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Discussion Starter · #361 ·
Mozart

174
Clarinet Concerto In A Major, K. 622
1791

Mozart's Clarinet Concerto In A Major
is widely regarded as being the greatest clarinet concerto. It's Mozart's last instrumental work, and was completed in October 1791, less than two months before his death at the age of just 35.

Mozart composed the Clarinet Concerto for clarinetist Anton Stadler, considered the most gifted clarinetist in Vienna (and also Mozart’s friend and fellow Mason), and he performed the work at the premiere on 16 October 1791. It was the first clarinet concerto to be written by a major composer (the clarinet was a fairly new instrument) – however it wasn’t strictly composed for the clarinet at all. Mozart originally composed the concerto for the basset horn (a member of the clarinet family).

Some of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto was featured in the score to the 2010 film The King’s Speech, although only the orchestral sections. And the 'Adagio' second movement featured prominently in Out Of Africa.

I love the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's program notes for the piece, so here they are:

"A mood of gracious lyricism prevails in the first movement. Mozart chose a softer-toned orchestral ensemble — gentle flutes instead of the more penetrating oboes, no brass except for two horns — to set his soloist in high relief. Graceful, flowing melodies abound, exploiting the clarinet's rich singing tone. But soon after its entrance, the clarinet flies free of the orchestra's theme to show off its coloratura abilities and the exciting contrasts between its lowest and highest notes. There is also melancholy in this outwardly serene music, and after its initial gymnastics, the clarinet expresses this in a slightly mournful melody in the minor mode.

"The clarinet's most haunting tones are displayed in the Adagio second movement, one of Mozart's most sublime slow movements. Here the clarinet becomes a great operatic diva, its drooping phrases singing of loneliness and loss. Mozart experienced considerable depression in his last year and had often remarked that he did not expect a long life. His music frequently expresses a profound sense of life's transitory nature and the sadness that hides behind beauty — and never more poignantly than here.

"Such thoughts of mortality are mostly pushed aside in the merry rondo finale. The clarinet leads off with a chirpy rondo refrain exploiting the instrument's comic side. But high comedy also includes room for more serious emotions, as Mozart had demonstrated over and over in his great comic operas. And thus, between returns of this refrain, he develops other melodies in surprisingly moving ways, and his adventurous harmonies wander into darker minor-key territory. However, Mozart never forgets who is the star and gives the clarinetist plentiful opportunities to show off his fleet virtuosity."


I'd say that this 2nd mvt., the adagio, is so brutally beautiful . . .


Here's Arngunnur Arnadottir, clarinet, with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Conrelius Meister in 2015.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Clarinet Concerto in A major, K.622

 

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Discussion Starter · #362 ·
175
Mozart

Piano Sonata No. 11 In A, K331/K300I ("Alla Turca")

Probably composed in 1783 (and published the following year) Mozart’s Sonata No.11 has become famous above all for its finale, the so-called ‘Rondo Alla Turca’, which is written in a percussive Turkish style that was well-known in Vienna due to the bands of Turkish musicians who would roam the streets and play in public.

Mozart also made use of the style in his opera The Abduction From The Seraglio of 1782. But there is more to the Sonata than that – the opening movement is a particularly clever and charming set of variations, while the slow movement is a graceful minuet and trio. As well as Mozart’s original version the Sonata has become known via arrangements, and sets of variations, by later musicians such as Max Reger and Dave Brubeck.

Mozart wrote 18 sonatas for solo piano and this is one of his most famous. Jumping on the 18th century trend for all things Turkish, Mozart uses a “Turkish” style march in this sonata’s third movement. Putting aside the question of how Turkish it actually is… the movement has become one of the most famous works ever written for piano.



Olga Jegunova - W.A. Mozart: Piano Sonata No 11 in A - Major, K.331 (300i)










Andante grazioso:
00:04 Theme
00:51 Variation 1
01:33 Variation 2
02:21 Variation 3
03:16 Variation 4
03:59 Variation 5
05:48 Variation 6
6:53 Minuetto
10:24 Alla Turca - Allegretto
 

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Discussion Starter · #363 · (Edited)
So . . . up to 175 entries, and 20 of them are composed by Mozart

Let's turn to the the third of the “Big Three”, LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN, who already has fourteen on the list, Yes, it's time for five from this master, or the “Best Of Beethoven”.

Of course, these 14 already on the list are superb, and include 5 of his 9 Symphonies, 6 piano works, and three for string quartet:

3. Beethoven - Symphony No. 3 "Eroica"
16. Beethoven – Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op. 67. 1808
28. Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 14 in C♯ minor (“Moonlight Sonata”)
34. Beethoven - Symphony No. 6
39. Beethoven - Symphony No. 9

42. Beethoven - Symphony No. 7
43. Beethoven - Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major: Op.50
45. Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 21 in C Major, Op. 53 “Waldstein
50. Beethoven - String Quartet in F Major Op.59, no.1
51. Beethoven – “Razumovsky” String Quartets

55. Beethoven – Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 “Pathetique”
76. Beethoven – Piano Sonata No. 28, Op. 101
96. Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 5
144. Beethoven - Grosse Fugue


So, here’s five more that are considered favorites, as well as rounding out the “Best Of”, or Beethoven’s Greatest . . . or, rather, here’s five more Beethoven works you cannot live without.





Beethoven

176
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61


The opening — four soft beats on timpani — creates a new sound right at the start. The slow movement is one of the most beautiful in the repertoire. Brahms modeled his own violin concerto entirely on this work.

And . . . Beethoven only wrote one violin concerto.

The consistently lyrical Violin Concerto In D allowed Beethoven to express pure musical serenity while his more intense side was coming out in compositions like the Coriolan Overture. Though it was a failure at its premiere (it was not performed for almost 4 decades), now it is one of Beethoven’s most popular pieces, certainly the most popular of all violin concertos, and one of the best Beethoven works.

The work was revived in 1844, well after Beethoven's death, with a performance by the then 12-year-old violinist Joseph Joachim with the orchestra of the London Philharmonic Society conducted by Felix Mendelssohn.

The unsuccessful debut may explain why Beethoven never attempted another violin concerto.

It is really a 40-minute outpouring of untroubled melody, its very typical moments of harmonic and dynamic surprise in the orchestra hardly affecting the surface.

The work is in three movements:

I. Allegro ma non troppo (D major)
II. Larghetto (G major)
III. Rondo. Allegro (D major)


There is no break between the second and third movements.

Recorded Live February 1992, at the Konzerthaus Berlinere the one and only Itzhak Perlman, with the Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Daniel Barenboim.


Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61/Anne-Sophie Mutter

 

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Discussion Starter · #364 ·
Beethoven

177.
Missa Solemnis, Op. 123
1823


One of Beethoven’s greatest achievements is this epic setting of a sacred Mass, his second.

In fact, Beethoven described his grandly conceived “Missa solemnis” as “my greatest work” and sold manuscript copies to some of the subscribers even before it had appeared in print.

Missa solemnis, like most masses, is in five movements:

Kyrie eleison
Gloria
Credo
Sanctus
Agnus Dei


Of course, I've sung some Beethoven, and he really doesn't give a damn how difficult his vocal works are to sing. He seems to treat voices as though they are instruments.

On the first page of the Missa Solemnis, Beethoven inscribed the words “From the heart – may it go again to the heart.”

Here’s the London Philharmonic Choir, London Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, Sir Colin Davis, director. "A musician must make affirmations," says Davis. "If a musician cannot believe in music as a universal ideal, what is he left with? We may be encircled by gloom but music gives us a chance to throw what Meredith calls "that faint thin line upon the shore". ... Beethoven is a man at war with himself but a man who is determined to win."

They don’t get started until 7:45, so you can skip to there if you want.




Beethoven, Missa Solemnis. Colin Davis. BBC Proms 2011


 

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Discussion Starter · #365 ·
178
Beethoven
Piano Sonata No. 23
in F minor, Op. 57 “Appassionata”
1807


Beethoven described this as the best he ever wrote (well, at least until his "hammerklavier" sonata). It may very well be the most celebrated of Beethoven's piano sonatas.

I. Allegro assai
II. Andante con moto
III. Allegro ma non troppo – Presto


Here's Daniel Barenboim

Listen to this from start to finish. With no other distractions. Wearing headphones. In the middle of the night. It's only about 23 minutes long. Enjoy.



Beethoven Sonata N° 23 'Appassionata' Daniel Barenboim









.

And just 'cause I'm in the mood, here's a metal version of the 3rd movement played on electric guitar by Mats Kleppe

Good music transcends genre.


Appassionata Op. 57 - 3rd Movement - Beethoven [Metal]




 

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Discussion Starter · #366 · (Edited)
179
Beethoven
Fidelio, Op 72

1805/1814

Beethoven's only opera.

. . . And it took him three versions (and four overtures) to get it right.

Fidelio is at the same time a love story (a wife disguises herself as a prison guard to get a job at the jail where her husband Florestan is imprisoned, and engineers his release), and a story of freedom triumphing over oppression.

Beethoven was no natural when it came to opera – too high-minded and too idealistic for the grubby world of drama and the shades of human motivation – but Fidelio, his only effort in the genre, has astonishing, blazing periods that more than compensate for its patchy moments. There are certain operatic scenes which never fail to tingle the scalp.

The moment when Fidelio reveals himself to be a woman, heroically saves her husband, and then pulls a pistol on her evil nemesis, is a firecracker to beat them all. The ‘Prisoners’ Chorus’ from Act 1 is an unforgettable highlight.

Fidelio/Leonore persuades the chief jailer Rocco to let the prisoners out to feel fresh air and sunlight, so that she can search for her husband. Their chorus ‘O Welche Lust’ (‘O, What Joy’) is an expression of musical ecstasy, all the more potent for the atmosphere of constraint.

Fidelio, Vienna State Opera conducted by Leonard Bernstein
Starring Gundula Janowitz as Leonore/Fidelio, and Rene Kollo as Florestan


LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN-FIDELIO-LEONARD BERNSTEIN-
Fidelio 1978-2


 

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Discussion Starter · #367 ·
180

Beethoven


String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131
1826


This hurts. Five works by Beethoven in a row to bring Beethoven up to eighteen entries on this list.

A violin concerto
A mass
A piano concerto
His only opera, and now,

A string quartet.

It hurts because I could easily include five or ten more. Leaving out (or, rather, leaving for later) his Hammerklavier sonata, the "Waldstein", the "Kreutzer", the "Archduke", the Coriolan and Egmont Overtures, and even Fur Elise seems, in a way, like an insult.

And this string quartet barely edges out his Grosse Fuge, Op. 133, originally the last movement of his Quartet No. 13 in B♭ major, Op. 130, written in 1825.

So, how is it that Beethoven's 14th String Quartet gets in, while the Grosse Fuge doesn't?

Accessibility. The Grosse Fuge, now considered to be a masterwork, was originally poorly received. "An indecipherable, uncorrected horror" that was roundly condemned by critics and audiences alike, so much so that Beethoven's publisher managed to get him to replace it with an alternate 4th movement.

But the String Quartet No. 14 in C♯ minor, Op. 131 is the most personal of compositions – it is music reduced to its absolute fundamentals with four players in quasi-spontaneous interaction. Beethoven’s last quartets are an extreme form, far from easy listening and incredibly intense, almost like kind of a conversation with God.

This was the composer’s own favorite, and the music Schubert wanted to hear on his deathbed. It took Beethoven a lifetime to be able to write this so don’t expect to get it on first hearing – keep at it, however, and its logic and truthfulness will soon dawn.

There are seven movements, played without a break, with moments of almost complete musical stasis and other instances that sound as though Bach has been reincarnated. Moods arise and float away… it is seemingly ungraspable, but one knows it’s right.

I. Adagio ma non troppo e molto espressivo
II. Allegro molto vivace
III. Allegro moderato – Adagio
IV. Andante ma non troppo e molto cantabile – Pi? mosso – Andante moderato e lusinghiero – Adagio – Allegretto – Adagio, ma non troppo e semplice – Allegretto
V. Presto
VI. Adagio quasi un poco andante
VII. Allegro


These seven sections, however, are basically the four conventional movements with a fugal introduction and two connecting interludes.

The set of variations (4th mvt.) is incredibly fine . The brooding Adagio sixth section introduces the furious finale, the only full sonata form in the Quartet. The second theme is derived from the subject of the opening fugue, the latent anger and energy of which now explodes. “This is the fury of the world’s dance – fierce pleasure, agony, ecstasy of love, joy, anger, passion, and suffering; lightning flashes and thunder rolls; and above the tumult the indomitable fiddler whirls us on to the abyss,” Wagner wrote. “Amid the clamor he smiles, for to him it is nothing but a mocking fantasy; at the end, the darkness beckons him away, and his task is done.”

Um, well, yeah. Transcendent, mysterious, revelatory. A quartet with a lack of precedent. Moving music to a new dimension. Inexhaustible originality. An awful lot has been said about this work, and it's time for you to attempt to hear why.

Although this music was not heard publicly until 1835, Schubert requested a private performance five days before his death in 1828. After hearing the Quartet he remarked, “After this, what is left for us to write?”

Here's the Jasper String Quartet at the Soka Performing Arts Center, November 24, 2013.


Beethoven String Quartet No. 14 Op. 131
 

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Discussion Starter · #368 ·
BACH, THE FIRST OF THE BIG THREE

Johann Sebastian Bach, along with Mozart and Beethoven: The "Big Three".

Surprisingly, Bach has been UNDER-represented on this list.

7. Brandenburg Concerto #6, In B Flat
17. Cello Suite No. 1 in G major
20. Well-Tempered Clavier 2, Prelude in F# minor
58. Brandenburg Concertos
74. Well-Tempered Clavier
90. Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
113. Well-Tempered Clavier 2

Well, actually the two Well-Tempered Clavier books have a total of 24 pairs of Preludes and Fugues, and there are six Brandenburg Concertos.

But in addition to the Brandenburgs, Bach is also heralded for his "Goldberg Variations" as well as vocal music such as the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor.

Like his contemporaries Handel, Telemann and Vivaldi, Bach composed concertos, suites, recitatives, da capo arias, and four-part choral music and employed basso continuo. Bach's music was harmonically more innovative than his peer composers, employing surprisingly dissonant chords and progressions, often with extensive exploration of harmonic possibilities within one piece.

So let's explore the next 5 Best of Bach not already covered. As expected, there is a wealth of choices. And many of them are very long.

So let's start with a little preview, an appetizer.

181

Bourree in E minor, from the Suite in E minor for Lute, BWV 996

J S Bach

composed somewhere between 1708 and 1717

This Bourree may sound familiar if you're a Jethro Tull fan, but it's been one of the most famous pieces among guitarists.

Here's Tom Janes playing it on a lute guitar (also known as a German Lute, or Lutar)





Bach - Bourée E minor, played on a Lute Guitar by Tom Janes






.

But here's Andreas Martin actually playing a traditional lute, although he's playing the piece in Db minor rather than E minor. And, sadly, there's a dreadful amount of reverb on this recording.



Bach, Bourrée (BWV 996), Andreas Martin, Lute, HD







And I'd be remiss to not include the Jethro Tull version


Jethro Tull - Bourée
 

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Discussion Starter · #369 ·
Bach


“It may well be true that Bach’s Mass in B Minor
– assembled, no less than created –
has become,
some two hundred and fifty years after he bound its 27 movements together,
the most remarkable musical allegory of
human existence
– its pain, aspiration and promises.”


-Robert Shaw, conductor (1998)


182
Mass in B minor BWV 232
1749


One could, I suppose, consider the Mass in B minor as one big sublime extreme Concerto Grosso.

In between an awe-inspiring Kyrie and the jubilant final Dona nobis pacem, there are nine completely unique arias and duets, fourteen impressive ensemble sections for four, five, six and even eight voices, a broad spectrum of instrumental solos, and an incredible variety of styles.

Nowadays, the Mass in B minor is generally regarded as the magnum opus of Bach's vocal works.

Bach may have opted for the Ordinary of the Mass because it gave him a lot of freedom. There is a great deal of text and it is not dictated which movements should be sung by the chorus and which should be arias. Neither are there any rules about the number of movements. Furthermore, the words of the Mass – unlike those of the cantatas – are universal.

Most researchers believe that Bach compiled his Mass largely of existing music, coming predominantly from the cantatas of course.

He also did not give the B minor Mass a title. Instead, he organized the 1748–49 manuscript into four folders, each with a different title. That containing the Kyrie and Gloria he called "1. Missa"; that containing the Credo he titled "2. Symbolum Nicenum"; the third folder, containing the Sanctus, he called "3. Sanctus"; and the remainder, in a fourth folder he titled "4. Osanna | Benedictus | Agnus Dei et | Dona nobis pacem", probably so that they could be used separately.

The work consists of 27 sections:

I. Kyrie and Gloria ("Missa")
1. Kyrie eleison (1st)
2. Christe eleison
3. Kyrie eleison (2nd)
4. Gloria in excelsis
5. Et in terra pax
6. Laudamus te
7. Gratias agimus tibi
8. Domine Deus
9. Qui tollis peccata mundi
10. Que sedes ad dexteram patris
11. Quoniam tu solus sanctus
12. Cum Sancto Spiritu

II. Credo ("Symbolum Nicenum")
1. Credo in unum Deum
2. Patrem omnipotentem
3. Et in unum Dominum
4. Et incarnatus est
5. Curcifizus
6. Et resurrexit
7. Et in Spiritum Sanctum
8. Confiteor
9. Et expecto

III. Sanctus
1. Sanctus - Pleni sunt coeli

IV. Osanna, Benedictus, Agnus Dei and Dona Nobis Pacem
1. Osanna
2. Benedictus
3. Osanna (da capo)
4. Agnus Dei
5. Dona nobis pacem


OK, for an epic work such as this, finding one definitive video is a challenge, especially as it's a film-length work, clocking in at 100 to 110 minutes.

As far as an audio-only, much has been written. But John Eliot Gardiner's version seems to be the go-to for this, but you're always going to get people that disagree on interpretive matters. One of the most popular versions is from Phillippe Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale Gent.

So here's two versions from which to choose.

Here's the audio recording of the 2015 release of Johann Sebastian Bach's Mass in B Minor performed by the English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner.



Bach - Mass in B Minor | John Eliot Gardiner (2015)













. . . and a live performance by the Choir of the English Concert and The English Concert conducted by
Harry Bicket at PROMS 2012


Part I: 0: 00: 07
Part II: 0: 53: 48
Part III: 1: 25: 15
Part IV: 1: 30: 38


Bach - Mass in B minor (Proms 2012)


 

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Discussion Starter · #370 ·
JS Bach

"There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself."
- Johann Sebastian Bach


183
The Goldberg Variations, BWV 988
1741


The Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, is a musical composition for harpsichord by Johann Sebastian Bach, consisting of an aria and a set of 30 variations. The work is one of the most important examples of the variation form. It is named after Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, who may also have been the first performer of the work.

It is often regarded as the most serious and ambitious composition ever written for harpsichord.

Every third variation in the series of 30 is a canon, following an ascending pattern. Thus, variation 3 is a canon at the unison, variation 6 is a canon at the second (the second entry begins the interval of a second above the first), variation 9 is a canon at the third, and so on until variation 27, which is a canon at the ninth. The final variation, instead of being the expected canon in the tenth, is a quodlibet (which combines several different melodies—usually popular tunes—in counterpoint, and often in a light-hearted, humorous manner).

Great. A Theme and variations, like a lot of variations. What's so great about Bach's Goldberg Variations?

The music is constructed symmetrically, beginning with a beautifully tranquil and highly ornamented Aria, the bass line of which fuels the 30 variations that follow. There is something of a dividing line after variation 15, and the piece ends as it begins, with the return of the Aria. Again, every third variation is a canon — the melody of each is laid over itself, with the additional complication that the pitch difference between the melodies rises from a canon in unison up to the canon in ninths.

Here's Jean Rondeau


Bach - Aria mit 30 Veränderungen Goldberg Variations BWV 988 - Rondeau | Netherlands Bach Society


 

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Discussion Starter · #371 · (Edited)
"Harmony is next to Godliness"
Johann Sebastian Bach


184

JS BACH

In his lifetime of 65 years, Bach composed an incredible 1128 pieces of music. He left an astonishing musical legacy when he died in 1750 - including the six Brandenburg Concertos, the B-Minor Mass, the Well-Tempered Clavier, and hundreds of sacred cantatas. Yet no piece has engendered so much controversy as Art of Fugue, Bach’s definitive exploration of the art of fugal counterpoint.



The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080
(Date unknown, likely 1742-1749)

Bach
never specified what instrument or instruments he wanted The Art of Fugue played on; nor did he finish it.

Johann Sebastian Bach composed this monothematic cycle of approximately 20 fugues written in the key of D minor, probably for harpsichord. The number and the order of the fugues remain controversial, as does the work’s date of composition. Bach did not indicate which instruments were to be used to perform the work, but experts surmise that he would have chosen the organ and harpsichord or a small string or chamber orchestra. The work has been performed on a wide variety of instruments, including the piano, and by string quartets, chamber orchestras, period instruments, and even saxophone ensembles.

And perhaps it doesn't matter; after all, it DOES work however you choose to set it.

So, it starts with a simple theme, which undergoes many permutations throughout the 14 fugues and four canons (in baroque terminology, fugues also) which constitute this work. The individual pieces get continually more complex and demanding as it goes on.

For instance, the 3rd fugue turns the theme upside down. In the fifth fugue, we hear it with some intervals filled in with rather jazzy, dotted rhythms.

Later still, we hear it syncopated and in triple time. Starting with the eighth fugue, new themes are introduced, but they are all in fact derived from this original theme.

The final fugue was the last he was ever to write, and also his longest. Although he had often hidden the BACH motif in his music (in German nomenclature it consists of the notes B flat, A, C and B) here – for the first and only time – he overtly introduces it as the third main theme of this massive fugue.

The incomplete state of the final fugue creates a musical, aesthetic, philosophical and even moral quandary for the performer. Most allow the work to trail off at the point where Bach’s manuscript ceases . . . which makes no sense musically, but most certainly deals with existential questions of human existence, while others use endings composed by experts.

Then again, there are others that feel that the work was left unfinished not because Bach died, but as a deliberate choice by Bach to encourage independent efforts at a completion.

So, most experts now agree that Bach probably intended the work as a pedagogical work for the harpsichord player, never imagining that someone might mistake it for a concert work. Ah, well, too late now.

So . . . which version should I post? Which is the best?

It's all a matter of taste . . . You can find recordings on harpsichord, organ, piano, chamber groups, and orchestras.

The Art of Fugue has most certainly a wealth of learned dissertations written about it. But here's a quote from Peter Gutmann, not a musicologist, but a music aficionado, which says worlds about Art of Fugue:

Why did Bach create the Art of the Fugue?

Wolff posits a practical concern. In 1737, a former pupil, Johann Scheibe, possibly in retaliation for Bach having passed him over for a coveted appointment, published an attack in which he savaged Bach's style as "turgid and confused," decrying its "beauty darkened by an excess of art" that buried the melody, detracted from the beauty of the harmony, had excessive ornamentation, and was extremely difficult to play.

In retrospect, we now recognize this as a harbinger of the vast change that was about to forego Bach's counterpoint in favor of the emerging homophonic style, consisting of a dominant melodic line supported by harmony, that persists to this day (and of which, ironically, Bach's sons were in the vanguard of promoting).

Bach never wrote about his own music, but a colleague, Johann Abraham Birnbaum, came to his defense (and panned the new style), asserting that "one very soon becomes tired of insipid little ditties that consist of nothing but consonances" and that "harmony becomes far more complete if all the voices collaborate to form it." But it was a losing battle - a mere two years after Bach died, Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg, a respected critic, expressed regret that the fugue (and, by implication, polyphony in general) already had declined into an ancient aberration, even as he saluted the Art of the Fugue as a bulwark against contemporary rubbish.

Wolff feels that Bach, plunged into the midst of this esthetic debate, felt compelled to memorialize the art to which he had devoted his life and to create a compendium of its range and techniques. As Herbert Parry put it, the Musical Offering had been for the benefit of one king, but Bach created the Art of the Fugue for all musicians.

Although ignored at the time, and for a century to come, the Art of the Fugue is now universally hailed as not only the ultimate treatise on counterpoint and thus the foremost embodiment of Bach's esthetic ideals, but one of the supreme summits of art, in which a wealth of invention is crafted from a single idea (and in that sense serves to exemplify Bach's core belief in the perfect and inviolate order of the universe, structured according to a Divine plan).

John Stone calls it "tantamount to a sacred text, an artwork so quintessentially perfect in form, so unutterably beautiful from the dual perspectives of the mind and heart, intellect and emotions."

While many of us enjoy it on a superficial level, perhaps the most meaningful tribute is from those having a lifetime of expertise and the deepest familiarity, who consistently declare their studies and analyses to be incomplete and its depths to be limitless, not only as an encylopedic compilation of past technique but as a visionary guide to inspire the creativity of future generations.




Also up for grabs is the order in which the entire work is presented. As the fugues are in groups, one could present them with the canons inserted between groups, or one could group the canons together somewhere.

The entire Art of Fugue runs between 65 and 90 minutes long . . . it does depend on tempi, as well as whether the performer(s) is using a completed final movement, and whether particular movements are omitted (one movement is actually written "a 2", and cannot be played by a single keyboardist without overdubs).

Here's two versions:

First; a wonderful version by the Juilliard String Quartet with guests, with an animated video score, which, for those who love following along, is quite interesting.

The second is a chamber version. The use of instrumental colors gives dimension that cannot be given on a keyboard instrument. Robert Kohnen (harpsichord), Barthold Kuijken (flute), Sigiswald Kuijken (violin), and Wieland Kuijken (viola da gamba)


BWV 1080 - Art of the Fugue





Bach - The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080 -











Of course, it's quite beautiful and personal with just the setting for harpsichord(s) . . . Here's Bob van Asperen (with a little help from Olivier Beumont) performing live. There is some controversy regarding this performance, mostly with the performance practice of adding ornamentation. It was certainly the performance style of the day, and the purists that object to it are merely embracing a literal interpretation of the this beast. They'd probably hate the orchestrations as well. And the piano versions [the piano have an advantage over harpsichords and clavichords by their ability to be far more expressive since each note can be played independently . . . even the organ versions have limitations . . . while the sound can be changed, the volume changes affect all of the notes as a group.)


Bach Die kunst der fuge BWV 1080 The Art of Fugue Bob van Asperen Olivier Baumont harpsichord


 

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Discussion Starter · #372 · (Edited)
I'm a little bummed that the two versions of Art of Fugue I wanted to have linked to the previous post are no longer available on Youtube, one a scrolling version by the Emerson String Quartet, and one with the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Bernstein.

The Emerson String Quartet version is still available for viewing (although it's audio only), but only as individual videos for each section.

So I had to substitute other versions. Such is the mysterious world of Youtube videos that come and go.

So here's a "Consolation Prize" of the Juilliard String Quartet performing Contrapuncti 1 - 4 live from Bach Art of Fugue.

 

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I'm a little bummed that the two versions of Art of Fugue are no longer available on Youtube, one a scrolling version by the Emerson String Quartet, and one with the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Bernstein.

The Emerson String Quartet version is still available for viewing, but as individual videos for each section.

So I had to substitute other versions. Such is the mysterious world of Youtube videos that come and go.

So here's a "Consolation Prize" of the Juilliard String Quartet performing Contrapuncti 1 - 4 live from Bach Art of Fugue.

I'm probably misunderstanding the reference but is this what you were referring to -

 

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Why did Bach create the Art of the Fugue?

Wolff posits a practical concern. In 1737, a former pupil, Johann Scheibe, possibly in retaliation for Bach having passed him over for a coveted appointment, published an attack in which he savaged Bach's style as "turgid and confused," decrying its "beauty darkened by an excess of art" that buried the melody, detracted from the beauty of the harmony, had excessive ornamentation, and was extremely difficult to play.

In retrospect, we now recognize this as a harbinger of the vast change that was about to forego Bach's counterpoint in favor of the emerging homophonic style, consisting of a dominant melodic line supported by harmony, that persists to this day (and of which, ironically, Bach's sons were in the vanguard of promoting).

Bach never wrote about his own music, but a colleague, Johann Abraham Birnbaum, came to his defense (and panned the new style), asserting that "one very soon becomes tired of insipid little ditties that consist of nothing but consonances" and that "harmony becomes far more complete if all the voices collaborate to form it." But it was a losing battle - a mere two years after Bach died, Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg, a respected critic, expressed regret that the fugue (and, by implication, polyphony in general) already had declined into an ancient aberration, even as he saluted the Art of the Fugue as a bulwark against contemporary rubbish.

Wolff feels that Bach, plunged into the midst of this esthetic debate, felt compelled to memorialize the art to which he had devoted his life and to create a compendium of its range and techniques. As Herbert Parry put it, the Musical Offering had been for the benefit of one king, but Bach created the Art of the Fugue for all musicians.

Although ignored at the time, and for a century to come, the Art of the Fugue is now universally hailed as not only the ultimate treatise on counterpoint and thus the foremost embodiment of Bach's esthetic ideals, but one of the supreme summits of art, in which a wealth of invention is crafted from a single idea (and in that sense serves to exemplify Bach's core belief in the perfect and inviolate order of the universe, structured according to a Divine plan).

John Stone calls it "tantamount to a sacred text, an artwork so quintessentially perfect in form, so unutterably beautiful from the dual perspectives of the mind and heart, intellect and emotions."

While many of us enjoy it on a superficial level, perhaps the most meaningful tribute is from those having a lifetime of expertise and the deepest familiarity, who consistently declare their studies and analyses to be incomplete and its depths to be limitless, not only as an encylopedic compilation of past technique but as a visionary guide to inspire the creativity of future generations.
An interesting story, but slightly exaggerated (a bit too "Bach-centric" in view). There were many contrapuntists still active in the period 1750~80, they just don't get as much spotlight as the famous composers
For instance, have a look at the article <I Believe in Mozart: Symphony No. 41 in C Major> 2013/03/18/i-believe-in-mozart-symphony-41-in-c-major/

"I'm back baby!"

We have been constantly "educated" (or "brainwashed" depending on how you look at it) in this way. "Thank Bach only, and no one else."
What if we had been educated from childhood about, for instance, the complex organ works of Johann Ludwig Krebs and nothing about Bach? Would things have been the same? (I'm just asking).
 

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Discussion Starter · #376 ·
An interesting story, but slightly exaggerated (a bit too "Bach-centric" in view). There were many contrapuntists still active in the period 1750~80, they just don't get as much spotlight as the famous composers
Funny, but it was a similar story with Antonio Salieri.

However, unlike Bach, his music wasn't rediscovered and celebrated as genius. Instead it was just gone, and when rediscovered, generally not given first-class status.
 

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Funny, but it was a similar story with Antonio Salieri.
However, unlike Bach, his music wasn't rediscovered and celebrated as genius. Instead it was just gone, and when rediscovered, generally not given first-class status.
Neither are guys before Bach's time, like Purcell, Buxtehude, so it's ok to ignore them, and interpret history as if they didn't exist? What I'm saying is that there's an exaggeration about how Bach "was pretty much alone" in writing in an "old complex style", even though there were many contrapuntists even after Bach's time (who would have been "even more daring than Bach", by the logic "Bach was daring because he was writing in an old complex style"). For example, Pasterwitz Requiem www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGIVo31xW8o
"He composed a large number of short contrapuntal pieces for keyboard: 324 were published between 1790 and 1803, and were the only works published during the composer's lifetime."
Toccata & Fugue in A Minor: I. Toccata www.youtube.com/watch?v=HngzRAIKuJU
Toccata & Fugue in A Minor: II. Fuga
www.youtube.com/watch?v=udAbUbKCSYg
(Sorry about bugging you in this thread, btw, let's try to keep the discussion concise.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #379 ·
Johann Sebastian Bach

185

The Musical Offering, BWV 1079
1747


The Musical Offering is possibly the most significant piano composition in history (partly because it's probably the first piano composition in history).

It is a collection of keyboard canons and fugues and other pieces of music by Johann Sebastian Bach, all based on a single musical theme given to him by Frederick the Great (Frederick II of Prussia), to whom they are dedicated.

The Ricercar a 6 (sometimes referred to as the Prussian Fugue), is a six-voice fugue, and is regarded as the high point of the entire work.

Here's the short version of the history of The Musical Offering: The collection has its roots in a meeting between Bach and Frederick II on May 7, 1747. The meeting, taking place at the King's residence in Potsdam, came about because Bach's son Carl Philipp Emanuel was employed there as court musician. Frederick wanted to show the elder Bach a novelty, the fortepiano, which had been invented some years earlier. The King owned several of the experimental instruments being developed by Gottfried Silbermann. During his anticipated visit to Frederick's palace in Potsdam, Bach, who was well known for his skill at improvising, received from Frederick a long and complex musical theme on which to improvise a three-voice fugue. He did so, but Frederick then challenged him to improvise a six-voice fugue on the same theme. Bach answered that he would need to work the score and send it to the King afterwards. He then returned to Leipzig to write out the Thema Regium ("theme of the king").

Two months after the meeting, Bach published a set of pieces based on this theme which we now know as The Musical Offering. Bach inscribed the piece "Regis Iussu Cantio Et Reliqua Canonica Arte Resoluta" (the theme given by the king, with additions, resolved in the canonic style), the first letters of which spell out the word ricercar, a well-known genre of the time.


But the longer version is far more interesting. I give you an article from THE GUARDIAN by JAMES GAINES, dated Thu 13 Jan 2005. It's well written, fascinating and an easy read.

The Art of Feud

Bach's final work was a tribute to Frederick the Great. Or so the story goes. If you read between the notes, says James Gaines, you will find a devastating attack on everything the king stood for.

Musicologists have long been fascinated by Bach's Musical Offering, one of his last and greatest instrumental works. Its 16 movements are based on a theme given to Bach by Frederick the Great during a visit to the Prussian court in Potsdam. But critical to an understanding of the work, is what Bach buried in the score . . . .



So, again, as with many great works, it's long. It may last 48 to 80 minutes, depending on the performance.

But how about a little appetizer? Here's a short three minute excerpt from The Musical Offering . . . specifically the enigmatic Canon 1 a 2 . The manuscript depicts a single musical sequence that is to be played front to back and back to front. This video presents it as a Mobius Strip.


J.S. Bach - Crab Canon on a Möbius Strip





Das Musikalische Opfer BWV 1079 The Musical Offering
Le Concert des Nations conducted by Jordi Savall
Pierre Hanta
: harpsichord


0:00:00 Thema regium
Thematis regii elaborationes canonicae
0:06:36 • Canon perpetuus super thema regium
0:09:02 • Canon 2 a 2 violini in unisono
0 : 10:43 • Canon 1 a 2 cancrizans
0:12:33 • Canon 3 a 2 per motum contrarium
0:14:13 • Ricercar a 6
0 : 21:53 • Canon a 4 per aumentationem, contrario motu (A)
0 : 24:28 Sonata sopr'il soggetto reale a traversa
• Largo
• Allegro
• Andante
• Allegro
Thematis regii elaborationes canonicae
0:42:08 • Canon a 2 quaerondo invenietis (A)
0:43:42 • Canon 5 a 2 per tonos
0 : 46:56 • Canon a 2 quaerondo invenietis (B)
0:48:08 • Fuga canonica in epidiapente
0 : 50:14 • Canon a 2 per aumentationem, contrario motu (B)
0:52:45 • Canon perpetuus per giusti intervalli
0:54:45 • Canon a 4
0:59:06 • Ricercar a 6



Bach Das Musikalische Opfer BWV 1079 Musical Offering Jordi Savall Concert des Nations


 

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Discussion Starter · #380 ·
Bonus Round

Oooo . . . a suggestion. I like that.

Someone has recommended Glenn Gould playing the Sarabande from Partita No.4 (BWV 828) by Johann Sebastian Bach, 1726–1729.

I don't know why he suggested it, other than it's likely he likes this piece a great deal.

Glenn Gould is a legend in the pianists' bookcase. He's certainly an eccentric, and his recordings are both revered and reviled by 'experts'.

His interpretations are often quite different from those of other noted pianists, who will sometimes criticize his unorthodox artistic choices, but he always brings a fresh view to pieces. You're also liable to hear him humming along as he plays.

His piano had to be set at a certain height and would be raised on wooden blocks if necessary. A small rug would sometimes be required for his feet underneath the piano. He had to sit exactly fourteen inches above the floor, and would play concerts only while sitting on an old chair his father had made.

He's renowned internationally as an interpreter of the keyboard works of Johann Sebastian Bach. But his technique is superb.

So . . . The Partitas are a set of six harpsichord suites, the last of the keyboard suites he composed (the first two being The English Suites, and the French Suites, and, hence, the Partitas are sometimes referred to as The German Suites). The suites usually had 6-7 'movements', most of which were in dance styles.

I've had the pleasure of competing with some selections from these suites when I was a teenager.


Glenn Gould - Bach - BWV 828 - 5 - Sarabande

 
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