouse the slightest envy in the Bachs. The Bachs not only displayed a happy contentedness, indispensable for the cheery enjoyment of life, but exhibited a clannish attachment to each other.
They could not all live in the same locality. But it was their habit to meet once a year at a time and place arranged beforehand. These gatherings generally took place at Erfurt, Eisenach, and sometimes at Arnstadt. Even after the family had grown very large, and many of its members had left Thuringia to settle in Upper and Lower Saxony and Franconia, the Bachs continued their annual meetings. On these occasions music was their sole recreation.
As those present were either Cantors, Organists, or Town Musicians, employed in the service of the Church and accustomed to preface the day's work with prayer, their first act was to sing a Hymn. Having fulfilled their religious duty, they spent the rest of the time in frivolous recreations. Best of all they liked to extemporise a chorus out of popular songs, comic or jocular, weaving them into a harmonious whole while declaiming the words of each. I possess a collection of them printed and published at Vienna in But these light-hearted Thuringians, and even those of their family who treated their art more seriously and worthily, would not have escaped oblivion had there not emerged in the fulness of time one whose genius and renown reflected their splendour and brilliancy on his forbears.
This man, the glory of his family, pride of his countrymen, most gifted favourite of the Muse of Music, was Johann Sebastian Bach. The twins appear to have been quite remarkable. They were deeply attached, alike in disposition, in voice, and in the style of their music. If one was ill, so was the other.
They died within a short time of each other, and were objects of wondering interest to all who knew them. In , when Johann Sebastian was not quite ten years old, his father died. He lost his mother at an earlier period. For his brother no sooner had given him one piece to learn than the boy was demanding another more difficult. Refusal increasing his determination, he laid his plans to get the book without his brother's knowledge. It was kept on a book-shelf which had a latticed front. Bach's hands were small. Inserting them, he got hold of the book, rolled it up, and drew it out.
As he was not allowed a candle, he could only copy it on moonlight nights, and it was six months before he finished his heavy task. As soon as it was completed he looked forward to using in secret a treasure won by so much labour. But his brother found the copy and took it from him without pity, nor did Bach recover it until his brother's death soon after. Michael's Convent. His fine treble voice procured him a fair livelihood.
But unfortunately he soon lost it and did not at once develop another. Meanwhile his ambition to play the Organ and Clavier remained as keen as ever, and impelled him to hear and practise everything that promised him improvement. Mary's Church in that city, with whose compositions he was acquainted already. He remained there about three months, 69 listening [pg 15] to the celebrated Organist, but without making himself known to him, and returned to Arnstadt with his experience much increased.
Bach's zeal and persevering diligence had already drawn attention to him, as is evident from the fact that he received in succession several offers of vacant organistships, one of which, at the Church of St. At Weimar also he wrote his great compositions for that instrument. It was about this time that Zachau, Handel's master, died at Halle, where he was Organist. It was given to a clever pupil of Zachau, named Kirchhoff. Johann Sebastian was now thirty-two years old. He had made good use of his opportunities, had studied hard as a player and composer, and by tireless enthusiasm had so completely mastered every branch of his art, that he towered like a giant above his contemporaries.
Both amateurs and professional musicians already regarded him with admiration when, in , Marchand, the French virtuoso, a celebrated Clavier and [pg 18] Organ player, visited Dresden. He played before the King-Elector 79 and won such approbation that he was offered a large salary to enter His Majesty's service. Like Couperin, 81 his musical ideas were weak to the point of banality, as we may judge from his compositions. Volumier, Concertmeister at Dresden, 83 was aware of these circumstances, and knowing that the young German had his instrument and his imagination under the fullest control, determined to arrange a contest between the two men in order to give his sovereign the satisfaction of judging their merits.
With the King's approbation, a message was dispatched [pg 19] to Bach at Weimar 84 inviting him to a contest with Marchand. Bach accepted the invitation and set out at once on his journey. Upon his arrival at Dresden Volumier procured him an opportunity to hear Marchand secretly. Far from being discouraged by what he heard, Bach wrote a polite note to the French artist challenging him to a trial of skill, and offering to play at sight anything Marchand put before him, provided the Frenchman submitted himself to a similar test.
Marchand accepted the challenge, a time and place for the contest were fixed, and the King gave his approval. At the appointed hour a large and distinguished company assembled in the house of Marshal Count Flemming. After considerable delay he was sought at his lodging, when it was discovered, to the astonishment of all, that he had left Dresden that morning without taking leave of anybody. Bach therefore performed alone, and excited the admiration of all who heard him, though Volumier was cheated of his intention to exhibit the inferiority of French to German art.
Bach was overwhelmed with congratulations; but the dishonesty of a Court official is said to have [pg 20] intercepted a present of one hundred louis d'or sent to him by the King. He entered at once upon his new office 88 and held it for about six years. The veteran Reinken—he was nearly one hundred years old—was particularly impressed by Bach's performance. His praise therefore was particularly flattering to Bach. Thomas' School, Leipzig, 94 a position which he [pg 22] occupied until his death. Thomas' he was appointed honorary Kapellmeister to the Duke of Weissenfels 98 and, in the following year [pg 23] , received the title of Court Composer to the King-Elector of Poland-Saxony.
Thomas' School. So widely was Bach's skill recognised by this time that the King, who often heard him praised, was curious to meet so great an artist. More than once he hinted to Carl Philipp Emmanuel that it would be agreeable to welcome his father to Potsdam, and as Bach did not appear, desired to know the reason. Carl Philipp did not fail to acquaint his father with the King's interest. But for some time Bach was too occupied with his duties to accede to the invitation.
However, as Carl Philipp continued to urge him, he set out for Potsdam towards the end of , in company with his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann. One evening, when he had got out his flute and the musicians were at their desks, an official brought him a list of the strangers newly arrived at Potsdam.
Wilhelm Friedemann, who accompanied his father, often told me the story. Nor am I likely to forget the racy manner in which he related it. The courtesy of those days demanded rather prolix compliments, and the first introduction of Bach to so illustrious a monarch, into whose presence he had hurried without being allowed time to change his travelling dress for a Cantor's black gown, obviously invited ceremonial speeches on both sides. I will not dwell on them; Wilhelm Friedemann related [pg 25] a lengthy and formal conversation between the King and the Cantor.
After some time he asked the King to give him a subject for a Fugue, that he might treat it extempore. The King did so, and expressed his astonishment at Bach's profound skill in developing it. Anxious to see to what lengths the art could be carried, the King desired Bach to improvise a six-part Fugue. But as every subject is not suitable for polyphonic [pg 26] treatment, Bach himself chose a theme and, to the astonishment of all who were present, developed it with the skill and distinction he had shown in treating the King's subject.
His Majesty expressed a wish to hear him on the Organ also. Accordingly, next day, Bach inspected all the Organs in Potsdam, as the evening before he had tried the Silbermann pianofortes. On his return to Leipzig he developed the King's theme in three and six parts, added Canones diversi upon it, engraved the whole under the title Musikalisches Opfer and dedicated it to the royal author of the theme.
His visit to Potsdam was Bach's last journey. The indefatigable diligence he had shown all his life, and particularly in his younger years, when successive days and nights were given to study, seriously affected his eye-sight. The weakness grew with age and became very distressing in character. On the advice of friends who placed great confidence in the skill of a London oculist lately come to Leipzig, Bach submitted to an [pg 27] operation, which twice failed. He lost his sight completely in consequence, and his hitherto vigorous constitution was undermined by the drugs administered to him.
He sank gradually for full half a year, and expired on the evening of July 30, , in the sixty-sixth year of his age. A few hours later he was seized by an apoplexy and inflammatory fever, and notwithstanding all possible medical aid, his weakened frame succumbed to the attack. Such was the career of this remarkable man. I will only add that he was twice married, and that he had by his first wife seven, and by his second wife thirteen children; in all, eleven sons and nine daughters. Bach was inducted into his office as Cantor of St. Thomas' School at nine o'clock on the morning of Monday, May 31, He died in his official residence there at a quarter to nine on the evening of Tuesday, July 28, He was buried early on the morning of Friday, July 31, in the churchyard of St.
John's, Leipzig. The announcement of his death, made from the pulpit of St. Thomas' School of this town. The Cantor of St. Thomas' was charged formerly with the musical direction of four Leipzig [pg 29] churches: St. Thomas', St. Nicolas', St. Peter's, and the New Church. He was also responsible for the music in the University Church of St. On high days music also had to be provided at St.
John's Church. Bach, as Cantor, succeeded to a more restricted responsibility, which dated from the early years of the eighteenth century. The New Church, originally the Church of the Franciscans, had been restored to use in In Georg Philipp Telemann, who came to Leipzig as a law student three years before, was appointed Organist there.
Not until did the Society pass under Bach's direction and its members become available as auxiliaries in the church choirs under his charge. Notwithstanding that Bach's predecessor Kuhnau had protested against Telemann's independence, the direction of the New Church's music passed out of the Cantor's control, though the School continued to provide the choristers. Six years later the University Church of St. Paul also began an independent course. In the authorities resolved to hold a University service in the church every Sunday. Kuhnau asserted his prerogative as Cantor. As to St.
Peter's, its services, which had entirely ceased, were revived in The music, however, was simple, and consisted only of hymns. Thus Bach, as Cantor, was responsible for the music in the two principal churches, St. Thomas' and St. The School also provided the choir for St. Peter's and the New Church. The junior and least competent singers sang at St. The rest were pretty equally distributed between the other three churches. At St. Nicolas' Bach personally directed the concerted music.
On ordinary Sundays a Cantata or Motet [pg 31] was performed in each church alternately. At the great Festivals, New Year, Epiphany, Ascension Day, Trinity Sunday, and the Annunciation, Cantatas were sung at both churches, the two choirs singing at Vespers in the second church the Cantata performed by them in the morning at the other church. The principal Sunday service in both churches began at seven in the morning, ended at eleven, and observed the following order:. Vespers began at a quarter past one and was a comparatively simple service; the music consisted of Hymns, a Motet, and the Magnificat.
The Organ was silent. On the three great Festivals the appointed Hymn for the season was sung at the beginning of [pg 34] the principal service, before the Organ Prelude: at Christmas, Puer natus in Bethlehem; at Easter, Heut' triumphiret Gottes Sohn; at Whitsuntide, Spiritus Sancti gratia. During the Communion service the Sanctus and concerted music were sung. A festal hymn followed the Benediction. The three great Festivals were each observed for three consecutive days, on the first and second of which Cantatas were sung at both churches.
On the third day concerted music was sung at only one of the two churches. Michael the Archangel. The Reformation Festival was kept on October 31, or if that date was a Saturday or Monday, on the previous or following Sunday. On Good Friday the Passion was performed in the two principal churches alternately. Leipzig adopted no official Hymn-book. The compilation from which the Hymns were chosen by Bach was the eight-volumed Gesangbuch of Paul Wagner, published at Leipzig for Dresden use in It contained over five thousand Hymns but no music, merely the name of the tune being stated above the Hymn.
For the [pg 35] most part the Hymns for special, and even for ordinary, occasions were prescribed by custom. Otherwise the power of selection was in the hands of the Cantor, and Bach's exercise of it caused some friction with the clergy in The provision and direction of the music at weddings and funerals was in the Cantor's hands.
He arranged the choirs and the music sung at the scholars' annual processions and perambulations of the town, which took place at Michaelmas, New Year, and on St. Martin's and St. Gregory's Days. Augmenting the School's choristers, the Town Musicians took part in the Church services and were under the Cantor's direction. Their numbers and efficiency were inadequate.
Upon the staff of the School the Cantor ranked third after the Rector and Sub-Rector, and took a share in the general instruction of the scholars. Class III. Singing classes were held by the Cantor on three days of the week, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, at nine and noon, and on Fridays at noon. His instruction in singing was given to the four upper classes only. On Saturday afternoons the Cantata was rehearsed. Once in four weeks the Cantor took his turn to inspect the scholars. Like the other masters, he was required to conform to the regulations [pg 36] of the School House, in which he lived.
He rose at five in summer, at six in winter, dined at ten and supped at five in the afternoon.
Chorale Melody: Es kostet viel, ein Christ zu sein
Holidays were numerous. At Midsummer the School had a month of half-holidays. Whole holidays were given on the birthdays of the four upper masters. There were no morning lessons on Saints' Days, on the occasion of funeral orations in the University Church, and on the quarterly Speech Days. Hence, though Bach's office carried large responsibility, it left him considerable leisure for composition.
As Cantor Bach had an official residence in the left wing of the School House. In , the Cantor's wing was of two storeys only, dwarfed by the greater elevation of the main edifice and under the shadow of the church. Bach brought to Leipzig four children of his first marriage, and his second wife, Anna Magdalena, presented him with a son or daughter annually from to The accommodation of the Cantor's lodging therefore rapidly became inadequate. In the spring of Bach found a house elsewhere while an additional storey was added to it, which provided a new music-room, a good-sized apartment whence a passage led to the big schoolroom in the main building.
The new wing was formally opened and dedicated on June 5, , when [pg 37] Bach's secular Cantata Froher Tag, verlangte Stunden was performed; the libretto being by his colleague Winkler. From thenceforward till his death eighteen years later Bach's occupancy was not disturbed. The wing continued to be the official residence of the Cantor until the School moved to the suburbs of the city in About 12 thalers came to him from endowments. In kind he was entitled to 16 bushels of corn and 2 cords of firelogs, together with 2 measures of wine at each of the three great Festivals.
They were of three kinds: 1 School monies, 2 funeral fees, 3 wedding fees.
The School monies represented perquisites derived from funds obtained by the scholars, partly by their weekly collections from the public, partly from the four annual processions or perambulations of the city. From the weekly collections a sum of six pfennigs multiplied by the number of the scholars was put aside for the four upper masters, among whom the Cantor ranked third. From the money collected at the [pg 38] New Year, Michaelmas, and St. Martin's Day processions the Rector took a thaler, the Cantor and the Sub-Rector each took one-eleventh of the balance, sixteen thirty-thirds went to the singers, and one-quarter of what remained fell to the Cantor.
Out of the money collected on St. Gregory's Day March 12 the Rector took one-tenth for the entertainment of the four upper masters, and the Cantor took one-third of the residue. For funerals one thaler 15 groschen was paid when the whole school accompanied the procession and a Motet was sung at the house of the deceased.
When no Motet was sung the Cantor's fee was 15 groschen. For weddings he received two thalers. Reckoned in modern currency, and judged by the standard of the period, the Cantor's income was not inadequate and served to maintain Bach's large family in comfort. When he died in , in addition to a mining share valued at 60 thalers, he possessed in cash or bonds about thalers, silver plate valued at thalers, instruments valued at thalers, house furniture valued at 29 thalers, and books valued at 38 thalers.
His whole estate was declared at thalers, or somewhat less than the savings of two years' income. But for the inequitable distribution of his property, owing to his intestacy, which left Anna Magdalena only about thalers and the mining share, Bach's widow and unmarried [pg 39] daughters ought not to have been afflicted with excessive poverty, as in fact they were. At the beginning of his Cantorate Bach worked amid discouraging and unsatisfactory conditions.
The Rector, Johann Heinrich Ernesti, was over seventy years of age in The School was badly managed, its discipline was relaxed, the better-to-do citizens withheld their sons from it, and its numbers were seriously diminished. In the junior classes contained only 53 as against in Ernesti's earlier years. The proximity and operatic traditions of Dresden and Weissenfels also had a bad effect; the St. Thomas' boys, after attaining musical proficiency, were apt to become restless, demanding release from their indentures, and even running away to more attractive and lucrative occupations.
Moreover, the governors of the School were the Town Council, a body which had little sympathy with or appreciation of Bach's artistic aims and temperament. To these difficulties must be added another. The Town Musicians, on whom Bach relied for the nucleus of his orchestra, were few in number and inefficient.
So long as Ernesti lived, there was little prospect of reform. But, after his death, in October , Bach made vigorous representations to the Town Council. Already he had remonstrated with the Council for presenting to foundation scholarships boys who lacked musical aptitude.
The Council [pg 40] retaliated by accusing Bach of neglecting his singing classes, absenting himself without leave, and of other irregularities. The document reveals the conditions amid which Bach worked. Its representations may be summarised:. The foundation scholars number fifty-five, by whom the choirs of the four Churches, St. Peter's, and the New Church are provided. For the instrumental accompaniments at least twenty players are required: viz. To fill these places there are eight Town Musicians, and at the moment there are no players available for third Tromba, Timpani, Viola, Violoncello, Contrabasso, third Oboe or Taille.
To augment the Town Musicians the Cantor has been wont in the past to employ University students and instrumental players in the School. But the Council, by its recent resolution, no longer affords the Cantor the means to employ them. To place the scholars in the orchestra weakens the choir, to which they naturally belong. By presenting to foundation scholarships boys unskilled and ignorant of music, the resources at the Cantor's disposal are still farther lessened. No answer was made to Bach's memorial, and he contemplated resigning his position. In Gesner procured the withdrawal of the Council's ban on Bach's perquisites.
The fallen fortunes of the School revived, and Bach did not again make an effort to leave Leipzig. In the grant of the [pg 42] post of Hof-Componist to the Saxon Court gave him at length a title which compelled the deference of his civic masters. Bach's early misunderstanding with the University cut him off from association with the most dignified, if not the most important, institution in Leipzig, and deprived him of opportunity to display his genius beyond the radius of his Church duties. The situation changed in , when he became director of the University Society, and he held the post for about ten years.
The Society gave weekly concerts on Fridays, from 8 to 10, and an extra concert, during the Fair season, on Thursdays at the same hour. It performed vocal and instrumental music and was the medium through which Bach presented his secular Cantatas, Clavier and Violin Concertos, and Orchestral Suites to the public. The proficiency of his elder sons and pupils, and his wife's talent as a singer, were a farther source of strength to the Society, whose direction undoubtedly made these years the happiest in Bach's life.
His increasing reputation as an organist, gained in his annual autumn tours, also enlightened his fellow-townsmen regarding the superlative worth of one whom at the outset [pg 43] they were disposed to treat as a subordinate official. Bach's conductorship of the University Society enabled him to perform festival works with the resources they required, and to augment the band and chorus needed for their adequate performance. Even before he undertook the direction of the University Society, Bach more than once provided the music for University celebrations.
In he revived an old Cantata to celebrate the birthday of another of the Leipzig teachers. In the same year the appointment of Dr. But Bach's activity as a secular composer at Leipzig was chiefly expended on patriotic celebrations. His compositions of this character are particularly numerous during the years , while he was seeking from the Dresden Court the post of Hof-Componist.
The first of these celebrations took place on May 12, , the birthday of Augustus II. The King was present and listened to the performance from a convenient window. The music is lost. Six years elapsed before Bach was invited to collaborate in another celebration of the royal House. On September 5, , less than two months after his application for the post of Hof-Componist, the University Society celebrated the eleventh birthday of the Electoral Prince by performing Bach's dramma per musica, Die Wahl des Herkules, or Herkules auf dem Scheidewege.
On no less than three occasions in Bach did [pg 45] homage to his unheeding sovereign. The music had already done duty in Dr. Two days later, on October 7, , the King's birthday was celebrated by another Bach Cantata, Schleicht spielende Wellen, performed by the Collegium Musicum.
Apart from his musical activities and the house in which he lived there is little that permits us to picture Bach's life at Leipzig. Gottsched and his musical wife, Johann Abraham Birnbaum, among the Professoriate, Picander and Christian Weiss, Bach's regular librettists, suggests the amenities of an academic and literary circle. But the claims of [pg 46] his art and the care of his large family had the first call upon Bach's interest.
And few men had a happier home life. While his elder sons were at home the family concerts were among his most agreeable experiences. As his fame increased, his house became the resort of many seeking to know and hear the famous organist. Late in the thirties he resigned his directorship of the University Society. His sons were already off his hands and out of his house, and he turned again to the Organ works of his Weimar period.
Their revision occupied the last decade of his life, and the hitherto constant flow of Church Cantatas ceased. Pupils resorted to him and filled his empty house, to one of whom, Altnikol, he gave a daughter in marriage. A man of rigid uprightness, sincerely religious; steeped in his art, earnest and grave, yet not lacking naive humour; ever hospitable and generous, and yet shrewd and cautious; pugnacious when his art was slighted or his rights were infringed; generous in the extreme to his wife and children, and eager to give the latter advantages which he had never known himself; a lover of sound theology, and of a piety as deep as it was unpretentious—such were the qualities of one who towers above all other masters of music in moral grandeur.
Four, perhaps only three, contemporary portraits of Bach are known. One is in the [pg 47] possession of the firm of Peters at Leipzig and once belonged to Carl Philipp Emmanuel's daughter, who with inherited impiety sold it to a Leipzig flute player. The second hung in St. Thomas' School and is reproduced at p. It was painted in and restored in The third portrait belonged to Bach's last pupil, Kittel, and used to hang on the Organ at Erfurt, whence it disappeared after , during the Napoleonic wars.
Recently Professor Fritz Volbach of Mainz has discovered a fourth portrait, which is printed at p. He supposes it to be none other than the Erfurt portrait, as indeed it well may be, since it represents a man of some sixty years, austere in countenance, but of a dignity that is not so apparent in Haussmann's portraiture.
Bach left no will. In consequence his widow, Anna Magdalena, burdened with the charge of a step-daughter and two daughters, was entitled to only one-third of her husband's estate. But the fact cannot excuse gross neglect of their father's widow. Her own sons were in a position to make such a contribution to her income as would at least have kept want from her door. In fact she was permitted to become dependent on public charity, and died, an alms-woman, on February 27, , nearly ten years after her great husband. The three daughters survived her. One died in , the second in The third, Regine Susanna, survived them, her want relieved by gifts from a public that at last was awakening to the grandeur of her father.
Beethoven contributed generously. Regine Susanna died in December , the last of Bach's children. In her nephew, Johann Christoph Friedrich's son, also died. With him the line of Johann Sebastian Bach expired. As a Clavier player Bach was admired by all who had the good fortune to hear him and was the envy of the virtuosi of his day. His method greatly differed from that of his contemporaries and predecessors, but so far no one has attempted to explain in what the difference consisted.