Bachs Musical Style

Bachs Musical Style

For many music lovers Johann Sebastian Bach 1685 1750 is the greatest composer in the history of human civilization People all over the world play his music and study his art The value of his music can be expressed by Wagners famous phrase quoted in the Oxford Dictionary of Music It is the most stupendous miracle in all music Style is the soul of every composer Similarly a good grasp of the playing style of a piece of music is an important criterion to judge the success of a performance To grasp the works style correctly requires accumulated practice and the serious study of every note and every phrase and an equally important understanding of work as a whole

The published works of Bachs are many and include most of the mature music forms of his era including orchestral and chamber music and large works for orchestra and voice However Bach did not write opera and this is an important point to make when studying his style He did not write opera because his employment in the ducal courts and education establishments occupied his creative time and because he had an important role in the Luthern Church a strict Protestant church which discouraged extravagance The word opera even by Bachs time had hints of extravagance mostly because of the social circus of the public who attended opera The public was there to indulgence themselves to dress up and to be seen Of course dressing up and being seen has always been a part of church going and Bachs music always had entertainment purposes but the main function of his music is to praise God and promote His teachings Whether this purposes is conscious or not Bach naturally adopted a German Protestant Christian outlook in his work one which rejects all unhealthy factors or the nonequilibrium factors which bring about unexpected enthusiasm Bachs music is characterized by rational thinking and solemn emotion His music is behaved ie it is very structured and balanced Bachs works for voice and orchestra are characterized by having strictly Christian themes They include more than three hundred sacred cantatas and the worldfamous largescale oratorios of the St Matthews Passion and the St Johns Passion They were not written for the opera house but for the cathedral

Bach did write secular cantata such as The Coffee Cantata BWV 211 Schweigt stille plaudert nicht Be still stop chattering but even this lightly satirical work has a Christian instructional themes A warning against the addiction of coffee its main theme is Honor Thy Father one of the Ten Commandments of Moses The narrator Schlendrian sings in horror that his daughter doesnt listen to him though he has told her one thousand times to stop drinking coffee

Together with the Protestant Ethic three interesting hallmarks of Bachs music style are Imitation Contrast and Improvisation Improvisation is the opposite of Imitation The steppingstone from Imitation to Improvisation is Contrast To get there we must start at the beginning To get to the beginning we will look at Bachs work for keyboard

At the forefront of Bachs works is his music for keyboard Much of his adult career was spent at the keyboard in particular the crucial beginnings as the court organist and concertmaster at the ducal court in Weimar 1708 1717 and the glorious finale in Leipzig 172350 Throughout his creative life he composed a large amount of keyboard music such as Toccata and Fugue in D minor Das wohltemperierte Clavier The welltempered keyboard Prelude and Fugue and the Goldberg Variations Therefore to really to begin to understand Bachs musical style we need to look closely at his writing for keyboard Here we find the beginnings of his style and also the full flowering of his genius

Although Bach originally wrote for the keyboards of the pianoforte and the cathedral organ much of Bachs music has been transcribed for the piano and it is through the transpositions for piano that pupils in China begin their studies of Bachs style and music Their starting point i

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