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Title: Sebastian Bach
Author: Poole, Reginald Lane
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: BACH.]

  The Great Musicians





  St. Dunstan’s House

_Uniform with this Volume, price 3s. each._








No one will expect a life of Bach to be amusing, but it will be my own
fault if the present Essay does not offer an interest of a high and
varied character. If it labours under a disadvantage, as the first
biography of the master written in this country, on the other hand
it is only now that, thanks to the devotion of Professor Spitta, we
can congratulate ourselves on the possession of absolutely all the
attainable facts. Hitherto, three translations or abridgements of
German works have appeared in England; and the first is one of those
books which, however incomplete, can never really be superseded. It
is a translation of the “Life” of J. N. Forkel, published at Leipzig
in 1802, and in London in 1820. Forkel was not only pre-eminent among
the learned musicians of the end of the last century, but also the
friend and scholar of Bach’s sons Friedemann and Emanuel. He presents
us, therefore, with more than a masterly criticism of Bach’s science,
knowing, it should seem, little beyond the organ and clavichord works:
he is full of anecdotes and reminiscences of the master, all the more
valuable, because told with a naïveté and freshness that stamp them at
once as genuine and uncoloured.

The translation of Forkel was followed after a long interval by
a volume based partly upon it, partly upon a sketch written by
Hilgenfeldt as a centenary memorial in 1850. Though presumably edited
by the late Mr. Rimbault, whose initials are appended to the preface,
the abstract is so unfaithful and illiterate as to be practically
without value. The third biography to which I have alluded is of a
different character; it is a plain and conscientious abridgement of the
work of C. H. Bitter, now minister of finance in Berlin, and only to be
laid aside in view of the more complete materials which have been made
accessible to us by Professor Spitta, and in the later publications of
the Bach-Gesellschaft.

Dr. Spitta’s “Johann Sebastian Bach,” published at Leipzig in two
volumes in 1873 and 1880, represents the many years’ study of a
professed musician. For all the facts of Bach’s life, and all the
obtainable data relative to his works, it is a final and exhaustive
treasure-house. Nothing can be more scientific and workmanlike than
the method with which he has exhumed and collected every detail from
every source that might possibly bear upon his subject, and nothing
more admirable than the warm enthusiasm which lights up his work.
Practically he has left hardly anything for further research, nothing
certainly that could be made use of in a short sketch like the present.
When, however, I state that my facts are mainly due to him, I do not
wish to imply his responsibility for a single word not covered by
this admission. In criticism I give exclusively the results of an
independent study of Bach’s works, which I have pursued for a number
of years. Nor am I sure that Dr. Spitta would invariably approve of
my arrangement of his facts, and especially of the extent to which I
have drawn from the personal narrative of Forkel. In many respects,
a small book demands a different treatment from a large one, and I
have not restricted my freedom of choice in a sketch that can never
by possibility enter into competition with Dr. Spitta’s work. My best
wishes for it are that it may serve the modest aim of preparing a
worthy reception for his English translation which is shortly to appear.

It would be affectation to conceal the great help in the composition of
this volume which I have had from my wife, not merely in the selection
of material, but even more in the judgment and taste with which she has
controlled my writing.

  R. L. POOLE.

  _Leipzig, 21st March, 1882._




  Bach’s Ancestry                                                       1



  His Youth and Apprenticeship—in an orchestra at Weimar—and
  as organist at Arnstadt and Muehlhausen:—Marriage                   14

  _Early Compositions chiefly for Organ and Clavichord_             21-42



  Organist and Concertmeister at Weimar                                29

  _The Organ Works_                                                 37-42



  Capellmeister at Coethen: Second Marriage                            43

  _The Works for Clavichord, Chamber, and Orchestra_                51-56



  Cantor at Leipzig: the Music of Bach’s Household                     58



  Bach’s Work at Leipzig                                               73

  _The Secular Cantatas_                                            75-80
  _The Church Cantatas and Oratorios_                               80-86
  _The Motets_                                                      86-87


  The Passion Music and the High Mass                                  88



  Bach’s later years at Leipzig: his Death                            103

  _The Great Collections of Fugues_                               111-116


  Characteristic of Bach: Estimation in England                       118

  Pedigree of Musicians in the Family of Bach                         128

  Chronological List of Church Cantatas                               131



It is never without interest to seek out the beginnings of genius
in a great man’s forefathers. The mere tracking of pedigrees has an
attraction for more than will willingly confess to what is reputed
mainly an innocent weakness of old age. The pursuit, however, gains
in dignity when it is not only the kinship but also the intellectual
growth of the family, not only the blood but also the soul, with which
we have to do. In no family, perhaps, is it of greater moment than
in that of Sebastian Bach, wherein his special tastes and powers all
have their prophecy and preparation in a tradition where everything is

From the first years of the sixteenth century—so soon, in other words,
as the arising of a national religion has revealed to us the life of
the German people—we have already traces of Bachs scattered among the
valleys of Thuringia. There are Bachs near Arnstadt, in Erfurt, and
Gotha, and Wechmar, places hereafter to be remembered in the musical
vocations of their descendants. The ancestor of Sebastian appears, a
little later, as a baker of Wechmar. This Veit Bach († 1619), named
from Saint Vitus, the patron of the church there, is related to have
passed some years in Hungary, and to have gone back to his home when
the rigour of dominant Jesuitism made living in Hungary hard and
perilous. We may here note the sole basis for the common story that the
family of Bach was of Hungarian descent. Veit sold his goods and set up
as a baker, and then as a miller, in his native village. _He had_—so
Sebastian tells the tale—_his chief delight in a little cithara_
(Cythringen), _which he would take with him into his mill and play
thereon while the corn was grinding. They must have sounded merrily
together! Howbeit, so he learnt the sense of time; and in this wise
music first came into his house._ But music had already a professor
among the Bachs, and it was to Caspar Bach, the town piper of Gotha,
that Veit entrusted his son Hans.

Hans Bach, _player_ and carpet-weaver, whose portrait was taken with
a fiddle and a _brave beard_[1] and ornamented with a fool’s cap,
returned from his apprenticeship in his double craft, to settle at
Wechmar, where he lived until 1626, when the plague killed him, with
many of his kinsfolk, in middle life. His was a blithe personality, in
great request in all the places round, as much, it seems, for his
hearty goodfellowship as for the help he gave the town musicians
wherever he went. To three of his large family, which included
apparently three Hanses and certainly two Heinrichs, he handed down,
with a part of his open generous nature, that musical inheritance which
in their hands grew into an artistic possession rich with the promise
of greater fruit. It is worth while to stay a moment at this point to
observe how deep roots music had struck into the family of Bach. For
it seems that Hans had a brother whose three sons shewed sufficient
excellence for the Count of Schwarzburg-Arnstadt to send them into
Italy that they might complete their artistic training. Another son
became the ancestor of a continuous succession of musicians, the
last of whom, fourth of his line holding office in the ducal court
of Meiningen, died organist there in 1846. Among this branch Johann
Christian, distinguished as _Clavier_-Bach, a music-master at Halle,
deserves commemoration from his friendship with Wilhelm Friedemann, the
son of Sebastian, if only to illustrate the bond which held together
the most remotely connected members of the family.

The household at Wechmar was broken up at the death of Hans, and
the three brothers, Johann, Christoph, and Heinrich, separated to
form new homes in other parts of Thuringia. But the intercourse of
themselves and of their children was never in the least relaxed. They
married into the same families, helped one another in sickness or
poverty; the younger members were apprenticed to their elder kinsfolk
and often succeeded to their posts when they died; and the yearly
gatherings of the entire family held their ground for a century. The
closeness of this attachment merits insisting upon especially, when
we consider the troubled times on which the family was thrown at its
first dispersion. For the thirty years’ war in its wearisome progress
makes the outward history of Germany, in the second quarter of the
seventeenth century, little more than a record of battles and sieges,
with scant breathing-spaces of peace, not long enough for the towns
to recover from exhausting occupations of foreign troops. In this
age of continued misery the foundations of German society seemed to
be gradually undermined. A struggle, which added to the confusion of
civil war the passion of religious hatred, threatened to dissolve the
natural bonds of the family and of the race. Men sank into a blind
and listless state, abandoning themselves to any vice or excess that
seemed to deaden the thought of the morrow. It was therefore amid
every circumstance of adversity that the Bach family grew to its full
stature; and it is the more noteworthy that the latest, most learned,
and most laborious biographer of Sebastian is unable to furnish a
single evidence, in the entire records of his kindred, of the least
deflection from the straitest paths of virtue.[2]

Johann Bach, the eldest of Hans’s family with whom we have to do, was
apprenticed to the town piper of Suhl, whose daughter he afterwards
married, and whose son he came in time to welcome as a pupil and a
kinsman in his house. He became organist at Schweinfurt, and ultimately
director of the town musicians at Erfurt. It was a hard time, this of
war, for musicians; but they had their meed of glory—and profit—when
any peace festivities came. And Johann Bach seems to have made himself
indispensable, like his father, in all the musical affairs of the
place. He began, in fact, a line of musicians so indissolubly bound up
with the life of the town, that more than a century later, when all
the house was extinct, the town musicians of Erfurt still retained the
generic title of “the Bachs.” Adding to the duties of town musician
those of organist to the Dominican church, he becomes a prominent
forerunner in the two paths in which the genius of his family was to
reach its climax. His home, also, lying equally accessible to Arnstadt
and Eisenach, remained for long the centre of the greater family of
the Bachs in general. It was in Johann that his youngest brother,
Heinrich, found a guardian, when he was left an orphan in his twelfth
year. Heinrich was not only the greatest musician of his generation,
but also specially his father’s son in that kindliness and merry
temper which made him as much the delight of his family as he had been
of his father in his boyish days. He played in the Erfurt band until
he gained the post for which nature and training had fitted him, as
organist at Arnstadt, a post which he retained with increasing honour
and distinction for above half a century. Of his organ works little
remains, but we have the accordant testimony of his contemporaries
to place him among the greatest organists of his time. An equal
agreement acknowledges his genial lovable nature, in all its freshness
and childlike gaiety, which it was beyond the power of adversity to
embitter or to corrupt.

Johann and Heinrich married sisters. Both had to pass through their
times of misfortune, and Heinrich’s first years of marriage were
also years of great poverty. The pittance allowed him by the town of
Arnstadt was irregularly paid, or not paid at all, in consequence
of the immense drain upon the resources of Germany made by the
continued—it seemed, the endless—war. Heinrich had to sue as a
beggar to the Count of Schwarzburg. But no trouble made either of
the brothers waver in their warm-hearted generosity to their kin or
in their earnestness in their calling. They lived in the honourable
esteem of the Thuringian towns wherein they dwelt, and left behind
them a new generation to carry on and to exalt their fathers’ art
and name. Each left two sons; and, by a curiously repeated custom,
each of these pairs of brothers married sisters. Renown first came
to the younger branch, and the skill and learning with which the
sons of Heinrich were informed remains a monument of their father’s
powers, as distinct and certain as if he were still known to us as
a composer. Johann Christoph and Johann Michael are an astonishing
phenomenon in this mid-time of national depression. Their writing has
a freshness and vigour which seems to carry us back to the beginning
of the seventeenth century, when the spirit of Germany was strong and
creative, or forward to the age following, when the people had again
recovered its strength. Of the greater achievements of the latter time
the work of Johann Christoph and Michael appears as a prelude. In
the pedigree of Sebastian Bach they fade to a comparative obscurity;
viewed by themselves they are luminaries of signal brilliance. Johann
Christoph was more than a complete master of the musical science of
his day; he was also one of the first who ventured to deviate from
the rigid rules of the early contrapuntists, to make them freer, more
flexible, and more significant. He is a link between ancient and
modern music, blending the old church modes with the modern tonality
of major and minor. Besides this, he marks an important step in the
growth of dramatic music. His Michaelmas piece, _The Fight with the
Dragon_, follows in the track of those Germans who had invented the
idea of setting to music scenes from Biblical history, Schuetz and
Hammerschmidt; but it goes far beyond them in command of the orchestral
body, and in the genius of dramatic utterance. The sacred drama is, in
his hands, clearly on the road which leads to the perfected oratorio
of Handel or the no less perfected Passion music of Sebastian Bach.
But the permanent interest of Johann Christoph Bach lies, even more
than in his historical significance, in the beauty of his melodies and
the _expressiveness_[3] with which he wrought them. It was Sebastian,
his cousin in the next generation, who first knew how to appreciate
his great predecessor. Contemporaries, however, were attracted rather
by Johann Michael. But, excellent musician as he was, and gifted with
a fine artistic sense, Michael failed specially in that power of
expression which signalized his brother. The motets by which he is best
known are deficient in symmetry. The ideas they contain are irregularly
worked, and appeal to us by isolated beauties rather than by the unity
of their spirit. The performance lags behind the conception. Of the
instrumental works of the two brothers, works principally for the
organ, and also for clavichord, there is not space to speak here. It is
enough to have indicated in bare outline their general position. Their
external history need only so far detain us as to notice that the elder
was organist at Eisenach, the younger at Gehren near Arnstadt, and that
Michael’s daughter became the wife of her cousin Sebastian.

The musical faculty grew to ripeness more rapidly in the family of
Heinrich Bach than in those of either of his brothers. Johann’s sons
were of course musicians, but composition first appeared in a grandson,
Johann Bernhard, a man of wide capacity. He was cembalist in the Duke
of Saxe-Eisenach’s band, and of such distinction as an organist,
that he was chosen to succeed to the post of his illustrious cousin,
Johann Christoph, at the latter’s death. He holds an honourable rank
as a composer, having written orchestral suites as well as the proper
productions of his office, organ-chorales. The latter follow somewhat
directly in the steps of the famous organist of Erfurt—afterwards
of Nuernberg—Johann Pachelbel, whose influence is indeed paramount
over all the Bachs of his time. The orchestral works, however, have
overtures which are described as equal in power and energy to some of
those to Handel’s operas and as only surpassed in genius and richness
by Sebastian’s own. They have the peculiar interest of existing mostly
in the autograph of the latter, who transcribed and esteemed them at
the period of his greatest maturity when he was cantor at Leipzig.

Leaving the rest of the musician-posterity of Johann and Heinrich
Bach—and hardly a place in Thuringia or even Saxony but claimed some
of them whether as organists or cantors, or in the minor arts of town
piper or fiddler—we return to the brother who stands between them in
age, and who is the grandfather of Sebastian. Christoph Bach, who was
born at Wechmar in 1613, is the most secular of the sons of Hans. He
was simply and solely a _player_, first in the service—menial as well
as musical—of the Duke of Saxe-Weimar; then at Prettin in Saxony,
where he took to him a wife; and thirdly, when he was near thirty, in
the Company of Musicians in the more familiar town of Erfurt. His last
years were spent in the band of the court and town of Arnstadt, where
he died at the age of forty-eight, on the 14th September, 1661, his
widow following him on the 8th of the next month.

Georg Christoph, his eldest son, of whom a concerted piece of church
music was long preserved in the family, retreated in middle life from
the immediate circle of the Bachs; he became cantor at Schweinfurt,
and founded the Franconian branch of the continually expanding
house. Next to him came two sons, twins, Johann Ambrosius and Johann
Christoph, born on the 22nd of February, 1645. The coincidence of their
birth was, in their case, accompanied by an almost unique identity of
physical nature, character, and taste. The brothers were so alike that
their own wives could not tell them apart: both adopted the family
profession, and both the same instrument, the viol. Their strange
psychological affinity subjected the one with the other to the same
illnesses; and the elder survived the younger by little more than
a year. Johann Christoph is the subject of one of the few detailed
narratives which we encounter in the history of the Bachs before
Sebastian; and this, if it does not seriously damage his reputation,
equally does not credit him with the prudence that is characteristic
of his kin. It appears that an indiscreet though innocent friendship
with one of the Arnstadt maidens, accompanied, most rashly, with an
exchange of rings, brought upon the young fiddler a prosecution at the
hands of his would-be mother-in-law. The consistory, it is presumed,
urged amends by the marriage of the parties; but Bach was firm—this
is a family trait—and appealed to the higher consistory at Weimar,
from which at length he obtained release from his difficulty. An
experience of this sort made him hesitate before he finally decided
to take a wife; and, after his marriage, misfortune—not of his own
making—followed him for some years more. His place in the Arnstadt
band was harassed by the jealous persecution of the principal town
musician. The Bachs of Erfurt and Arnstadt combined in a memorial in
his favour, but nothing came of it. In the end the Count dismissed the
entire band _for indolence and disunion_. Christoph, in his poverty,
still helped his uncle Heinrich in the Sunday music of his church;
but this brought no subsistence to his household. He was fain to go
to Gehren, _if he might but do some service with quiet music, whereby
to support himself and his family in their need_. The death of the
Count at last brought them rescue, for his successor restored Bach to
the posts of court musician and town piper. From this time, 1682, the
musician lived in peace; but his death eleven years later left a legacy
of new troubles to his widow and her five children, the eldest just ten
years of age. They had a long time of poverty and sickness to struggle
with, though the boy, Johann Ernst, did his best to gain a living for
them in the family craft. But he was a poor musician, and fortune kept
him waiting. Ultimately he got the organistship at Arnstadt vacated by
Sebastian, who, himself ill-provided and on the point of marriage, left
Ernst the arrears of his salary and ended his kinsman’s days of trouble.

Johann Ambrosius, the brother of the unlucky Christoph, has a meagre
record. He was attached to the town band of Erfurt, afterwards of
Eisenach; and married twice. His first wife, Elisabeth, daughter of
Valentin Laemmerhirt, a furrier of Erfurt, gave him eight children,
of whom six were sons. Three of these only grew to man’s estate; the
youngest is the subject of the present study. Ambrosius’ second
marriage was followed in two months by his death, in January, 1695.
Of his character we have but one solitary notice, when a funeral
sermon on a weak-minded sister gave occasion to the preacher to mark
the contrast with her two brothers: _whom we see to be men of a good
understanding, endowed with art and skill, who are well seen and heard
in churches and schools, and in the common life of the town, in such
wise that the work praiseth the Master_. A portrait of Ambrosius, which
looks down upon the precious reliques of his son in the Berlin library,
is notable not only for its likeness to Sebastian but also for the
simplicity of its manner. There he is, not sprucely dressed out for the
occasion in wig and powder, but in plain working clothes, with brown
hair and moustache. There is a certain pride in this disdain of outward

Before closing the recital of the genealogy of the Bachs, a word of
notice is claimed by the Companies of Players that existed in Germany
in their time, and with which they necessarily stood in close relation.
The regulations of these fellowships are in some cases preserved, and
are interesting memorials of the pious care which their framers took to
guard against the abuses to which the musician’s craft was peculiarly
exposed, to inflict the sternest penalties on profligate or irreligious
conduct, and to exclude the singing or accompanying of any but virtuous
music. It does not appear, however, that any of the Bachs belonged
to such a company. Many of them held a better worldly position, most
were better educated than the common town player. It is a plausible
inference that their number alone served to constitute them an informal
guild by themselves, of which the name was that of their family, and
the only regulation that which sprang from the generosity of their
nature and the close ties which knit the kin together in a common pride
and emulation in their common art. Emanuel Bach, Sebastian’s son, has
left us a genial picture of how the kinsmen would gather all together,
at Erfurt, or Eisenach, or Arnstadt, once in the year, and there make
merry. First they sang a chorale; and, this duty ended, soon turned to
a medley of secular songs. The climax was reached in the _quodlibet_,
when all joined in a sort of comic chorus. The music consisted of any
scrap, no matter whether sacred or profane, that occurred to any of the
assembled company. It was an improvised catch. Each man in turn gave
his own part or refrain, all different and all in harmony. The words
were as incongruous as the music, and every one added his own quip or
jest to the general jollity. Such was the homely festival that held its
place in the family life of the Bachs as late as the middle years of
Sebastian’s career.


Johann Sebastian Bach was born at Eisenach on the 21st March, 1685.[4]
The Thuringian town had been a home of the Bachs ever since the two
sons of Johann Bach had found their wives there. Two of the family, and
no less men than Johann Christoph and Johann Bernhard, had successively
filled the post of organist in the town church. The death of his
parents, however, before he had completed his tenth year removed
Sebastian from the surroundings that seemed so fitted for the training
of his genius. Already he was his father’s apt pupil on the violin,
and the music which was the daily occupation of the house was not lost
upon the eager ears of the child. He passed from Eisenach into the
care of his brother Johann Christoph, his elder by fourteen years, who
was organist in the little town of Ohrdruf; and it was here, in one
of the most beautiful of the valleys of Thuringia, that the rest of
his boyhood was passed. The impression of this country of soft hills
and warm wooded valleys became a part of Sebastian’s nature and still
lives in his music. The least attentive listener cannot mistake the
inclination to a pastoral treatment which is continually appearing not
in the professed _Pastorales_, as in the _Christmas Oratorio_, merely,
but throughout the compass of Bach’s works; still more striking is his
vein of idyllic melody, peculiarly obvious in the fine gold into which
he transmuted the baser metal of the Italian _aria_, to illuminate his
church cantatas.

At Ohrdruf Bach lived until he was fifteen, learning the clavichord
from his brother, who was a pupil of Pachelbel, and apparently exciting
his jealousy by the facility of his progress. A story of him tells us
that he once coveted a book containing compositions by several of the
great German masters, Froberger, Bruhns, Pachelbel, and Buxtehude; but
the obtuseness of the elder brother forbade his venturing into studies
too high for him. So the boy went every moonlit night to the cupboard
in which it was shut away, and, thrusting his hand into the lattice,
rolled up the volume and stealthily made his copy of it. However, when
the deed was discovered, this labour of half a year was taken from him
and not restored until after his brother’s death.

If Bach’s musical discipline at home left much for him to find out by
himself, his education at the Ohrdruf Lyceum proceeded fairly enough
and in music excellently. He learned Latin and the Greek Testament,
with a little arithmetic and rhetoric. Of these subjects indeed Latin
only had any pretence to thoroughness, and, although its range of
reading did not extend beyond Cicero and Cornelius Nepos, it included
a good deal of composition both in prose and verse. Very different was
the musical instruction of the Ohrdruf school, which qualified the boys
to furnish all the choral music of the church, besides singing motets
and _concerts_ at weddings and funerals.

Five years of this routine, and Bach left Ohrdruf. There was little
more to be learned from his brother, who, with a family of his own,
was no doubt glad to be rid of his charge. Accordingly he travelled,
with a comrade of the school, to Lueneburg, and the lads together
joined the choir of the Michaëlisschule. It seems that Thuringian boys
were in special request for their musical training, as well as for
the remarkable quality of their voices; and Bach’s proficiency on the
violin and clavichord, added to his fine treble, placed him at once in
the select _Matin_ choir.

Lueneburg at this time enjoyed a wide repute throughout North and
Middle Germany for the goodness of its musical training. There were
two schools belonging to the churches of S. Michael and S. John, and
the rivalry was so keen between the scholars that, when in winter time
they perambulated the town—like the rude manner of our waits—it was
necessary to mark out the road which each should take to avoid an
unseemly wrangle. This custom of itinerant choirs, however bad for the
singers’ voices, was of service in quickening the popular sympathy with
music; and the rivalry itself was useful in stimulating the ardour
of the colleges. The principal work of the school of S. Michael’s was
to prepare the music for the choral services of its church, two on
Sundays, with motets and anthems, and, above all, high services with
orchestra on the eighteen feast-days of the Lutheran kalendar. These
formed the business of Bach’s life for three years. Some employment in
playing or in the training of the choir must have occupied him after
his voice changed, for he continued to take his commons at the free
board until 1703.

All this time his general education was carried on much after the
Ohrdruf pattern, with a rather wider circle of Latin authors, the Greek
Testament, divinity, and logic. Higher than this the course did not
go; and Bach had not the means, if he had the wish, to engage private
teaching there, or to proceed to one of the universities. We shall see
hereafter that he obtained an exemption from the classical work of
the Thomasschule at Leipzig. At Lueneburg poverty conspired with his
natural impulse to keep him closely to the profession as well as to the
study of music. It was the period of his apprenticeship in the three
branches in which he was afterwards to achieve a supreme excellence. At
the Michaëlisschule he gained an intimate knowledge of the capacities
of choral singing; he worked at the organ; and he became acquainted
with the lighter instrumental music lately brought to Germany from

The organ claimed his chief and unremitting labour, and more than once
did he journey to Hamburg to attend the performances of Reincke, the
father of North German organists. Old Reincke, as he is affectionately
known—he lived well into his hundredth year and died in 1722—was a
pupil of Sweelinck and one of the channels by which the learning and
method of the great Amsterdam organist was diffused through the entire
length of Northern Germany. From the dexterous and graceful toccatas
which still attest Reincke’s powers Bach probably derived little; the
principal reward of his Hamburg visits was the insight he acquired
into the scope of organ composition, a lesson which he so worked
out as to receive (according to a well-known story) the honourable
testimony of the master himself. _I thought_, said Reincke, when, just
before the old man’s death, Bach elaborated before him the chorale _An
Wasserflüssen Babylons_ in the true organ style, _I thought that this
art was dead, but now I see that it lives in you_.

Bach stood in a closer connexion with a pupil of Reincke, Georg Boehm,
organist at S. John’s Church, Lueneburg, and also a distinguished
composer. In chamber-music as well as in the organ Bach learned much
from him, but more in the manner of instrumental treatment and in the
theory of composition, than by any direct influence on his writings. At
this time also he made acquaintance with French music at Celle, where
it had been naturalised forty years since and was now in its prime
at the court of Duke Georg Wilhelm and his Huguenot consort Eléonore

A further training in instrumental music was afforded by the post which
Bach held for some months after leaving Lueneburg, in 1703, in the band
of Prince Johann Ernst at Weimar. But he could not long be content with
the limited scope of a court violinist; and a chance visit to Arnstadt,
where his grand-uncle Heinrich had founded a tradition of organ
playing, but, dying eleven years before, had left no worthy successor,
offered to Bach the opportunity of following out his special bent. An
organ had recently been built in the new church of the town, but the
burghers had not yet succeeded in finding a musician who satisfied
their notion of the importance of the post. The man they had engaged
they watched so jealously that he was not even trusted with the keys
of his loft: one of them was deputed to receive them back from him as
soon as playing was over. It is significant of the skill which Bach had
already won, that he no sooner tried the organ—it does not appear, as
a candidate—than the consistory welcomed in this lad of eighteen the
musical heir of their honoured town organist, dismissed the incapable
Boerner, and forcibly installed Bach at a triple salary augmented out
of the municipal chest. On the 14th August, 1703, he took the solemn
pledge of diligence and faithfulness and all _that appertaineth to
an honourable servant and organist before God and the worshipful

The brilliancy of Bach’s reception at Arnstadt was transient. The
New Church was a sort of chapel-of-ease to the principal church of
the town; and Bach was only entrusted with the training of a small,
partly voluntary, choir. His duties accordingly engrossed but a couple
of hours on three days of the week, and the townspeople were well
satisfied if he did not fall short in them. In this languid atmosphere
he found no incitement to convince the town, by his performances, how
far his hopes and ambitions exceeded those of the ordinary organist.
He seems in time to have been content with a bare fulfilment of his
duties, or hardly that, and to have concentrated himself in his private
studies. After two years the respite of a month’s leave enabled him
to visit Luebeck, the home of the illustrious organist Buxtehude; and
hither a long walk of fifty leagues brought him in November, 1705.

As Reincke was a Dutchman, so Dietrich Buxtehude, who did as much, on
his own lines, to establish the North German school of organists, was
a Dane. He had settled in Luebeck in 1660, and the enthusiasm with
which his art was attended was such that his influence remained in the
town until the present century. One of the causes of his popularity
was the custom which he innovated of having concerts, with a full
orchestra of uncommon strength, in his church. A deeper reason was his
consummate command over the organ and the important advances he made in

Buxtehude stands apart from the organ composers of the rest of Germany,
in the greater technical elaboration of his works. In spirit he has
a single point of alliance with the organists of Southern Germany,
in his want of sympathy with, his estrangement from, the chorale, in
which the music of Middle Germany had its life. The melodic richness
which this training in popular music developed in Pachelbel and Johann
Christoph Bach was lacking in Buxtehude. His strength lay in pure
instrumental music and was displayed specially in fugue-writing, to
the development of which he contributed much, both in the combination
of several themes in a fugue and in the extended function he assigned
to the pedal. The form is conceived with breadth and freedom, the
voices are melodiously worked together, and the harmonies are unusual
in their originality, often so unusual as to seem merely discordant,
harsh, restless. For if the works of Buxtehude strike one first by the
massiveness, they strike no less by their inequality, their strange,
erratic transitions from a sombre, often tempestuous, mood to one of
tenderness and pathos.

It was at the feet of this rugged genius that Bach sat for three
months; and the impress left upon his mind was distinct and durable.
His fastidious censorship in later years allowed very little of his
Arnstadt work to survive. A single church cantata comes down to us
in the shape to which a careful revision at Leipzig reduced it[5];
but several instrumental works let us see how far he had advanced in
composition, and two organ fugues,[6] at least, how much he needed the
education of these months at Luebeck to complete the studies hitherto
influenced by the school of Pachelbel. The subjects in them are
ingeniously constructed, but the entire compositions are deficient in
relief and coherence. They shew the earnest spirit in which he worked,
but also that this earnestness acted as a weight upon the freedom and
brightness of the result. Outwardly he retires under the established
musical forms of his time, but even now his individuality forces itself
into view. An instance of his technical immaturity is afforded by his
treatment of the pedal, which, according to the universal custom except
in Northern Germany, Bach used merely occasionally, limiting it to the
production of sustained notes or at the most of slow progressions.[7]
Buxtehude, on the other hand, changed it from a capricious accessory
into a real support to the manuals and often entrusted it with a
brilliant _solo_ part. In this important element of organ composition,
his Luebeck visit opened a new road to Bach and a road which he was not
slow to follow.[8]

The clavichord works that occupied his leisure at Arnstadt seem, to
judge from the few specimens that have come down to us,[9] to have
been chiefly of that sort of free fugue, sometimes with a humorous
design, to which it was the custom to give the name of _capriccio_. In
one of them, a sonata (No. 216, p. 12), a fugue of the most melodious
conception is followed by a _capriccio_ founded on the cackle of a hen;
_Thema all’ Imitatio Gallina Cucca_ is the macaronic title. Another
(No. 208, p. 30) portrays the feelings and the circumstances attending
the departure of his brother—_sopra la lontananza del suo fratello
dilettissimo_—Johann Jakob, who went as hautboy-player in the Swedish
guard of Charles XII. We have the sad gathering of the family, and
their recitals of the perils that may befall the traveller in a strange
land. They seek in vain to stay him, and, finding him resolute, join
in a general _lamento_—a fine composition, by the way, written upon
two ground-basses, and tenderly pathetic—ere they take leave. When
the slow farewell is ended, the postilion makes his appearance, and
the sorrow of the departure is exchanged for the lively bustle of the
road, the picture ending gaily with the post-horn deftly worked into a
fugue.[10] This curiously elementary form of what it is the fashion to
call programme-music may appear to have been suggested by the fantastic
compositions of Couperin and others, which Bach heard at Celle. But, in
this regard at least, the old German Froberger was another Couperin. He
is recorded to have written a suite depicting the _Journey of the Count
of Thurn and the Peril that came to him on the Rhine, plainly delivered
before eye and ear_. Probably, however, Bach’s immediate reference
is to a work that had recently been published by a musician whom in
after-life he was to succeed as cantor at Leipzig. Johann Kuhnau’s
_Biblische Historien_ are scenes from the history of the children of
Israel presented in a series of sonatas for the clavichord. To judge by
their contents it is likely that Bach took the idea of this _capriccio_
from them, but it is significant of his insight into the unsatisfying
nature of the peculiar style, that he never returned to it, unless
indeed we admit a kindred basis in the rare examples of the imitation
of outward emotion, which appear in his Passion music.

When Bach returned home from Luebeck, in February, 1706, his month’s
holiday having expanded into three, he not unnaturally encountered the
displeasure of the authorities. Summoned before the consistory, he
excused himself on the ground that _he had been to Luebeck with the
intent to perfect himself in certain matters touching his art_, and,
having provided a substitute for the time, he was under no misgivings
as to the discharge of his duties at Arnstadt. But heavier charges
lay behind. He was to be rebuked (to quote the pedantry of the
official record) _for that he hath heretofore made sundry perplexing
variations and imported divers strange harmonies, in such wise that
the congregation was thereby confounded. In the future_, continues
the Minute, _when he will introduce a_ tonus peregrinus, _he is to
sustain the same and not to fall incontinent upon another, or even, as
he hath been wont, to play a_ tonus contrarius. A witness added that
_the organist Bach hath at the first played too tediously; howbeit, on
notice received from the superintendent, he hath straightway fallen
into the other extreme and made the music too short_. Evidently he had
brought things into a bad way, for the next charge is, that he refused
to train the choir. Bach retorted by demanding a conductor. He was
allowed time to consider whether he would comply with the order of the
Board or leave them to appoint some one to fill his place. Under the
circumstances it shows a surprisingly gentle temper in the consistory,
possibly a just appreciation of their organist’s great, however
capricious, excellence, that they waited near nine months before they
repeated, with some severity, the demand for an explanation. Bach
agreed to furnish one; but the document has unfortunately not been
preserved. It is evident, however, from the indifference with which he
treated the consistory, as well as from his unwillingness to fulfil the
conditions of his post, that he had already decided to resign it on the
first opportunity.

The opportunity was not long coming: before the end of the year the
organist’s place at S. Blasius’ Church, Muehlhausen, fell vacant.
A succession of distinguished musicians and the various eminence
of the last holder of the post, Johann Georg Ahle—perhaps also the
fame of the _poet’s crown_ with which the Emperor had decorated
him—made the office an exceptionally coveted one. Among the various
candidates, however, it was adjudged apparently without debate to
Bach, who was even requested to make his own terms as to the salary
he should receive. He modestly stipulated the same sum as he had been
allowed at Arnstadt—it was indeed considerably in excess of Ahle’s
salary—together with the accustomed dues of corn, wood, and fish, to
be delivered without charge at his door. He asked also for a cart to
bring his goods to his new house.[11] These trifling details are oddly
characteristic of the man, and remind us of a letter he wrote long
after to a relative, thanking him for a cask of wine, but quoting the
expense of carriage, and begging that the costly present might not be
repeated. Just at present he had a special reason for thrift. He left
Arnstadt by the end of June, 1707; in the following October, the 17th,
he was married at a village near Arnstadt, to his cousin Maria Barbara,
daughter of the great Gehren organist, Johann Michael Bach. A single
year after his appointment he accepted the more ambitious post of
organist in the Ducal Chapel at Weimar.

His short stay at Muehlhausen had been pleasant and useful to him.
He entered upon his work, which was purely that of organist, with
ardour, and—in contrast with his lax performance of his duties at
Arnstadt—even took a share in the training of the choir, although
there was a cantor as well. The only drawback was that the pastor of
his church was a strenuous pietist, one of those puritans who found,
not a spiritual gain, but a worldly intrusion upon the sacredness of
divine worship, in those church cantatas which it was Bach’s work to
create anew. The organist held to a close friendship with his pastor’s
hot antagonist at the Church of S. Mary, and seems to have gone
into the neighbouring villages whenever he wished to produce music
upon which he could not venture in his own church. This can hardly
have been, however, the principal reason of his leaving Muehlhausen
so quickly as he did. The charges of married life made his stipend
barely a maintenance, even without a family. He had had enough of
the subordination of a town organist. But most of all he must have
been stimulated by the renown of the music at Weimar, with which he
had become acquainted in an inferior capacity four years before, and
the wide field it promised for the cultivation of his art in all its
departments. On the 25th June, 1708, he respectfully submitted his
resignation to the consistory. Their answer, requesting that his
departure should not hinder his continuing to supervise the repair of
the church organ with which they had entrusted him, is evidence of the
good terms on which they separated.

For the next fifteen years Bach stands in a circle of greater honour,
removed from the small troubles of a town official. His return to a
burgher’s life in 1723—and at Leipzig he was never free from the
harass of the wiseacres of his consistory—may surprise us, unless we
conclude that the experience of his intervening years had taught him
that if the delights of life came more liberally in the atmosphere of
a court, a great town was after all the place for him who would live
laborious days.


Passing from Muehlhausen to Weimar was to Bach as the step from school
to a university. The nine years of his life there produced works in
which almost any other musician might glory as the perfect consummation
of his powers; but when we range them beside the performance of
Bach’s middle life, we see that all this time was still a period of
preparation. Wonderful indeed is this strenuous preparation, carried on
with increasing earnestness to his thirty-second year; this prelude to
a life-long study—the index of the faithful artist—which was never
relaxed until sight and strength forsook him. And no less wonderful
is the growth of his genius—when we look back upon his earlier
performances—revealed in rapid stages from the beginning of his
sojourn at Weimar. But it was not only the years that had come upon
him, but also the opportunity they brought with them, that make this
change so marked an epoch in his life. Little as we know of the court
of Weimar, there are some facts about its condition at this time which
let us see that its intellectual atmosphere could not have been without
its excitement and inspiration to Bach.

The Duke, Wilhelm Ernst, was a man of naturally grave and religious
character. It is told of him that at eight years old he preached a
sermon before his parents and their company; and in later life his
chief pleasure and occupation lay in building churches, organizing
religious schemes, and founding schools. In the troubles of an unhappy
marriage and the approach of a childless age, his serious temper
deepened into austerity. But, if always averse from gaiety or the least
approach to the wonted dissipations of a court, he was a good friend
to arts and letters; and the forty-five years of his rule began the
tradition of culture which led up to the historical era in the annals
of Weimar a century later. He founded the library, had a collection
of coins, and—what is more to our purpose—took a strong and pious
delight in hearing and fostering the music in the castle chapel.

The strict and sombre discipline which the Duke imposed upon his homely
court—it went to bed, we are told, at eight in winter, and only an
hour later in summer—was relieved by the brighter influence of his
brother, Johann Ernst, the prince with whom Bach had taken service
as a violinist in 1703. He died in 1707, but his son, also Johann
Ernst, inherited his father’s taste for the chamber-music of France
and Italy, and showed himself in his short life a composer of promise.
The boy liked to be surrounded by musicians, to take lessons from
them, and hear his favourite music. At the present time there was a
brilliant circle at Weimar, and in this the prominent figures were the
town organist Walther, known for his _Musical Dictionary_, and Bach.
A famous story connects the two. Bach, we are told, had boasted of
his ability to play anything at first sight, and Walther determined
to baffle him. He asked him to breakfast, and, knowing Bach’s habits,
laid among the music upon the clavichord a piece of simple and innocent
appearance. While the meal was making ready the host leaves the room.
Bach comes upon the piece, tries it and halts, begins again, and breaks
down. Then he leaves the instrument in exasperation, shouting to his
friend, _No, one cannot play everything off: the thing is impossible_.

Of the routine of Bach’s life at Weimar we can only gather the outline.
He held the double post of organist and _musicus_ in the court. The
latter function involved in Bach’s case either taking a fiddle in the
orchestra—a band of sixteen performers all attired in a grotesque
uniform of Hungarian heyducks—or accompanying from the _basso
continuo_ on the harpsichord (_cembalo_). When after some years he was
appointed concertmeister he of course took the place of first violin.
He was now required to supply a certain number of church compositions;
and the age of the capellmeister often added to his duties the task of
conducting. The series of church cantatas written at this time—among
which the magnificent one, _Ich hatte viel Bekümmerniss_, stands
preëminent—are sufficient evidence of the energy with which he applied
himself to his additional duties. If we ask how he lived in his
household—and no man lived more than Bach in the life of his home—we
are answered by a blank. We have not even a clue as to the manner of
woman his wife was. Six of her seven children were born at Weimar, and
two, twins, died there in 1713. The names of the sponsors to them
show the varied popularity Bach had gained among the different ranks
with whom he was thrown. Pages in waiting and a Muehlhausen clergyman
appear beside Bach’s kinsfolk or his professional comrades—Telemann is
among them—or the humbler associates of his early life at Ohrdruf or
Arnstadt. His continually increased salary—it never indeed exceeded
some thirty pounds, added to the usual perquisites paid in kind—is
one of the many signs of his being valued. More significant is the
request he was in as an organist throughout Saxony, and even in a wider
circle. He was always being invited to try or inspect organs, to play
at different courts and attend musical celebrations, till it came to
be a yearly practice with him to break the busy monotony of his Weimar
life by a holiday spent in answer to these various calls. Some accounts
that remain of these journeys are the more interesting since they are
the only record, outside his compositions, of these years.

In 1713 he was at Halle, and so much attracted by the quality of a
new organ then building as to offer himself for the organistship. The
consistory eagerly accepted him, and Bach composed a cantata on the
spot, and brought it out as a testimonial. The documents of office
quickly followed him back to Weimar for signature. But Bach was
dissatisfied with the terms, possibly the Duke had persuaded him to
stay at the castle; in any case, he wrote a courteous letter asking
for some changes in the conditions of the post. The church authorities
were indignant, refused to alter a word in the agreement, and hinted,
quite falsely, that Bach had merely played with them in order to get
an increase of pay at Weimar. Bach wound up the correspondence by
a vigorous and dignified defence of his action; and it is pleasant
to know that peace was tacitly re-established by Bach’s accepting a
flattering invitation to play upon that same organ on its completion in

Another autumn journey of Bach took him to Cassel (1714), where he
played a pedal solo on the organ, a feat of miraculous agility, which
few, one relates, could equal with their hands. The hereditary prince,
who was present, took a precious ring from his finger and expressed by
the oriental gift his admiration of the performance.[12] Other years
Bach went to Leipzig, perhaps to Meiningen, and his excursions from
Weimar end with the celebrated visit to Dresden. Just before this, in
1716, Mattheson, one of the most influential musical critics of his
day, had asked for his biography, and wrote of him as _the renowned
organist_; in the following year his mere name vanquished a redoubtable
harpsichord-player, Marchand, who had never before been confronted
by an equal. The Frenchman was so popular at the Dresden court that
some friends of Bach in the orchestra there seem to have induced the
German master to stand forward in defence of his national music. It is
certain that a challenge was sent to Marchand, and that a large company
awaited the contest of the pianists in the house of one of the royal
ministers. Bach was there, but not Marchand. After long expectation,
a messenger at last was sent to his lodging, only to bring back the
news that he had left Dresden by express post that morning. No defeat
could be more decisive, especially when we remember that Bach’s fame
had hitherto rested upon his consummate powers as an organist. It may
be added that he was so far from being prejudiced by his personal
relations with Marchand that he always valued the gracefulness and
exuberant variety of the French composer; and Adlung, who tells the
story, says that he only once was able to appreciate his music, and
that was when Bach played it to him. Success never affected Bach’s
judgment: his generosity was always without vanity.

In leaving Weimar in 1717, Bach ceased for ever to be by calling an
organist, though the instrument remained always his chief delight,
and once at least he was tempted again to resume it as a profession.
As a performer he seems to have grown every year in mature strength.
In 1720, when he visited Hamburg, his performance at S. Katharine’s
Church was attended by the aged organist, Reincke, and an assemblage
of many of the principal men of the city. How he impressed Reincke
has already been related, and no doubt it was partly the enthusiasm
with which he was greeted that made him view Hamburg as a congenial
home for him. An organistship was vacant at one of the other churches
there, and Bach directly offered himself for the place. He had to leave
before the trial of the candidates took place, but was so eager for
the appointment that he wrote from Coethen to repeat his willingness
to accept it. The post as it turned out, was given to the man who paid
the highest premium, and Mattheson was not the only man in Hamburg who
expressed indignation at _the well-to-do tradesman’s son, who could
prelude better with dollars than with fingers_, being preferred to the
_great virtuoso whose mastery excited the admiration of every one_.
Neumeister, who was chief preacher of the church, took occasion to
remark in a sermon just after, that _he was sure enough that if one of
the angels who sang at Bethlehem were to come down from heaven and play
divinely and desire to be organist of S. James’s, nevertheless if he
had no money he might as well fly back again straight_.

There are constant and innumerable proofs, besides the few we have
noticed, of the impression Bach made as an organist: not the least
striking among these is a note by Gesner, with whom Bach was closely
connected in later years at Leipzig, illustrating a musical passage in
Quintilian. After describing in vigorous rhetoric the almost superhuman
powers of his friend, he adds, _Though none can surpass me in my
support of the ancients I opine that many Orpheuses and twenty Arions
are comprehended singly in my Bach and any, if such there be, like to
him_.[13] The characteristics which gave Bach his quite unique position
as an organist are partly those of an extraordinary originality in
the application of the mechanical resources of the instrument. How
minutely he knew its structure is shewn by the frequency with which
he was chosen, almost from boyhood, to pronounce upon the necessity
and the detail of repair in organs, and to judge the success of the
result. His arrangement of stops before he played was so singular as
to make _connoisseurs_ absolutely incredulous of the possibility of
so producing harmonious combinations, but when he began the doubt was
changed into amazement at the swiftness, the precision, and the power
of his movements both of feet and hands. If, however, a by-stander
expressed astonishment, he would silence him with quiet modesty. _There
is nothing to wonder at in that_, he would say: _you have only to touch
the right key at the right time and the instrument plays itself_. As
a rule he gave the pedal a real part of its own, often of incredible
difficulty; and by this means he left his hands free to develop the
theme in the broadest manner, and to apply the stops, each as it
appeared most appropriate and characteristic, with wonderful insight
and ingenuity. He liked also to use the pedal to announce a tenor
part whenever (as was the case at Weimar) he could find a four-foot
register. Of difficulties he seemed unconscious, and this was equally
true when he was elaborating a simple bass or a chorale, or improvising
a fugue, as when he was playing from a written score. Indeed Forkel,
who knew Bach’s sons, relates that “his unpremeditated voluntaries on
the organ, where nothing was lost in writing down, are said to have
been still more devout, solemn, dignified, and sublime,” than those
which stand in record of his supreme command of the instrument. Forkel
instances Bach and the son to whom his gifts were transmitted in a
special measure, Wilhelm Friedemann, as solitary examples of consummate
skill equally on clavichord and organ. “Both,” he says, “were elegant
performers on the clavichord; but when they came to the organ, no
trace of the harpsichord-player was to be perceived. Melody, harmony,
motion, &c., all was different, that is, all was adapted to the nature
of the instrument and its destination. When I heard Will. Friedemann
on the harpsichord, all was delicate, elegant, and agreeable. When I
heard him on the organ, I was seized with reverential awe. There, all
was pretty; here, all was grand and solemn. The same was the case with
John Sebastian, but both in a much higher degree of perfection. William
Friedemann was here too but a child to his father, and most frankly
concurred in this opinion.”[14]

I have already taken occasion to trace the studies by which Bach
prepared himself to become the greatest organ composer as well as the
greatest organist of all time. At the present break in his life it will
be convenient to give a summary account of his total production in this
department,[15] though it must be little more than an enumeration of
the works that survive; since organ music least of all lends itself to
any but a scientific analysis, such as would be altogether out of place
here. My references are to the compositions contained in the _Fifth
Series_ of Peters’ collected edition of Bach’s instrumental works.[16]

Bach’s organ works divide themselves into three great branches, the
first of which is connected most closely with his religious office.
It is well known that the German chorale since the days of Luther has
always held its regular place in the service of the church. This form
of melody, however much more beautiful, is essentially the same with
what we in England used to sing as psalm tunes, at a time when one
metrical version of the Psalter was employed and the modern hymn with
its new words and heterogeneous structure had not yet made its voice
heard. In Germany words and music were alike familiar to every one;
they formed in fact the nucleus of Lutheran worship both in church
and at home. We shall see hereafter how Bach collected two hundred
and forty chorales for use in his household; and there are hardly any
of his church cantatas which do not contain at least one. In church,
whenever a chorale was announced, every one present could be trusted
to sustain the melody, and it was allowed to the organist to vary the
harmonies almost to any extent he pleased without fear of confusing
the people.[17] In this way it came to be a recognised part of the
organist’s function, at least in Middle Germany, to adorn the simple
grandeur or pathos of the chorale by means of preludes, interludes, and
variations, generally improvised at the moment; and this treatment of
chorales was so popular, through the influence of Johann Christoph and
Michael Bach, Pachelbel, and a number of leading organists just before
Sebastian Bach’s time, that it became extended so as to form the basis
of independent instrumental compositions, for use at other intervals
in the church service. It was a custom of which Bach was peculiarly
fond, giving him, as it did, a firm groundwork, with high associations,
upon which his fancy could build with the utmost freedom. And though
he wrote down but a minute part of what he composed, we possess in
print no less than a hundred and thirty elaborations of chorales (parts
5-7), besides twenty-eight of which the genuineness is disputed (suppl.
9-36). They range from short and slight preludes to works of the most
intricate brilliancy, abounding in all the science as well as in all
the melodious art of which Bach was master. Those to whom the organ
chorales are inaccessible may learn their spirit by unravelling the
harmonies he has used in the fivefold setting of one chorale in the
S. Matthew Passion or from other no less remarkable instances in that
according to S. John, to quote only from works which are best known
in England. The inexhaustible invention which is pressed into the
brief compass of these verses, is in the organ-chorales distributed
over a long composition; but the extension is never for the purpose
of display, and the fundamental motive insistently maintains itself

In opposition to these the second branch of Bach’s organ works stands
remote from the church. It was not choice only but also the determined
bent of musical taste at Weimar that directed his study again to
the instrumental music of Italy; and the influence for the present
lay strongly upon his organ music as well as upon the rest of his
compositions. Three of Vivaldi’s violin-concertos with a movement of a
fourth (part 8, 1-4) he arranged for his instrument; he wrote fugues on
themes by Legrenzi and Corelli[18] (4. 6, 8), and a fugue and _canzone_
(8. 6; 4. 10) recalling the manner of the great Roman organist,
Frescobaldi, whose _Fiori Musicali_, published in 1635, he possessed.

But it would be a great mistake to imagine that Bach was at this time
engrossed by the Italian masters. On the contrary Weimar was the
place where he wrote the bulk of his organ works of the third branch,
the preludes, fantasias, toccatas, and fugues, in which his strong
religious sense united with his power of musical creation to build up
masterpieces of a perfection never approached either before or since.
The list of his works of this period is as follows:—

1. Three _Preludes_, in A minor, C, and G (4. 13; 8. 8, 11):

2. Three _Fugues_, in G minor, C, and G minor (4. 7; 8. 10, 12):

3. Fifteen _Preludes and Fugues_ in A, F minor, C minor, G minor, E
minor, C, G, and D; besides a collection of eight shorter ones (2. 3,
5, 6; 3. 5, 10; 4. 2, 3; 8. 5. i-viii.):

4. Three _Toccatas and Fugues_, in F, C, and D minor (3. 2, 8; 4. 4):

5. Two _Fantasias and Fugues_ both in C minor (3. 6; 4. 12): to which
must be added three single works, namely a _Fantasia_ in C (8. 9); a
_Pastorale_ in F (1. 3); and the superb _Passacaglio_ in C minor, well
known to all organists worthy of the name (1. 2).

For the years succeeding those he spent at Weimar, Bach has left us,
with one grand exception, no certain record on the organ; we shall
see hereafter that he was otherwise occupied. But there is hardly a
doubt that he took advantage of the exceptional opportunity offered by
his Hamburg visit in 1720, to produce his famous _Fantasia and Fugue_
in G minor (2. 4). It does not surprise us to find that the Fugue,
which English musicians have personified as the Giant, left an abiding
impression among the listeners.[19] As we possess it, it has undergone
a rigorous revision, to which, in common with the major part of his
younger works, Bach afterwards submitted it when at Leipzig.

Accordingly the short series which he is believed to have composed in
later years does not represent more than a fraction of his activity in
this direction; since revising in his case usually meant re-writing,
certainly re-thinking. The compositions which are presumed to date
originally from the year 1723 onwards, consist of seven _Preludes and
Fugues_, in C, G, A minor, E minor, B minor, E flat, and D minor,[20]
(2. 1, 2, 8, 9, 10; 3. 1, 4), and a _Toccata and Fugue_ in D minor,
known as the Doric toccata (3. 3); together with six _Sonatas_ written
to exercise the growing skill of Bach’s eldest boy, Wilhelm Friedemann
(1. 1).[21]

It is impossible to characterise in a few words the works which gave
Bach his chief renown among contemporaries, and the familiarity of
many of the greatest of them renders such an attempt unnecessary. It
may suffice to direct attention to the majestic motion of the august
Passacaglio, as contrasted with the idyllic grace of the Pastorale
which follows it in the printed edition, and which remains lamentably
a fragment;—to the broad directness of the Fugue in C (2. 1), the
daring invention of the longest of the fugues, that in E minor (2. 9),
which proceeds almost entirely by chromatic intervals, the irresistible
charm of the G minor, or the marvellously varied solemnity of the E
flat, naturalised in England as the S. Ann Fugue. It is as an organ
composer that Bach stands, as a colossus, absolutely unapproached and


The reasons which determined Bach to leave Weimar are not quite clear.
He was in fact one of those quick-tempered men whom a small irritation
might kindle to a resolve of disproportionate gravity. In the present
case he had a real grievance in the appointment of a son as successor
to the old capellmeister, whose work Bach had done for a long time and
the reversion of whose office he might reasonably have counted upon.
Leopold, the reigning prince of Anhalt-Coethen was no stranger at
Weimar. A family alliance connected the two courts, and it is likely
that he had heard Bach there. In any case Bach was known to him by
report, and in 1717 was invited to take the post of capellmeister at

The six years that Bach spent in the service of this prince make a
kind of pause or breathing-space in his life. It is not that he was
idle during this period: his work was different. He had, as it were,
stepped aside from the road upon which he had journeyed all the years
of his manhood, to follow a by-lane where he might loiter if it pleased
him. And if this short abandonment of his peculiar art, dedicated to
the service of the church, in favour of the writing of suites for
strings or clavichord, hardly needs apology, it remains remarkable
that Bach consented to take a position in which church music or even
organ-playing had no place. In no one of the three churches in Coethen
had he any control; perhaps he was not sorry in the present case, since
two of them, with the bulk of the population, belonged to (his special
aversion) the reformed or Calvinistic sect.[22] The Castle Church could
boast but an indifferent organ and was unprovided with a choir; so that
even had Bach wished to overstep the limitations of his duty, there
were no opportunities, but rather discouragement, in Coethen for him to
return to his old work.

He was designated Capellmeister and Director of his Highness’s
Chamber Music, but in the peculiar situation of the Coethen court
the title imperfectly describes the nature of his post. Leopold was
a young bachelor who gave to music the loving worship he had not yet
consecrated to a woman. He cultivated his art with an eager enthusiasm,
sang a full bass, and was no mean performer on violin, viola-da-gamba,
and clavichord. He welcomed Bach as a brother in the craft, and not
only employed him to compose for his varied requirements, but took
him into his familiar fellowship,[23] played with him, sang with him,
insisted on his company whenever, as was his habit, he journeyed abroad.

Before this he had learned some knowledge of the world, had travelled
in England and Italy, and made acquaintance with the music of Rome and
Venice. For the future we find him and Bach making repeated visits
to Karlsbad and other distant places, and the obedient capellmeister
sometimes perhaps a little _ennuyé_, if we may credit a story which
relates that on one of these journeys he consoled himself for the
lack of all musical instruments by striking off the greater part of
the _Wohltemperirte Clavier_. The incongruous performance recalls the
tale of the famous printer, Henry Estiennes, that he divided the New
Testament into verses, the verses which we still retain, on a ride from
Paris to Lyons.

In spite of the widened experience, it was in truth a narrowing
life to Bach. He was not one of a musical group as at Weimar; there
is no record of his having any friends in the place. If he had the
pleasantness of the grateful appreciation of the Prince, he had no
public to sustain his ambition. His days were divided between his house
and the music-room of the castle; and he only came into contact with
the musical society outside by the custom which he still maintained of
employing his holiday in the autumn to visit towns where he was known,
where he was invited to try organs and exhibit his skill, or to produce
occasional cantatas. Once he went to Leipzig to prove the new organ at
the University Church, another time, as has been already mentioned,
to Hamburg. Once again he travelled to Halle in the hope of making
Handel’s acquaintance, but just missed him.

A visit with Prince Leopold to Karlsbad in 1720, was sadly memorable
to Bach. For while he was on his way home and no news could reach him,
his wife suddenly fell sick and died. He arrived only to learn that she
was already buried. How deep a grief this was to the family—the mother
was but thirty-five—we know from the recollection of it which the
second son, Philipp Emanuel, then a child of six, bore more than thirty
years later. His tender, flexible nature reflected hers closely, as his
elder brother Friedemann’s robust vigour did that of his father. And
the fact that the two most striking figures, as also the most musical,
among Bach’s twenty children sprang from this marriage may be taken
in evidence of the near sympathy subsisting between the parents. Else
we know nothing of Maria Barbara, and one is apt to depreciate her by
comparison with the more gifted woman whom Bach chose for his second

His care was now mainly for the children, four of his seven alone
surviving their infancy. The eldest was a daughter, Katharina Dorothea,
whom we shall hereafter meet again as helping with her voice in the
family concerts; then came three sons, the two already mentioned, and
Johann Gottfried Bernhard.[24] It was Wilhelm Friedemann, now a lad of
ten, who claimed his father’s most anxious attention; and never was
a charge fulfilled with greater love and willingness. In later life
Bach’s relation to him was one of intimate friendship; already the
promise of his musical skill aroused the keenest hopes of his father.
He showed afterwards that he had all the characteristics of Sebastian
accentuated: stolid independence was carried into wilful obstinacy,
hotness of temper into a confirmed irascibility, morose when not
violent. At present he was only the hopeful eldest son, for whose sake
Bach developed a complete scheme of musical training, beginning with
a _Clavier-Büchlein_ of easy pieces, as early as January, 1720. There
is an air of tenderness for the small fingers he loved, and longed to
educate, in the ladder of difficulties he so carefully constructed,
and in the little preface, _in nomine Jesu_. This was followed by
_Inventions_ in two and three parts, designed to cultivate an equable
strength and free motion in all the fingers. The title was apparently
chosen to indicate that beyond this he sought to teach in these pieces
the elements of musical taste, _invention_ in the scholastic sense
being a compound of just disposition of the members and appropriate
expression.[25] The third stage in the course of instruction was
constituted by the preludes and fugues of the _Wohltemperirte Clavier_,
in which technical execution is combined with beauty of form and
expression, each in its finest development. One of the points on which
Bach insisted was that the practice of the clavichord should from the
outset go hand in hand with composition. He assumed that no one should
learn to play who could not _think musically_, as he expressed it; and
he never allowed a pupil to compose at the instrument. He would not,
he said, have him to be a _piano-hussar_, a taunt that might well be
taken to heart by some of our modern composers. A parallel system of
training for the organ was also primarily intended for Friedemann;
and both alike shew the clearness and penetration with which Bach
understood the functions of a teacher.

In after-years the rector of his school at Leipzig, between whom and
Bach there was no love lost, said of him that he was a bad teacher
and could not keep order in class. The latter is likely enough, and
the former may not be without foundation in the particular case. A
man of Bach’s extreme sensibility would certainly appear at his worst
in the irritating surroundings of a rude schoolroom. That he could
teach, however, and teach better than any man of his time, is proved
by the string of distinguished names that appear among his scholars
and by the unbroken succession of pupils whom he had in his house
from his marriage almost to his death, the applicants increasing in
his later days until he was continually forced to turn them back. To
his chosen pupils he was kind and genial, and full of encouragement.
_You have five as good fingers on each hand as I have_, was his answer
to complaints of difficulty. He never set himself up as a model to
which others could not attain: _I was obliged_, he would say, _to be
industrious; whoever is equally industrious will succeed as well_. From
these glimpses of his bearing we may readily conceive the love and
enthusiastic reverence which he aroused in his pupils, and as for his
irritability, the common failing of great artists, experience shews
that at least it does not make a man a bad teacher in private, however
much it may militate against his success in a school.

Bach did not remain long a widower. The tradition of his ancestors
contained no law requiring a year of mourning; indeed his father
married again in seven months. Sebastian was more patient, waited
nearly a year and a half, and chose wisely. His new wife, Anna
Magdalena Wuelken, held a position as singer at the Coethen court; her
father was trumpeter in that of the Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels. She was
twenty-one, fifteen years younger than her husband.

The marriage, which took place on the third of December, 1721, was
entirely happy. Anna Magdalena proved herself no mere _hausfrau_, but a
real companion to Bach in all his tastes, a helper in work and a sharer
in all his pleasures. She had a fine _soprano_ voice, for which her
husband delighted to arrange songs and recitatives. Often she copied
them out for herself, and besides this her clear well-formed hand,
closely resembling Bach’s, occurs constantly in the collections of his
manuscripts. On his side he helped her to master the clavichord. Two
_Clavier-Büchleins_, written for her, exist in his autograph, and to
judge by their handsome bindings and the inscriptions in them, were
intended as gifts to her, one just after their marriage, in 1722, the
other in 1725. She used and added to them afterwards as a sort of
album. They contain a great part of what we now know as the French
suites, with a variety of preludes, arrangements of airs from his
cantatas, &c., and also a set of rules for thorough-bass. It is plain
that if the one was an indulgent teacher, the other was a ready and
diligent pupil.

The beginning of Bach’s new happiness was soon attended with an
unexpected drawback. Prince Leopold married a week after his
capellmeister, and from this time forth his interest in music declined.
His wife, so unlike Bach’s, cared nothing for music the concerts were
still attended, but no longer listened to, and Bach’s work became more
and more irksome to him. He had no outside public to take the place of
the now indifferent court. He continued, however, for a year, until the
death of Kuhnau, the learned and original cantor of the Thomasschule at
Leipzig, offered to him an opportunity of returning to that work in the
service of the church for which he must have longed all these years. He
left Coethen in the summer of 1723, having first composed two church
cantatas, as evidence of his fitness for the post. It is probable that,
in the hope of the election taking place before Easter, he wrote the
_S. John Passion Music_ to grace his arrival, as though to prove that
the divorce from sacred music which he had supported for so long a time
had made his fertility and creative force only the more abundant. But
the delay of the Leipzig authorities postponed the production of this
masterpiece. By a coincidence the Princess of Coethen, the determining
course of Bach’s removal, died just before he left. Perhaps for the
moment he regretted the step he had taken: to us that step is the most
fortunate act in his life and the herald of his greatest triumphs.

As we considered the Weimar time as representative of Bach’s career as
an organist, so Coethen is the scene of his most extensive production
for the clavichord, for the chamber, and for the orchestra. We may
therefore here enumerate the compositions that belong to these classes,
reserving for the present the great collections of fugues contained
in the _Wohltemperirte Clavier_, of which the second half falls under
a later date when the first was alone entirely rearranged and partly
rewritten, and the _Kunst der Fuge_ which was the achievement of Bach’s
last years.

The clavichord works admit of a double classification. On the one
hand we have independent compositions, of which the idea is mostly
derived from the organ-style; on the other stand the _suites_, or sets
of pieces in dance-measures, which are moulded upon Italian models.
Both alike are adapted by Bach to the clavichord in such a manner that
they are completely naturalised in their new-found country. To the
former class belong the following works arranged in conformity with
Dr. Spitta’s critical results; the numbers refer to _Peters’ cheap


1. Four _Fantasias_, in D, A minor, G minor, and B minor (211, p. 28;
215, pp. 3, 30; 216, p. 9):[26]

2. Four _Toccatas_, in E minor, D minor, Gr minor and major (210, pp.
3, 30; 211, p. 4; 215, p. 17):

3. Six _Fugues_, two in A, and two in A minor (212, p. 10; 216, p. 20;
212, p. 14; the fourth in MS. at Berlin), together with two, in A and B
minor, on subjects taken from Albinoni (216, p. 25; 214, p. 12):

4. One _Prelude and Fugue_ in A minor (211, p. 14): to these we may
perhaps add the well-known one in B flat of which the subject is on the
(German) notes contained in the name Bach (B flat, A, C, B natural) but
of which the genuineness is suspicious (212, p. 24).

_B._ Coethen Period.

1. A _Fantasia_ in C minor (212, p. 2).

2. Four _Fantasias and Fugues_, in D minor (the famous _Chromatic
Fantasia_), B flat, and D (207, p. 20; 212, pp. 28, 32).

3. Two _Toccatas_, in F sharp minor and C minor (210, pp. 10, 20.)

4. A _Prelude_ in C (printed among the organ works, series v. 8. 3),
and two sets of twelve and six little preludes for beginners (200, pp.
3, 14).

5. Five _Fugues_, in C minor, two in C, and two in D minor (200, pp.
20, 22, 24; 212, pp. 3, 5).

6. Four _Preludes and Fugues_ in D minor, E minor, and two in A minor
(200, pp. 26, 28, 33; 207, p. 36).

_C._ Leipzig Period.

Two _Fantasias and Fugues_ in A minor and C minor (208, p. 22; 207, p.
32 and 212, p. 22, the two parts are separated in the edition).

To this list must be added the two sets of _inventions_ (201) written
at Coethen; and the four great _Duets_ (208 p. 36) in which the idea of
the invention (or _sinfonia_) is treated on a much larger scale.[27]
The duets were written at Leipzig, and it has always been claimed that
no skill could possibly add a third real part to them.

In a similar intermediate position stand the two sets of _Variations_,
one in A minor, a Weimar composition, headed _alla maniera Italiana_
(215, p. 10), the other a great series of thirty variations in G, of
which notice will be taken in connexion with Bach’s life at Leipzig

The _Suites_ begin at Coethen with the six so-called _French Suites_
(202) and three single sets which probably belong together (214, pp.
18, 26, 32). A solitary suite, in F, bears traces of having been
written at Weimar (215, p. 25). At Leipzig Bach produced six _Great
Suites_, known as the _English_ (203, 204), and an equal number of
sets of _Partitas_ (205, 206). Another partita of the same period, in
B minor, is known from its opening as the _French Overture_ (208, p.

At Coethen Bach also wrote three sonatas, in A minor, C, and D minor
(213, pp. 2, 16, 24), with a fourth which remains only a fragment
(212, p. 18).[29] These sonatas, the title being to some extent
interchangeable with _suite_, have little in common with the form to
which Bach’s son Philipp Emanuel, Haydn, and Mozart (Beethoven can of
course not come into the comparison) developed it. The parent of this
exists also among Bach’s works, but it has a different name, being
distinguished as the _Italian Concerto_ (207, p. 4). It is remarkable
that it should bear a designation properly true of an orchestral
composition, as though in prevision of the unlimited development of
which the form was susceptible.[30] But the feeble internal resources
of the clavichord, Bach’s chosen instrument for study—the harpsichord
was too hard, and the infant pianoforte too coarse for him—prevented
him from himself following up the conception. He preferred to write
music which was independent of so imperfect an exponent; and his
clavichord works are characterised by freedom and delicacy of melody,
infinite fancy, and, as we see specially in his fugues, the fullest
solidity and richness of structure, rather than by any effects which
need a responsive sympathy in the instrument. It is as such that
we ought to judge them, however much their life is broadened by
performance on the piano.

It is difficult to separate Bach’s chamber compositions from those for
orchestra. The orchestras of that day were very small, that at Weimar
consisted but of sixteen performers, and Bach’s matured scheme for
the production of his church music at Leipzig asked only for a band
of twenty. It is wholly uncertain how far it was usual, or considered
necessary, to multiply with the parts; in any case chance might often
reduce the small orchestra to numbers more consistent with chamber
music. That this happened in the concertos which Bach conducted in his
own house we may be pretty sure. There is, therefore, little objection
to our enumerating both forms of composition in one section.

The _Concertos_ are written on various scales, the use of one
instrument _concertante_ being extended to _Concerti Grossi_ requiring
as many as four. For the harpsichord there exists six; for two
harpsichords two, and for three again two. In another concerto he has
combined the harpsichord with two flutes, and in two more with flute
and violin, as the three _obbligato_ instruments.

For the violin Bach composed three concertos, besides one apiece for
two violins, for violin and hautboy, for two flutes and violin, and for
flute, violin, hautboy, and trumpet.

Orchestral works, but for an orchestra of very various constitution,
are three of the so-called _Brandenburg Concertos_,[31] and four
_parties_ or suites which rank among the most flexible and melodious of
all Bach’s creations.[32] The list would be increased by nearly thirty
works if we added the instrumental symphonies which occur in the course
of his cantatas.

As strict chamber music we may reckon his three sonatas or trios, in
which the harpsichord combines respectively with two flutes, flute
and violin,[33] and two violins. For harpsichord and flute there are
six sonatas; for harpsichord and violin a like number, together with
three separate pieces, a sonata, a partie, and a fugue; finally, three
sonatas for harpsichord and viola-da-gamba.

The list of Bach’s instrumental works is completed by two sonatas
for obsolete instruments, one for the lute, the other for his own
invention, the _viola pomposa_, and by the memorable sets, of six
sonatas each, for the violin and violoncello, which are well enough
known in England to render an account of them superfluous.

But a few words are needed in conclusion to mark Bach’s position in
reference to the clavichord. In the first place, being acutely sensible
of the least falsity of tune, he always tuned the instrument himself,
a process which never cost him more than a quarter of an hour. In this
art he introduced a great reform, that of tuning on a basis of equal
temperament. Without such a reform his chromatic music, and notably his
_Chromatic Fantasia_ and the _Wohltemperirte Clavier_, would have been
impossible. Another instance of his fastidious taste is that no one but
himself could adjust the quills of a harpsichord to his satisfaction.
He took great pains in improving the action of the clavichord, and
invented a new instrument, the lute-harpsichord (_lauticlavicymbel_),
with a surprising brilliancy of tone; but the difficulty of tuning it
led to its abandonment.

It would demand too technical a discussion if we were to analyse the
method of playing which Bach introduced. That he was the first to
insist upon an equal use of the thumb with the rest of the hand, and to
act upon the principle that touch proceeds from the lower joints of the
fingers, and not from the wrist or arm, makes him the founder of the
modern art of piano-playing. It is said of him that he “played with so
easy and small a motion of the fingers that it was hardly perceptible.
Only the first joints of the fingers were in motion; the hand retained,
even in the most difficult passages, its rounded form; the fingers rose
very little from the keys, hardly more than in a shake, and when one
was employed, the others remained still in their position. Still less
did the other parts of his body take any share in his play, as happens
with many whose hand is not light enough.”[34] His playing was light,
smooth, swift—powerful or expressive, as he chose—but always without
display or the appearance of effort.


For near forty years Bach’s history had followed the common course
of the musicians of his generation, and he had reached what was then
held the most dignified rank in his craft. He had passed through
the stages of chorister, orchestral violinist, and organist: he was
now capellmeister in a ducal palace, and, measured by conventional
standards of success, he had nothing further to look for or to desire.
Least of all was it to be expected that he would descend from this
dignity to the position of a school-teacher and precentor in the
less select atmosphere of a trading town. Success, however, held a
small place in Bach’s mind in comparison with anything which should
forward his highest artistic aims, consistently with his own honour
and integrity; and the confined circle of activity in the chapel at
Coethen could satisfy but a part of his complete musician’s nature. The
years of study and the years of ripe performance must be completed by
a period of broadened influence exerted in the arousing of the musical
soul of a great town, and in the foundation of a school of disciples of
his own spirit.

In the spring then of 1723 Bach quitted a life which had become
ungrateful to him since the duke had tired of his devotion to music.
One reason for his leaving—and this perhaps was decisive—was, that he
might do his best for his children’s bringing up. His care was always
for Wilhelm Friedemann, his eldest and best-loved child; and in this
very year we find that he entered him as a student at the university of
his new home. In reviewing his life seven years later Bach touches upon
all these considerations which took him from Coethen to Leipzig.

The school of S. Thomas in this town, where Bach was called to fill
the post of cantor, was an ancient foundation, already in its fifth
century of existence. Once belonging to the Augustinian Canons of the
Thomaskloster, it combined music and general teaching, like other
conventual schools of the middle ages. In this shape it survived the
reformation: it remained both a choir-school and a grammar-school; and
of its seven masters, the cantor, who took a middle place, lowest of
the four _superiores_, had his share of both branches of teaching. He
gave a certain number of lessons a week in music and Latin grammar,
varied on Sunday evenings by the Latin catechism of Luther. Bach,
however, was allowed to pay one of his colleagues to take the Latin
teaching from him—less, it is to be presumed, from incapacity than
from disinclination or perhaps from diffidence; so that, except when
his substitute was ill, his occupation was solely musical. His formal
declaration of office bound him to treat the boys humanely, and to
instruct them as well in instrumental as in vocal music.

But the work in school was the least portion of the cantor’s task. He
had the musical oversight—as we should say, he was precentor—of the
two chief churches of S. Thomas and S. Nicholas; he had to provide a
choir for the simpler service at S. Peter’s; and he had also a more
undefined control over the New Church (S. Matthew’s). Among these four
churches, and apparently, on festivals, in the extra-mural church of
S. John too, the cantor had to distribute his choir. The best-trained
voices were reserved for S. Thomas’s and S. Nicholas’, where the
services were so arranged that the cantor could preside over the
important music at both. The other churches had to be content with the
younger and more unskilled choristers. All of them the cantor supplied
with music—_not too long or too operatic_, was the special injunction
when Bach entered office. He had to be ready with special services for
high days, weddings, and funerals, which last he was directed to attend
in person. Finally, he had to supervise the different organists, the
fiddlers and pipers—the embryo orchestra—of the town.

It was this commanding position, of _Director of Music_ of the great
town of Leipzig, rather than that of teacher in the Thomasschule, which
drew Bach from the ease and quiet of his ducal chapel. How little it
was realised at the time of Bach’s arrival, we shall soon see. In the
first place, the school itself was just then at the last period of
decay. It had long suffered from the blunders of its rector, Johann
Heinrich Ernesti, a solemn man, clergyman and pedant—he was Professor
of Poetry in the university—who had lived his seventy years without
learning the first secret of acquiring influence over masters or
scholars, far less of giving unity or vigour to the management of the
school. There was discord everywhere, with its usual accompaniment.
The attendance of the scholars fell off, in the lower classes to
less than half their former number; and, worse than this, their
quality deteriorated in equal stages: the best pupils drifted away
to Lueneburg, and the Leipzig school threatened to sink into a mere
training-place for people who were to make their livelihood by singing
at funerals. Yet every attempt to reform it was thwarted by the timid
obstinacy of its rector; and it was not until his death, when Bach
had been under him for six years, that any effectual measures for its
revival were possible.

An even greater obstacle to the prosperity of the school lay outside
it; for, since the first years of the century, the institution of the
opera had established a separate centre of musical training and musical
interest in the town. The new importation gained a sudden popularity
and success when it came under the hands of Telemann, afterwards
famous as organist at Hamburg. The Opera became a dangerous rival to
the School; and the rivalry was the keener since Telemann was organist
of one of the churches that drew their choirs from S. Thomas’s. If
the cantor was mortified at the retrenchment of his authority, it was
the school that suffered the most. For its scholars at first spent
their holidays in the opera-company; soon the choir of the New Church
was absorbed into it. The boys went over altogether, willing enough
to abandon the restraints and the severer training of the school, for
the freedom and gaiety, not to say the profit, of the career now open
to them. And, although Telemann left Leipzig after a year (1705), the
Musical Society (_Musikverein_) which he founded went on growing and
flourishing at the expense of the school. The music at S. Thomas’s had
to be kept down to the diminished capacity of its voices. Difficult
works could only be attempted with a certainty of failure. Even the
Town Council, usually blind to the faults of old endowments, came
to see the fruitlessness of helping any pretence of reform on the
part of a school which produced results so inferior to the unendowed
performances at the New Church.

Such was the condition of affairs when Bach came to Leipzig: the whole
musical life of the place seemed to be dying away in disunion and
mismanagement. The very opera which had ruined the Thomasschule ceased
to exist in 1726; the Musical Society founded by Telemann had passed
into incapable hands; and, to complete the chaos, the University organ
and the direction of University music had been given (in the interval
between Kuhnau’s death and the appointment of Bach as his successor in
the cantorate) to the pitifullest of musicians, one Goerner,[35] who
was to Bach for many years a standing grievance and obstruction. The
temporary substitute was tacitly kept on by the indulgent University
magnates, and the Thomasschule lost that connexion with the University
which gave the only promise for its revival. Moreover, Goerner, who was
also organist at S. Nicholas’—afterwards, in 1730, at S. Thomas’s,
under Bach’s own authority, which he disregarded—had a Collegium
Musicum of his own, for which he arrogated a rank superior to the
Thomasschule, the latter, in fact, being (as he explained) merely
preparatory to his. It seemed as though the old school were destined
to lose all weight in the town. The New Church had been monopolised
by Telemann’s Musikverein; and now the University Church was being
supplied by Goerner’s Collegium.

We cannot be wrong in believing that Bach was well aware of these
things; that he accepted his new post in the high ambition of
re-creating what had been once a true home of musical art, of keeping
alive and (as we see) of infinitely exalting the honourable tradition
handed down in the learned line of his predecessors.

On the 5th May, 1723, Bach appeared before the Town Council and made
the declarations of office; the appointment was ratified by the
consistory of the church, and before the month was over he was formally

From this time to his death he was settled in the official lodgings in
the left wing of the Thomasgebäude, which, added to some 700 thalers,
made up the emoluments of his post. It is significant of the position
he was resolved to maintain that, directly upon entering office, he
distinctly subscribes himself not only cantor of S. Thomas’s, but
also, in defiance of Goerner, Director of Music, or, as we should say,
Choragus, in the University. The double function had belonged to his
predecessor; and no one could challenge Bach’s claim to a part of the
academical function—the duty namely of furnishing music for the proper
University services (at the quarterly Acts, the Reformation Festival,
and the three high-days of the Church). But of late years there had
been a regular Sunday service as well, in the University Church; and
this Goerner insisted on appropriating. It was not a mere question
of fees that determined Bach’s appeal in 1725 to the King-Elector
at Dresden; the entire issue as to who should be supreme in matters
musical in Leipzig was at stake. A long correspondence as usual
brought no practical result. Goerner seems to have retained his weekly
services, and even now and then to have encroached on Bach’s strict
province of composing special odes and the like for high University
occasions. The fact that in 1736 he is actually described as Academical
Director of Music shows that the dispute had not even then been set at
rest. It is a common picture, this of a great man being perpetually
harassed by the pretensions of a vain fellow who is only remembered for
his self-assertion; but it reveals a singular want of appreciation on
the part of the Leipzig authorities, that they suffered the nuisance
without a hint of its absurdity. Bach never let himself for an instant
appear in the light of a rival. He only resented the impertinence in a
certain leonine fashion, and held to his academical title.

This punctiliousness about titles has more in it than shews at first
sight. Bach doubtless knew his public, and knew that, if he claimed
to be a simple choir-master, his influence would be restricted
proportionately. But, moreover, such a description would have been
misleading, since, as Dr. Spitta observes,[36] if Bach’s music is
the truest church-music, it contains none the less the elements
of independent concert-music as well. Accordingly the titles of
Capellmeister of Coethen, which he held when he came to Leipzig, and of
Weissenfels, which was conferred upon him in the year of his arrival,
Bach bore until his death. As a final vindication of his position, he
appealed to the king, in 1733, for a court appointment at Dresden.
The petition was accompanied by a part of the great Mass in B minor,
which was written expressly for the royal chapel; but the honorary
distinction of Composer in Ordinary did not follow for three years.

Whatever honours he won from abroad, nothing to the end of his days
could spare him continual annoyance from the municipal council. With
his native independence of spirit he could not brook the invasion of
this body into a province totally beyond their scope. All through his
life he could never get to understand them or the reasons for their
action, simply because he knew perfectly that they were incapable of
understanding him. This much he knew about them, and they gave him
ample opportunity, to his cost, of knowing it. He could not go further
and make concessions to their limited intelligence. Their presumption
irritated him, when he found his every act hampered and restrained as
though he were the most incompetent of sciolists.

Bach’s grievances in relation to the council began some years after his
appointment at the Thomasschule. At first he probably threw himself
with zest into his work, and gave no ground for fault-finding. But
in time he must have restricted himself to the bare quantum of duty
assigned to him, and given his best energies to composition. At least
the differences begin in the spring of 1729, and the charge that he
did no work came with a peculiar force of demonstration just when he
had brought out _The Passion according to Saint Matthew_, not to speak
of three great church-cantatas at the commemorative festival of the
Augsburg confession. The council proceeded to vote that he was not to
be trusted even in the choice of choristers for his school. To fill
nine vacancies Bach had examined a number of competitors, and sent in
a careful report as to their qualifications. The council accepted only
five of his nominees, making up the list by three who (as he told them)
_nichts in Musicis praestirten_, and whom he had not even named. Then
the council decided that he was so bad a teacher of music that he must
be set to secular teaching as well, apparently as a punishment. This he
managed to escape; but he suffered a suspension of all the
_accidentien_ or extraordinary emoluments of his post. The council
resolved either to work him or to starve him out.

Almost in despair, he wrote to an old friend, Erdmann the schoolfellow
who had gone up with him from Ohrdruf to Lueneburg, now Russian agent
at Danzig, and begged for a more suitable post anywhere, if any
could be found. He gave an account of his position at Leipzig, the
reasons that drew him thither, and his disappointment. His routine was
ungrateful, his salary reduced (it relied upon varying items, and, as
he explained, when a healthy wind blew, he could not count on much
from the funerals) and the town very expensive—you could live in
Thuringia for half as much—above all, he was under the control of an
extraordinary council with little liking for music (_eine wunderliche
und der Musik wenig ergebene Obrigkeit_), with which he stood perforce
in continual disagreement and ill-will. Certainly it was, as I have
said, the unaccountable—“_wunderlich_”—genius of the council that
most impressed Bach. With that consciousness of himself which no great
man is ever wholly without, he could not understand their action.
It was an incongruity in the nature of things which would have been
comical had it not been a perpetual irritation to him.

There is, however, no hint of this irritation, but rather a haughty
disdain which shows through the verbose respectfulness of Bach’s
official memorials. Once, for instance, when he was rehearsing a
Passion music for Good Friday, the council insisted on his submitting
it to their inspection. He replied that he had gone to work precisely
as on former occasions, the text in fact had been already produced
more than once. However, he was not concerned to perform the thing:
it would only give him trouble and no profit. He would report to his
ecclesiastical superior that the council forbade its performance. In
this way he managed to shift the dispute on to the shoulders of the
consistory, which had a standing quarrel with the council as to their
respective powers over the school. The present question belonged
clearly to the church body; and it is evidently with grim satisfaction
that Bach seizes on the technical mistake. Let it be noticed, too, how
he refuses to give any explanation, refuses even to complain of his
disappointment. He says, in so many words, that he is dealing with mere
business people, and will use merely business arguments.

Again, in 1730, when they sent one of their number to admonish
him gravely of the submission which was due to them, Bach was
preparing—perhaps had already sent in—an elaborate and carefully
arranged report on the wide-reaching reform and extension which he
demanded for the choir and orchestra under his direction. There is an
irony in the way the man, who is to be frightened into docility by a
retrenchment of his salary and influence, occupies himself meantime
in devising and proving the necessity of a large scheme which should
extend the scope of his authority and indirectly augment his income.
The reform, of course, never came, and the memoir is only interesting
as the reflection of the independent nature of the writer, and as
evidence of the dimensions to which instrumental music had grown under
his hands. It should, however, be mentioned that in the ten previous
years the council had not been unmindful of the needs of the two chief
churches, and had sanctioned an unusual outlay in the repair of the
organs and in the purchase of stringed instruments and music-books for
the performers.

It is pleasant to turn from these disputes and anxiety to the
glimpse—unfortunately almost a solitary glimpse—of the home life
which saved Bach from ever really despairing, and which cheered him
in a thankful contentment, so that no disappointment from without was
able to dwarf his energy for work, or to cool the genial spirit which
ever attended his composing. At the end of the letter to Erdmann, from
which I have already quoted, he says: _I must now acquaint you with
somewhat of my domestic estate. For the second time I am married, my
first lamented wife having deceased at Coethen. Of her I have living
three sons and a daughter, whom your Excellence will kindly remember
to have seen at Weimar; of the second marriage there are living a son
and two daughters. My eldest son is a student of law, the next two
are at school in the first and second class, and my eldest daughter
remains unmarried. The children of my second marriage are still little,
the eldest a boy of six years. Altogether, however, they are born
musicians, and I can assure you that even now I can arrange a concert
with my family_ vocaliter _and_ instrumentaliter, _whereas my wife
that now is sings a pretty_ soprano, _and my eldest daughter plays not

From a variety of scattered facts we may form some idea of the activity
of this musical house. Indeed, just at this time the home was reaching
its happiest period. The two eldest boys, the worthiest inheritors of
the family genius, were still with their father; and there is hardly
a doubt that it was to play with them that Sebastian wrote his two
concertos for three pianos. Who formed the orchestra we can only
conjecture, but it is certain that the string of pupils who had formed
part of his household since he began married life at Muehlhausen, and
who continued in increasing numbers until his death, were in different
degrees capable of giving their help; and the gaps may have been filled
by promising scholars of the Thomasschule, or, indeed, by the—chiefly
undergraduate—members of the Musical Society of which Bach undertook
the management in 1729. We know, from the inventory taken after his
death, that he possessed latterly five _clavecins_ (the word must be
used inaccurately, and taken to include clavichords) and ten stringed
instruments, not counting his three lutes; so that in the house itself
there was material for the nucleus of an orchestra, though violinists
would probably, and players on wind instruments necessarily, bring
their own instruments with them. In all this domestic music his wife
took her share, both as player on the clavichord, in which she was his
apt pupil, and especially as a singer. It is likely that some church
cantatas were written for her and for the eldest daughter Katharina
(who sang _alto_) as may be inferred from the prevalence in such of
one _solo_ voice, and by other points (for instance, the shortness
of one) which render them unfit for performance in church.[37] Nor
need we doubt that a similar use dictated Bach’s great collection of
240 chorales, of which unhappily only fragments remain. For it is
almost needless to observe that the old German temper in its best form
combined religion inextricably with all the common acts of life. We
know how the festive gatherings of the Bachs, however jovial their
purpose, always began with a chorale; and Sebastian himself, seeking
for a definition of music, can find nothing more comprehensive to say
than that _Its final cause is none other than this, that it minister
solely to the honour of God and refreshment of the spirit; whereof,
if one take not heed, it is no proper music, but devilish din and

The preparation for these perpetual concerts must have furnished
incessant occupation to the household. Printed music was very rare
and costly, and, as a matter of course, the parts had regularly to be
copied out. A great deal exists in the delicate hand of Anna Magdalena
Bach, who also transcribed many scores for her husband’s private use.
No one was idle, and a certain amount even of music-engraving was done
in this busy house. Bach himself, we are told, often laboured far into
the night. The day was not long enough for all he found to do.


Bach’s appeal to Erdmann in the winter of 1730, to try and find him
a more congenial post than he had at Leipzig, was without result. In
fact, little as he suspected it, events had already begun to take a
favourable turn for him. The year before, the organist of the New
Church had left, and Bach had followed him as director of the Musical
Society, which had hitherto furnished the choir at that church, instead
of the boys of the Thomasschule. It was a good thing for Bach in every
way to break down a rivalry of this sort. But a greater gain had come
to him the very month before he wrote to Erdmann. For the new rector of
the school, Gesner, proved himself consistently the firm friend of the
ill-used cantor.

Gesner appears to have been much more than his books shew him—one of
the revivers of classical learning in Germany. He was also a teacher
by instinct, one who by infinite tact and patience could restore
harmony to a school that had been dissolving for a generation, and form
so direct an understanding between master and pupil that the friend
was seen through the severe disciplinarian, and the fervent scholar
through the mists and morasses of an antiquated pedagogy. He diffused
a new spirit into the school; to Bach he gave his generous sympathy,
and an earnest of hopefulness. How he appreciated him as a musician
has already been noticed in another connexion; as head of the school
he saved him from the petty annoyances to which he had hitherto been
subjected. Bach had now his just share of the fees which made the
largest item in his income and which were now the more necessary as his
family was growing up. Moreover, thrifty as he was, his different posts
must have involved expensive journeys to Coethen and Weissenfels; and
he was fond of making short visits to Dresden to hear the opera, at
that time under the leading of his friend Hasse, _Il Sassone_, as he is
known by the Italians, among whom he lived for many years, and whose
music in turn he naturalised in Germany. _Friedemann, let us go again
and hear the pretty Dresden songs_, Bach would say to his boy; and the
two went together. The phrase used is, by the way, characteristic of
Bach. He enjoyed the opera, but could not call it by any more dignified
name than _songs_ (_liederchen_). Accordingly he never adopted this
form of composition; his genius is essentially undramatic. But he
studied the operatic style with eager energy, and absorbed it so
thoroughly that the arias, duets, &c., which occur in his cantatas,
are the worthiest representatives of the opera that Germany produced
before Gluck, whom indeed he anticipated in his treatment of the
recitative. They have the gaiety and grace of the Italian manner, and
the inspiration of German thought.

The secular post which Bach also held at Leipzig gave a wide opening
for compositions specially in this style. The purpose of musical clubs,
said his predecessor Kuhnau, in his _Musicalischer Quack-Salber_,
written in 1700, is for musicians _ever to exercise themselves
farther in their noble calling, and withal from the pleasant harmony
to establish among themselves so like a sweet-sounding agreement of
tempers, as oftentimes is mainly lacking in their conversation_. We may
think of Bach as realising this description, as he presided over the
_amateur_ gatherings held on winter-nights in a coffee-house in the
Katharinenstrasse, or in summer of an afternoon in a garden outside
the town in the Windmühlengasse. These informal concerts lasted two
hours, and took place weekly, or twice a week during the great popular
festivals of Leipzig, the quarterly fairs.

We have no express evidence of what purely instrumental compositions
Bach wrote for the society. No doubt he revived the chamber-music he
had composed at Coethen; and the bulk of his concertos dating from
Leipzig would probably be performed at its meetings. The works which
are known to have been produced there are chiefly a string of secular
cantatas—perhaps we should rather say _serenatas_, though the actual
title is specifically _Dramma per Musica_. To these we may add the
other compositions which are described simply as for the university
students in general, with whom from the first he was in constant
request at times of rejoicing, birthdays of favourite teachers, their
election as professors, and a multitude of festive occasions prompted
by the accustomed loyalty of undergraduates. These pieces are commonly
distinguished as dramatic chamber-music; but it must be borne in mind
that, although hardly ever acted in costume, they were often presented,
not in a room, but with the natural scenery, for instance, of a garden.
Bach rarely spent his best work on such ephemeral displays—they
mostly had to be got ready in a few days—and whenever he found
afterwards that he had included in them anything in his judgment worth
preserving, he incorporated it in a church cantata or some more lasting
composition. In this way nearly the whole of a _drama_, written for
the Queen’s birthday in 1733, came subsequently to form part of the
Christmas oratorio. But we must guard against the inference that Bach
was careless of the relation between music and words. On the contrary,
we have the distinct statement of a friend, himself a teacher of
rhetoric at Leipzig, that Bach’s _mastery over the qualities and the
excellencies which music has in common with rhetoric is such as not
only to add unfailing pleasure to his discourses upon the likeness
and correspondency between them, but also to move our admiration at
the skilful use of his principles in his works_. So wrote Magister
Birnbaum in 1739; and the importance which Agricola, who was Bach’s
pupil for three years, attaches to the study of rhetoric by musicians,
was probably caught from his teacher. The truth is that Bach was before
all things a sacred composer, and when he adopts in a sacred work that
which had once belonged to something secular, it is not from haste,
indifference, or a want of fertility, but purely because the piece
would find its proper home in a sacred setting. It does not surprise
us, therefore, to find that he habitually brought up old compositions,
with new words, for the festivities for which he was called upon to
provide, and that many of them have entirely perished, their existence
being only known from the circulated programme.

The following seven cantatas are all that remain:—1. In honour of
Dr. Mueller,[39] 3rd August, 1725. 2. On the Promotion of Professor
G. Kortte,[40] 11th December, 1726. 3. The Contest of Phœbus and
Pan,[41] 1731. 4. Hercules at the Boundary,[42] 5th September, 1733.
5. At the Queen’s Birthday, 8th December, 1733. 6. At a Royal Visit to
Leipzig, 5th October, 1734. 7. At the King’s Birthday,[43] 7th October,

Of these the third alone can claim more than a limited appreciation;
and this has a novel interest outside the music, in certain satirical
allusions, under the character of Midas, to one Scheibe, a poor
musician, whom Bach had rejected as candidate for an organistship, and
who never lost an opportunity of showing his ill-will against the too
rhadamanthyne judge.[44]

This satire connects the student-cantatas with two works of a professed
humourous character. One is the so-called _Coffee-cantata_, which
turns upon the comparatively modern rage for coffee, supplanting all
human joys and interests. Comic pieces of this sort were not unknown in
Bach’s time. His cousin Nikolaus had written one called the _Tapster
of Jena_, and in a kindred vein Bach inserted a most sympathetic ditty
upon his tobacco-pipe in one of the books he wrote for his wife.[45]
But the genial side of Bach’s temper is best reflected in his _Cantate
en Burlesque_, known as the _Peasant’s Cantata_.[46] It was composed in
1742 for a feast-day in a village near Leipzig to celebrate the coming
of a new landlord, and is full of a frolicsome gaiety that looks like
the freshness of a young man’s work; only we know, for instance, from
the _Winter’s Tale_, that such may often shew the mellowed spirit of
older years. The _libretto_ is made up of _badinage_, more or less
clumsy, between the countrymen, who like their own old fashion of
doing honour to their lord, and the upstarts who try to introduce a
new-fangled courtly style. The genuine swains get the better of it,
and have a great deal to say for themselves in a rough way, starting in
the true Saxon brogue, and breaking out into popular songs which were
in every one’s mouth at the time. The music, which is never vulgar, is
certainly the lightest that Bach wrote; but the _volkslieder_ do not
stand alone in his works. Two such songs he has wrought with inimitable
art and charm into the Quodlibet which closes his thirty variations in

The list of Bach’s secular cantatas is completed by some
wedding-music,[47] and by the pieces he wrote for state occasions.
Three of the latter, all birthday cantatas, remain.[48] One was
composed in 1716 for the Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels, when the event
was celebrated by a great hunt;[49] the second is a serenade for the
Prince of Coethen, perhaps in 1717;[50] and the third, for his second
consort, in 1726.[51] Of far greater importance must have been the
_Dirges_ which Bach composed for mourning solemnities, and which are
indeed only distinguished from the rest of his church music by the
personal reference. The music he wrote in 1729 on the death of his
patron is lost; but it is supposed to have been to a great extent built
upon the _S. Matthew Passion_. That which he composed, however, two
years earlier, for the Queen of Poland remains to us, and apparently
was subsequently re-erected into the (now lost) _Passion according to
S. Mark_.[52] On these occasions the appointed mourning did not begin
for some months, and Bach had therefore time to devote thought to them
such as he was not able to give in the hurried seasons of rejoicing.
In itself, the more weighty occasion stirred him to deeper reflexion,
and the _Dirge for Queen Christine Eberhardine_ is of more value than
all his secular cantatas put together. It shows Bach to us in his
native sphere, that of a church composer, and leads naturally to the
consideration of his work as such in its wider manifestations.

His church cantatas are among the earliest and the most mature of
Bach’s productions; but the bulk of them were written while he was
cantor at Leipzig. Barely thirty can be assigned to an earlier period,
while from 1723 onwards he set himself to compose a complete cycle for
five church years—near 300 cantatas—in which of course he inserted
his younger works, though never without a scrupulous revision. Of
this marvellous series about two hundred remain. Musicians owe an
incalculable debt to Dr. Spitta for the exhaustive scrutiny to which
he has subjected every individual number; and although his results,
which will be found tabulated at the end of this volume, are in a
certain degree tentative, yet their general accuracy can hardly fail
to be accepted. In comparatively few cases does the doubt as the
chronological place of a cantata extend over more than four years; and
the student is therefore for the first time enabled to place each one
with security in its proper setting in the total list of Bach’s works.

But it is not the number, but the wonderful variety, individual
character, and consummate workmanship, of the church cantatas, that
make them an absolutely unique phænomenon in music. It is hardly
necessary to say that they have nothing in common with the Italian
_cantata_, which was a mere operatic _scena_ for _solo_ voices.[53] The
church cantata may be roughly called a short oratorio. Its component
parts are one or more choruses and chorales with recitatives and _solo_
airs; but the form is as elastic as that of the modern _sonata_, and
one at least of the elements may often be absent. In Bach’s hands the
type was enlarged in more than one direction, especially under the
influence of the instrumental music of Italy. His first preserved
cantata, dating perhaps from 1704, shows how he was abandoning the
purely polyphonic treatment, which the Germans had adopted but never
been at ease with, and creating for himself his own manipulation
of voices in an instrumental manner. When at Weimar he pursued his
studies through the entire range of Italian chamber-music accessible
to him, the effect was not to make him in any sense imitate them.
His chamber-music is almost wholly of later date. What he did was to
apply the forms of the _sonata_ and _concerto_ to the clavichord, the
organ, and above all to the church cantata. In this way he brought
to perfection his art of writing _solo-arias_, of which the earlier
examples are so complete and mature as to leave no room for future
improvement. Here accordingly he made little change in the course of
his later composing; and the same holds good for his treatment of
the recitative, _arioso_, and simple chorale. The variety he threw
into the structure of the cantata is infinite. Sometimes a whole
cantata takes the shape of a _concerto_, or of an orchestral _partie_;
sometimes its second division is opened by a regular chamber-sonata.
An overture in French style is combined with a freely-imagined
chorus, even with a chorale. Dance-measures, the _passacaglia_, even
the jig, are not excluded; and a chorale has its counterpoint in a
_siciliano_. Everywhere instrumental forms are applied, in a way
hitherto unsuspected, to the development of church-music. Now a chorale
is played by the orchestra in the midst of a recitative, as though to
set a bound to its unmeasured phrases: now the recitative appears as
a personal application of the thought between the lines of a chorale.
But the influences of the master’s boyhood are not forgotten: except
in the _arias_, the organ is the main basis of his cantata-style; and
Pachelbel, Boehm, Buxtehude, have still their reminiscence, in a more
glorious apparel. The old forms are broadened, and combined, with
inconceivable fancy, with one another and with the new forms which Bach
devised for himself.

It is in the choruses, however, that the Leipzig cantatas rise above
the works of Bach’s earlier time. The great choruses which he wrote
at Weimar, for instance, the splendid one that opens _Ich hatte viel
Bekümmerniss_, are indeed models of his instrumental treatment.
The difference between his early and later writing is rather the
uniform massiveness and magnificence of the latter—the more complete
absorption in them of the organ-style. Though generally formed on a
figured subject, they are wrought with far greater freedom and force.
The choruses, based upon the melody of a chorale, are unmatched in
depth and grandeur, and it was to these, the rich embodiment of his
strenuous religious sense, that Bach turned with peculiar affection in
his later years; a long series of cantatas in which they take the chief
place were written by him from 1735 onwards.

Yet, it must be confessed that the church cantatas suffer exceedingly
from the poverty of the texts to which they are written. Unless Bach
draws directly from the Bible or from the old chorale-hymns—for the
chorales have a mine of poetry within their rough mass—there are few
places in which one is not repelled by the tastelessness of the rhymes
he had to use. Bach himself seems at one time to have been conscious of
their inadequacy and to have returned to the nervous religious poetry
of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. One cannot but suspect that
the finer judgment of Gesner—they all bear traces of having been
composed during his stay at Leipzig—had something to do with the
improved choice of subject. But commonly the texts are derived from
three contemporary poetasters, Franck and Neumeister of Weimar and
Picander of Leipzig. The last was a neighbour of Bach’s and a docile
follower. In fact we cannot, where he was concerned, exculpate Bach
from a certain responsibility for the texts. Certainly Picander wrote
as he was bid, and would alter as Bach told him. But probably the
musician felt that he could do no better than employ so convenient a
hack, and it would be going beyond all we know of his life to assume
that the artistic sensibility which swayed him in matters musical
extended also into the domain of letters. He was content if the meaning
of the words agreed with the music.

It remains to add that all the church cantatas are written for
orchestra, but for an orchestra of very varying compass, ranging from
the simple bass, which accompanies the recitative, to dimensions
scarcely inferior to those of modern times; only Bach seldom employed
the whole available body at once. He liked to have a reserve, to
prevent the music of one Sunday being exactly like its neighbour; and
he was specially fond of keeping an instrument to come out prominently
as the _obbligato_ accompaniment of an _aria_.

Among the cantatas there stands a composition of a partly different
character. This is the _Ascension Oratorio_, which connects itself by
its title with the two more important works of the same sort which
Bach has left, namely, the _Easter_ and _Christmas Oratorios_, written
respectively in 1734 and 1736. The second has the nearest resemblance
of the three to what we know as oratorios elsewhere: the last, by far
the greatest, is divided into six parts, for performance on Christmas
and the two days following, New Year’s Day, the first Sunday in the
year, and the Epiphany. It has, however, a unity of feeling running
through it, which stamps it as a single work. We have already noticed
and explained the presence here of much that had previously formed
part of secular cantatas; but it may be added that there is the less
incongruity in the case when we consider how largely the rejoicing
of Christmastide was mixed up with social festivities. That Bach,
however, was careful lest the deeper meaning of the incarnation should
be forgotten, is shown by the employment of the melody of a well-known
Passion chorale—his favourite _O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden_—which
occurs twice, the second time with an exuberance of instrumental
accompaniment to close the work. The Oratorio has by this time become
so familiar in England that it is perhaps unnecessary to describe
its structure. Nothing of Bach surpasses it in the warm life of its
choruses or the delicate charm of its airs—the purity of one alto
song, _Bereite dich, Zion_, or the idyllic beauty of another, _Schlafe,
mein Liebster_, than which no lovelier lullaby has ever been written.

Before noticing the mysteries which Bach consecrated to the history of
the Passion—works by the side of which the Christmas Oratorio takes
a worthy place, rather by virtue of its great compass and masterly
performance, than by any close affinity of scheme—we may complete the
summary of his German works by a brief mention of the _Motets_.

The motet may be described as a sacred madrigal: in other words, it
is written in several parts, commonly four, five, six, or eight; it
does not require an instrumental accompaniment; and it is set to a
text from the Bible, or a verse from a church hymn. It was a style
of composition entirely polyphonic, which had gradually declined in
popularity as instrumental music and especially solo singing came into
vogue. And it is one of Bach’s great services to church-music to have
revived it, so that in the present day the weekly motet-singing in his
own Church at Leipzig remains one of the most popular institutions of
the town. Contrary, however, to the custom now, Bach seems to have
had the motets accompanied, apparently on the organ; and this fact
indicates their principal distinction from the older style. They are
in fact based upon an organ treatment, and have precise parallels in
several chorale-movements in the church cantatas. Few, however, have
survived the carelessness of Bach’s successors at the Thomasschule,
though their melodious figuration and religious sublimity might, one
would have thought, have secured their unintermitted performance
there. When Mozart came to Leipzig in 1789, and heard one of them (No.
5) he exclaimed, _Here is a new thing from which I may learn_, and,
finding that the piece existed only in parts, he ranged them round the
room until he had mastered their structure. The following are all that
remain, not included in the body of church cantatas:—

1. _Lobet den Herrn_[54] for four voices;

2. _Nun danket alle Gott_ for five;

3. _Jesu, meine Freude_, also for five;

4. _Der Geist hilft unsrer Schwachheit auf_;

5. _Singet den Herrn ein neues Lied_;

6. _Fürchte dich nicht_;

7. _Komm, Jesu, komm_; the last four for a double chorus of eight


Bach is stated to have written a Passion music in five different
shapes. Two of these are the familiar _Passions according to S.
Matthew_ and _S. John_, which are the truest reflexion of the master’s
genius in his ripest years. The other three were long supposed to
have been lost, unless a _S. Luke Passion_, which exists in Bach’s
autograph, might possibly be claimed as his work. Lately, however, the
acute study of Dr. Rust has discovered part of a _S. Mark Passion_ to
lie hid under the guise of the _Dirge for the Queen of Poland_, Bach
having sought in this way to give permanence to a work of which the
original motive was merely fugitive;[55] and Professor Spitta has made
it probable that Bach also wrote the music to a Passion following the
text of no single evangelist, which was produced at the Thomaskirche
in 1725.[56] He further offers an elaborate and conclusive defence
of the genuineness of the _S. Luke Passion_, which he places without
hesitation in the early years of Bach’s residence at Weimar.[57]

The _S. John Passion_ comes second in the series, and was brought out
in 1724. Of the presumptive work of 1725, above-mentioned, a solitary
chorus exists in record. The _Passion according to S. Matthew_ follows
in 1729; and last of all, in 1731, that _according to S. Mark_. The
printed text of this, which we still possess, was adapted by Picander
to the _Dirge_ of 1727; but it had necessarily to be greatly augmented
for the occasion, and of this supplemental music nothing remains to us.

The dramatic presentment of the passion of Jesus Christ is one of
the oldest traditions of the German people. A continuous line unites
the Passion Play of Ober-Ammergau with the Mystery of the medieval
church. In this respect the reformation made no change in the popular
religious custom. We may find it at Zittau, in 1571, when a stage was
erected in the church, and the drama acted by the schoolmasters and
choir; or we may trace it in every part of Silesia, Upper Saxony, and
Thuringia, down to the close of the seventeenth century. Side by side
this popular representation stood the church usage of distributing the
parts of the passion-narrative between the officiating priest and the
choir, a usage which plainly took its origin in a desire to give life
to the Latin words. The necessity of it was removed when the Gospel
came to be recited in the vernacular tongue, but the habit had struck
too deep roots in the heart of the people to be interfered with. The
Catholic wont survived, with so much else in the Lutheran churches of
Middle Germany; and the musical Passion remained, at Leipzig at least,
a part of the regular service until the second half of the eighteenth
century. German Passions at once sprang up, and won an ever-increasing
popularity, since it was now attempted to exalt their religious
impression by an artistic treatment of the subject as a whole. At first
the music hardly departed from the strict medieval recitation; then
it was varied by the introduction of hymns; the form of the motet was
added, and found so attractive that it was applied universally and
nothing was left for a _solo_ voice. The recited Gospel—once the basis
of the whole—seemed to be falling into disuse, when it was suddenly
revived in the shape of the new Italian discovery, the _recitative_,
especially in that most expressive variety, the _arioso_. Instrumental
accompaniment became the rule; the story was interrupted by short
symphonies; above all, the _aria_ was introduced, to give stress to
the spiritual feeling of the text, as a sort of emotional commentary.
Finally, the Italian importation was naturalised, as it were, by
the insertion of chorales, at first sung by the congregation, and
increasing in number to twenty, thirty, or even more.

Hitherto the foreign element had been drawn from the concerted music
of the Italian churches. A more potent influence entered Germany
during Bach’s youth, that namely which proceeded from the Italian
theatre—opera or oratorio, it mattered little; for in each, though the
form was different, the spirit was the same.[58] The first result in
Germany has an analogy in the contemporary stage of the history of the
church cantata. The place of the chorale or direct biblical recitative
was taken by poems written for the occasion; it was sought to realise
a religious impression, not by these plain and popular means, but by
the poetic unity of the composition. A reaction, however, soon took
place in favour of the popular form; and the Passion text of Brockes
(1712), which combined chorales and the words of the Gospel, slightly
altered, it is true, with the general structure of an oratorio,
immediately established itself as a model, and was set to music, within
six years of its publication, by musicians of the eminence of Keiser,
Telemann, Handel, and Mattheson. It forms also the basis of Bach’s
_S. John Passion_; but here the biblical narrative is followed with
entire fidelity,[59] and the master has proceeded with such independent
judgment that his work stands quite remote from the strange medley of
sacred and secular, old and new, with which his immediate predecessors
had to be contented. The music they wrote to it was indeed of great
individual beauty, but in their hands it never gained the symmetry
of an organic whole. It is Bach’s peculiar glory to have succeeded
in this endeavour where everyone else had failed. He adopted not the
forms of the Italian oratorio, but he absorbed its spirit. He blended
it in a manner of which no previous composer had ever suspected the
possibility, with the profound religiousness of the national chorale.
Above all, he created a recitative of his own, stripped of all that was
theatrical and entirely appropriate to the setting forth of the divine
narrative. In his Passion music he brings to absolute completeness the
form for which his conception of the church cantata had been through
long years the preparation. But musical power alone could not have
achieved what Bach achieved. It was his perfect sympathy with the
religious sense and emotional needs of the German people, his reverent
acceptance of all that was noble in the musical tradition of his race,
that enabled him to mould the ideal fulfilment of that which had been
imperfectly foreshadowed in the presentments of the passion, whether as
an act of divine service, a folk-play, or an oratorio.

The _Passions according to S. John_ and _S. Matthew_ lie before us
as the noblest monuments of Bach’s spirit. Often as they have been
compared, to the inevitable disadvantage of the former work, it needs
little study of them to shew that any comparison must be strained and
unnatural. Each is in truth incomparable, whether in relation to the
other, or to the rest of sacred music. The _S. John Passion_ is the
perfection of church-music; the _S. Matthew_ reaches the goal of all
sacred art, while its colossal dimensions take it almost, happily not
quite, out of the range of church performance. The _S. John Passion_
stands closer to the oratorio, as we may learn from the way in which
nearly every choral sentence, that is to say, whatever is spoken by
the disciples, the Jewish crowd, or the soldiers, is wrought into a
regular chorus, or at least several times repeated. This arrangement
certainly impairs the proportion of the different parts, since it
appears to lay a greater emphasis upon the voice of the many than upon
the single utterance of Christ or another. There is, however, always
a musical fitness in these elaborations, and nothing can be more
artistic than the way in which, for example, the sentence, _We have
a law, and by our law he ought to die_, is rehearsed as the subject
of a fugue, the most formal and (so to say) legal phrase that music
admits, and also the most expressive of the dispersed yet unanimous
speech of a multitude. It is part of the idea of Passion music to
break the continuity of the narrative in the Gospel by chorales and by
meditations, in the form of _arias_ or of developed recitative (called
_arioso_), dwelling upon the weighty moments of the story, after the
fashion of the chorus in Greek tragedy; and Bach has taken advantage
of the custom to insert in the _S. John Passion_ some of his most
melodious and most profoundly impressive creations. But, what is highly
significant of the spirit in which he planned his work, he never allows
these to interrupt the real unity of the narrative, almost invariably
prolonging the vocal cadence of the foregoing recitative by leaving it
on the dominant harmony. “The course of the action and the reflections
upon it seem thus to be linked in unbroken sequence, as if the one
sprang irresistibly to the other.”[60]

The entire work is begun and ended by great choruses. The opening
one was written and prefixed later, the original chorus having
been relegated to the close of the first part of the _S. Matthew
Passion_;[61] that at the end has also a similar inspiration to the
concluding chorus of the latter work, but its preservation in its
present form as well is a matter for which we cannot be too grateful,
whether we regard most the exquisite pathos of its melody or the
perfect flow of the several instruments, which, in their separate
progressions, give a personal, almost an individual, sentiment to the
composition. This sentiment lies at the root of the _Passion according
to S. John_, and makes a peculiar contrast to the universality which
is the note of that according to _S. Matthew_. As though to merge
this mood in a broader sympathy with his fellow-believers, Bach
has protracted the end so as to close the work by a chorale, the
distinctive symbol of congregational brotherhood.

If this be the motive of the unusual termination of the earlier
Passion, Bach has no need to explain his intention in the _Passion
according to S. Matthew_. In the first bars of the opening chorus the
long majestic tread of the basses is heard clearly to introduce us to
the thought of a drama of which the whole world is the spiritual scene,
all mankind, in their Representative, the actors. The never-ending
wail of the violins preludes to a tragedy which sums up all human
suffering. The cry has slowly risen to its height when the daughters
of Zion are shown to us, assembled to mourn, in the same piercing
measures, the Bridegroom as he passes on bearing his cross. A chorus
of believers, with wondering question, first interrupts their lament,
finally takes up their burthen and unites in the common sorrow.
Meantime the listening ear detects a third choir, of a single voice,
singing as from afar, and again strangely breaking off, the chorale,
_O Lamb of God_. The art of the work is stupendous; but more wonderful
still is the truthfulness with which it figures forth the immensity of
the drama to which it is the prologue.

Nevertheless it was far remote from Bach’s mind to present the Passion
in the guise of a drama; it would have been altogether foreign to the
essence of his genius. The Passion he will shew to us as a picture, or
rather as a series of pictures. He takes the text of S. Matthew without
gloss or change; choruses he leaves in the terse briefness of natural
utterance, repeating little or not at all. He seeks to give just
expression to the words by a thoughtful distribution of the speeches
between two complete choirs, each with its own organ and orchestra.
Above all he separates the words of Jesus from the rest of the recited
narrative by a different accompaniment, that of a string quartet,
within which setting he places them, with the purity of a crystal, as
within an aureole.[62] At certain moments of supreme dignity, the
simple recitative rises into the measured melody of the _arioso_, the
words, however, remaining without change. In this way the solemn act
of the last supper is carried to a sublime height, and inspired with a
supernal tenderness, wherein music reaches its noblest and most divine
ideal. Once only does the glory fade from around Christ’s words, and
that is at the last cry, _Eli, Eli, lama asabthani_. Here it is the
organ—the accompaniment of the human recitative—which alone sustains
the harmony. It is the finest thought in all Bach’s writing.

The additions to the text of the Gospel are of two sorts. First
there are the chorales, which appear in great frequency owing to the
numerous repetitions of a few melodies. One, the special Passion
chorale, _O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden_, recurs five times, with
different words, and the harmonies each time newly constructed. The
intention is evidently to fix the thought upon the prevailing tone of
the subject, in the same fashion, diversely applied, as that of the
modern _Leitmotiv_. Beside these chorales stand Picander’s verses which
are set in the form, not only of _arias_ or _ariosos_, but also of
recitative; and these, to throw the biblical recitative into greater
relief, have, for the most part, an accompaniment of wind instruments:
sometimes the single voice is blended, as in converse, with the
voices of the choir. Usually in the Passion music the company of the
faithful came simply as prologue and epilogue; here, on the contrary,
it attends throughout, and from one side of the church answers to
the voice of the Daughter of Zion on the other. Once and again the
multitudinous cry breaks in upon the pathos of her song; and it seems
as if no place were void of the all-pervading agony. At the end both
choirs join together in a hymn of tender watching addressed to the
Saviour as he lies sleeping in the tomb.

We should certainly fail to appreciate Bach’s place as a writer for
the church, if we left out of regard his _Masses_. That a composer so
peculiarly representative of Protestantism should have written such
works will only surprise those who are unfamiliar with the usage of
Lutheran worship. The conservatism of Leipzig, in particular, retained
many Catholic customs which the Protestant churches as a rule had
discarded, for instance, the surplices of minister and choir, and the
ringing of a bell during the eucharistal office. Latin motets, hymns,
and responses, were sung on high festivals; and the use of the Latin
_Magnificat_ furnished Bach with a theme for perhaps the splendidest of
his shorter church compositions.

The original performance of the _Magnificat_ throws an interesting
light on the manner in which the old tradition of the Latin singing
was fused with an entirely popular service. The famous work, notable
also as the first masterpiece which Bach produced at Leipzig, was not
performed on the Christmas of 1723, as we now hear it, as a continuous
whole. It was broken up by a string of Christmas songs, which, we
may rather say, served as a curiously wrought setting to enhance the
beauty of the gem it enclosed. At every pause the thanksgiving of the
virgin-mother was interrupted by verses of a well-loved German hymn,
_Vom Himmel hoch_, by the _Gloria in Excelsis_, and by little songs,
part in Latin, part German, of the most homely simplicity. Most likely
the church too kept the old German fashion, with its cradle and lullaby
and touching chorus of angels. Strangely out of place must the superb
canticle have sounded, but for that reverent spirit which breathes
through it and makes it a fulfilment of Protestant feeling, and a
contrast only by completion.

Besides these occasional performances, the first three divisions
of a complete Mass—the _Kyrie_, _Gloria_, and _Credo_—formed a
regular part of the service on Sundays and feast-days; the _Sanctus_
distinguished the three high festivals of the Lutheran kalendar: the
only element of the Mass which is not known to have been sung was the
_Agnus Dei_, and even of this we have evidence that it was performed in
the University Church (from a Mass of Haydn) later on in the eighteenth

Accordingly there is nothing to hinder the supposition that Bach
employed his _Masses_ for production in the Leipzig churches.
Concerning two of the five he wrote[63] this is highly probable;
and a similar influence is suggested by the transcripts of several
Italian Masses, drawn from such different sources as Palestrina and
Lotti, which exist in Bach’s autograph and in that of his wife and
son. At the least the latter bear witness to the hold which this form
of church-music had taken upon his mind. But it was not until he had
traversed the whole field of Protestant music that he allowed himself
to rise to the conception of a work that should embrace the universal
faith of Christendom, whose voice should be persuasive to the hopes
and beliefs of Catholic and Protestant alike, the sonorous majesty
of the one growing intense in the human earnestness of the other.
To this Mass in B minor[64] Bach put all his strength, consecrated
every resource of inspiration and art, every possibility of voice and
instrument. While Catholic writers have treated the Mass music as
the gorgeous accompaniment of a mighty pomp, in which the outward,
dramatic, impressiveness stands in the foreground, Bach passes back
to the verities of which the sacred office is the symbol. Thus his
_Kyrie_ is not the mere opening of a stately pageant. From four
bars of majestic chorus, the orchestra go on at once to announce a
theme unsurpassed in the entire range of Bach’s music; each of the
five voices of the choir take it up in turn and weave together their
passionate, yet restrained cry for mercy. The human passion of the
_Kyrie eleison_ has its counterpart in the tender, almost personal
feeling of the _Christe eleison_, which is set as a duet to an
exquisitely melodious accompaniment of the violin, and in the closing
_Kyrie_ chorus, which, instead of being conceived in the usual way
as a petition to the Holy Spirit, resumes the tone of the first and
sums up the total supplication in a spirit now suggestive of the broad
treatment of the Catholic writers but soon betraying the hand of Bach
in its conciseness, its more nervous motion and acuter harmonies. The
same abandoning of traditional currents in order that he might go back
straight to the springs lying deep in the nature and experience of
the world, to which the office of the holy communion owes its life,
is equally manifest throughout the Mass. The _Gloria_ becomes again
the angel-song of the nativity. Bach throws himself at once into the
spirit in which he wrote the _Christmas Oratorio_; and of this great
work the later chorus is a sort of summary, to be used again for
performance at Christmas. But if his profound grasp of the reality
of that which he expressed is the supreme excellence of Bach’s _High
Mass_, no less striking in its way is the discrimination with which
he treats the different elements of the Creed. Intellectual dogmas
find an intellectual rendering, as in the curious places in which the
union of the divine nature in Christ is reflected by a canon, first in
the unison, then in the fourth below. But doctrines which are more
directly bound up with the soul of Christianity are recited with a
fulness of living sympathy, which feels the pathos of the human life of
Christ, pulses with unspeakable awe and an intensity almost terrific at
the rehearsal of his death, then springs up in most glorious rejoicing
at the resurrection. The declaration of his personal faith did not
obscure in Bach’s mind the fact that he was writing a work which should
hold true for _the one catholic, apostolic church_ of which existing
churches were all alike members. He returns to this thought openly in
the article of baptism, where the Gregorian intonation, _Confiteor
unum baptisma_, is pronounced, as a second subject, by the basses and
wrought with superb art into the texture of the fugue.

Words, however, can give but a very faint impression of this
masterpiece of universal Christendom; and daring with forced fingers
rude to touch its perfect outline, I leave inviolate the lyrical
tenderness of the _Agnus Dei_ and the yearning desire[65] of the _Dona
nobis pacem_, the restful consummation of the whole. Nor can I describe
the infinite fertility of the design, the happy frequency with which in
the _arie_ a single instrument, violin, flute, hautboy, or horn, is
made to enhance the delicacy of the human voice, or the splendour of
the grouping of the orchestra, equally noble in sonorous magnificence
and in chastened softness. Whether in its art or in its religion the
High Mass stands among the creations of Bach’s master-spirit, first
and alone, but for its sole equal, the _Passion according to Saint


We quitted the direct narrative of Bach’s life at the point when the
arrival of the new rector of the Thomasschule gave it an interval of
peace and quietness, an interval of which we took advantage to review
the great ranges of church-music which fell as an official task to the
cantor. The four years of Gesner’s rule are the ripest and busiest in
Bach’s life; not that they include his greatest individual works, with
the notable exception of the _High Mass_, but that they are the most
productive, and of works attaining a more uniform level of first-rate
excellence than any others. After 1735 Bach was content to relax
somewhat, and he employed his time, less in composing new cantatas or
the like, than in revising, solidifying, and balancing his earlier
works. He must also have retired more into the quiet of his family
life, and devoted himself to his private pupils, after the blow struck
at his influence in the school by Gesner’s successor, Ernesti.

Ernesti, a young man of great learning and a good teacher, was
as incapable as his father, the old rector under whom Bach first
taught, of grasping the primary conditions of the school, namely, its
combination of musical with general education. He was jealous of the
predominance of the former, and therefore started with a bias against
Bach. He succeeded in winning a victory for his own schemes, but at
the expense of the ruin of the music. Bach was not the only sufferer;
the same dispute was going on elsewhere in Germany at the time, and
was in fact one of the incidents of a transitional period in the
history of education. The Thomasschule from its double government, the
cantor having an equal supremacy in musical matters with the rector’s
in secular, was peculiarly liable to such a conflict. Unless the two
heads were joined by a strong bond of sympathy, as happened with Bach
and Gesner, rivalry was, perhaps, inevitable. When Ernesti succeeded
to the place, we have not long to wait before the unpleasant spectacle
presents itself.

It is needless to follow the details of the quarrel which kept Bach
in a nervous state of exasperation for nearly two years, and left him
in official discomfort for the rest of his life. Suffice it to say,
that in 1736 Ernesti quite unwarrantably usurped the cantor’s right
of nominating the musical prefects. Bach’s contention was throughout
the just one, only he made the mistake of losing his temper about
it. However, it is to be observed that his language, if occasionally
violent, is consistently to the point, and the musician shews better
breeding than the scholar, who is not ashamed of vulgar abuse, charges
of lying, and like scurrilities. The whole thing, indeed, began by a
scene that tells strongly for Bach’s sense of justice. A prefect had
been, as he believed, wrongly condemned to a public flogging before
the school. Bach, who had had nothing to do with his subordinate’s
crime, interposed by taking the whole blame upon his shoulders. The
rector was in a rage, and refused to remit the punishment: so the
prefect had to leave, and the rector filled up the vacancy. Hence the
quarrel. To Bach it must have been irritating beyond bearing to have a
man, little more than half his age, intruding upon his incontestable
rights, still more to find the Town Council and consistory unscrupulous
in supporting the claim of the stronger, by declining to disturb a
right which had no precedent. It was not until he had appealed to the
King, and delighted him by some evening-music, produced when he was
next at Leipzig, that the matter came for a fair hearing. As often
happens, when we have elaborate documents of the progress of a case,
the conclusion has disappeared, but it is presumed that the royal
judgment was broader than the indecent partiality of the Leipzig
officials, and that the grievance was redressed. But the harm had gone
too far to be undone, and while Bach and Ernesti lived there was no
more unity in the school. How deeply Bach resented the injury is seen
from the eager interest he took in a quarrel that turned on the same
principles as his own, the very year before his death. He not only
had a _critique_ of the offending school-master written and printed
for him but actually changed the phrasing of a secular cantata, _The
Contest of Phœbus and Pan_, when it was next performed, so as to
convey a covert sneer at him and Ernesti jointly.

One more assault came to disturb Bach’s tranquillity a short time
after the controversy with Ernesti had come to an end. This was an
insolent article by Scheibe, a musician not without a superficial
cleverness, whom Bach had rejected as unqualified for a certain
organistship. It appeared anonymously in Scheibe’s own review, the
_Critische Musicus_, in 1737; nor was Bach’s name given, though the
reference was too clear to escape notice. Bach is said to have resented
the attack, which was a mere flippant pasquinade upon his music,
bitterly; and he was almost induced to enter into literary warfare
in defence. Happily we are spared the sight of a master in one art
essaying to use weapons with which he is sure to show to disadvantage;
and it was Bach’s friend, Magister Birnbaum, who took up his cause for

Bach had certainly warm admirers and true friends in Leipzig. His
old pupils remained faithful to him, and one, Altnikol, married his
second daughter. Their number continually increased with the master’s
fame, and among them are reckoned three at least of his kinsmen and
not a few musicians of high repute in the younger generation, such as
J. L. Krebs (afterwards court organist at Altenburg), J. F. Agricola
(capell-meister at Berlin), J. F. Doles (cantor of the Thomasschule),
G. A. Homilius (cantor of the Kreuzschule at Dresden), and J. P.
Kirnberger (a noted contrapuntist, and court musician at Berlin), not
to mention the most eminent of all, Bach’s two eldest sons. Another, J.
T. Goldberg, was the clavichord-player for whom Bach made his _Thirty
Variations_. He was attached to the suite of the Baron von Kayserling,
an invalid who suffered greatly from sleeplessness. The Baron would
often have Goldberg pass the night in a room adjoining his, that he
might play to him when he could not rest. Once he said to Bach that
he should like to have some music “of a soothing and rather cheerful
character, that he might be a little amused by them in his sleepless
nights.”[66] To this request Bach replied by his variations which
combine a monotony of ground-work with an endless variety of treatment,
including canons in all intervals, and winding up with a quodlibet
of delightful freshness.[67] Kayserling was more than amused by the
present. He was never tired of hearing the pieces, and “for a long
time afterwards, when the sleepless nights came, he used to say, _Dear
Goldberg, do play me one of my variations_:”—they were always _his_
variations. He thanked Bach for them with a gold cup filled with a
hundred louis-d’or (or about 75_l._ sterling).

But while students thronged to Bach as a master; and while he was often
assailed by smatterers who only wanted to be known as his pupils—and
were disappointed—his later years were years of declining influence in
Leipzig, precisely in proportion to his increasing celebrity outside.
Like Milton his fame grew when public recognition failed. He became
merely one of the sights of the place. No musician who passed through
or near Leipzig was satisfied without an interview. But when any real
occasion came, when his help and judgment would have been of use, he
was not called. I do not refer to the Society of Musical Sciences, to
which Bach was only admitted years after it was established at Leipzig,
and only as an ordinary member with a canon sent in as testimonial.
Probably its scientific discussions on the theory of music were little
to Bach’s taste: perhaps he declined to join at first; though to a
man of smaller generosity it would have been a blow to see Handel
chosen as an honorary member. The occasion on which even courtesy
should have decided a resort to Bach’s advice and co-operation was the
establishment in 1743 of the Grosse Concert, the parent of the famous
concerts of the Gewandhaus. It was arranged by an association of rich
burghers; and its tendencies were from the outset in a distinctly
modern direction. Rossini—of all people—notes Dr. Spitta, supplanted
Beethoven among contemporaries; and the great Leipzig master became a
stranger in his own town. But the fact that Bach had nothing to do with
the beginning of the decisive musical movement[68] of the town does
a great deal to fix his position in one’s mind. Equally significant
is the circumstance that some time, perhaps some years, after 1736
he resigned the leadership of the Musical Society over which he had
presided since 1729. If he was not to be first, he preferred to retreat
into privacy. This privacy must have become closer when his three
eldest sons left him to follow a musical calling elsewhere, Friedemann
at Dresden and then at Halle, Emanuel at Berlin, and Bernhard at
Muehlhausen. One daughter of his first marriage was all that remained
to him. Of the thirteen children of his second marriage, seven died in
early childhood and one was an idiot. Friedrich and Johann Christian
were the only sons of musical promise; the former became capellmeister
to the Count of Schaumburg at Bueckeburg, the latter made the name of
Bach famous in London drawing-rooms, but only through his own thin
productions. Born in 1735, he was the darling of his father’s old age,
and was the only son who remained with his three sisters in the home
when Bach died.

With Friedemann and Emanuel their father always kept near relations, as
far as the difficulty of travelling allowed. It was through the latter
that Bach came to make his famous visit to the court of Frederick the
Great. The king had often expressed a desire to see him and Emanuel
had informed his father of it. But Bach was usually now too busy to
undertake so long a journey. At last, in 1747, he decided to go, and,
characteristically enough, fetched Friedemann from Halle on the way to
accompany him. I give the account of the interview at Potsdam in the
words of Forkel, who had it from Friedemann himself:—

“At this time the king had every evening a private concert, in which
he himself generally performed some concertos on the flute. One
evening, just as he was getting his flute ready, and his musicians
were assembled, an officer brought him the list of the strangers
who had arrived. With his flute in his hand he ran over the list,
but immediately turned to the assembled musicians, and said, with a
kind of agitation, _Gentlemen, old Bach is come_. The flute was now
laid aside, and old Bach, who had alighted at his son’s lodgings, was
immediately summoned to the Palace.... At that time it was the fashion
to make rather prolix compliments. The first appearance of J. S. Bach
before so great a King, who did not even give him time to change his
travelling-dress for a black chanter’s gown, must necessarily be
attended with many apologies. I will not here dwell on these apologies,
but merely observe, that in William Friedemann’s mouth they made a
formal dialogue between the King and the Apologist.

“But what is more important than this is, that the King gave up his
concert for this evening, and invited Bach, then already called the
Old Bach, to try his fortepianos, made by Silbermann, which stood in
various rooms of the palace,” and numbered fifteen. “The musicians went
with him from room to room, and Bach was invited everywhere to try
and to play unpremeditated compositions.” The king gave him a subject
to develop in fugue, and Bach concluded by adding one that occurred
to himself, which he extemporized in six voices. It was the greatest
display of Bach’s life, and certainly an exhibition that has never been
equalled on its own lines. A permanent record of the visit lies in the
_Musikalische Opfer_, wherein Bach treated the theme which the king had
proposed to him with an exuberance of learning and variety beyond the
possibilities of _ex tempore_ composition. It comprises fugues in three
and six parts, eight canons, and a sonata for three instruments, ending
in a perpetual canon.

The _Musical Offering_ has always been an object of admiration for the
ingenuity of its workmanship. But its object was mainly the display
of contrapuntal learning. It was a _parergon_ to which Bach delighted
himself by applying every resource of musical science; and therefore
stands on a different footing to the three great collections of fugues
which Bach composed, the last of which was his employment almost to the
time of his death. The _Art of Fugue_ stands nearest to the _Musical
Offering_, since it too consists of fugues and canons, all upon a
single subject. It differs from that work inasmuch as here he wrote not
to display his own skill, but to illustrate the final possibilities of
contrapuntal art. But equally it appeals to a very limited class of
musicians; to us in the present moment it is chiefly interesting as
shewing that, if Bach’s productive energy ceased comparatively early,
his power only became the more massive when he chose to use it. Far
otherwise is it with the two sets of preludes and fugues through all
the major and minor keys, called the _Wohltemperirte Clavier_.[69]
These no musician or pianist can ignore with impunity; Schumann
himself, whose style of playing and composing lies at the antipodes of
Bach’s, commends them to “young musicians” as their “daily bread.”[70]

The Forty-Eight Preludes and Fugues were begun partly with an
educational purpose. Bach wished to prove the capacity of the
clavichord, now that he had enlarged its sphere by an improved method
of tuning, and to impress this variety upon his pupils. The first
half, to which alone the title _Das Wohltemperirte Clavier_ properly
belongs, was completed in 1722, just before the author left Coethen;
the second was finally arranged some time before 1746, perhaps before
1740. The labour and the years Bach took to mature these great works
seem to indicate that he regarded them as representative works. Not
a bar but was subjected to the most thoughtful remodelling.[71] The
first part in particular needed many a trial before it could find
the master’s approval, and thrice did he transcribe the whole with
his own hand. Every idea that was out of place, every line that led
nowhere, was ruthlessly pruned away. When the root of the piece was
reached, perhaps the motive of the original would germinate afresh,
and the whole would assume a quite new and statelier form. The two
parts are in some measure distinguished by the greater development of
some of the preludes in the second, which are now and then sonatas on
a small scale, and by the technical incompleteness of some fugues in
the first. But, though the latter part is perhaps the richer and more
full of fancy, there is a symmetry about the whole series which makes
inconceivable that Bach should have not intended the two parts to be
combined. Indeed we are told that Bach liked to have the whole played
through at a sitting. The work as it stands bears no trace, except in
its various readings, of the multiple processes through which it has
passed to gain each time in purity and simplicity and freedom.[72]

For it must at the outset be explained that the Forty-Eight were
never intended as model fugues. Learning was to Bach a means to an
end. Except for amusement, as in the _Musikalische Opfer_, he never
let it shew itself. To produce living work it needed the touch of his
imagination and the guidance of his clear artist’s instinct. In fact,
nothing is freer than his management of the several voices of a fugue.
“He considered his parts,” it has been finely said, “as persons, who
conversed together, like a select company. If there were three, each
could sometimes be silent, and listen to the others, till it again
had something to the purpose to say. But, if in the midst of the most
interesting part of the discourse, some uncalled and importunate note
suddenly stepped in, and attempted to say a word, or even a syllable
only, Bach looked on this as a great irregularity, and made his pupils
comprehend that it was not to be allowed.” But “no part, not even a
middle part, was allowed to break off, before it had entirely said what
it had to say.... This high degree of exactness in the management of
every single part is precisely what makes Bach’s harmony a manifold

What Forkel here says of Bach’s part-writing in general is true in an
even fuller sense of the fugues. I quote him because he was not only
one of the most learned contrapuntists of his day, but also a man who
discerned clearly the limits of counterpoint and the difference between
musical learning and musical art. His description of the fugues is
concise and plain, and so much to the point that it deserves quotation

“A highly characteristic theme, an uninterrupted principal melody,
wholly derived from it, and equally characteristic from the beginning
to the end; not mere accompaniment in the other parts, but in each of
them an independent melody, according with the others, also from the
beginning to the end; freedom, lightness, and fluency, in the progress
of the whole, inexhaustible variety of modulation combined with
perfect purity; the exclusion of every arbitrary note, not necessarily
belonging to the whole; unity and diversity in the style, rhythmus,
and measure; and lastly, a life diffused through the whole, so that it
sometimes appears to the performer or hearer, as if every single note
were animated; these are the properties of Bach’s fugue.... All Bach’s
fugues ... are endowed with equally great excellencies, but each in a
different manner. Each has its own precisely defined character; and
dependent upon that, its own turns in melody and harmony. When we
know and can perform one, we really know only one, and can perform but
one; whereas we know and can play whole folios full of fugues by other
composers of Bach’s time, as soon as we have comprehended, and rendered
familiar to our hand, the turns of a single one.”[73]

There is no work that realizes better the conception of a perfect fugue
than that in C sharp minor in the first part of the _Wohltemperirte
Clavier_. That it is in five voices and contains three subjects, are
facts that would by themselves place it among the most vertebrate of
the collection. But least of all does the grandeur of the fugue rest
upon its complexity. It is the character-drawing of the several voices,
and the nobility of them, that make their discourse sublime—three
voices entirely contrasted and entirely blended—each time with a new
and surprising effect, now of pomp, now of tenderest pathos—one a slow
organ-voice, the next delicate and flowing, and the third vehement,
striking hammer-blows. The second and then the last gradually die away;
the solemnity of the original theme communicates itself again to the
whole web of thought, and the end is plaintive and restful.[74]

A story is told which displays in a characteristic way Bach’s
instinctive knowledge of the nature of a fugue. When he happened to
be in a strange church where a fugue was announced, and one of his two
eldest sons stood near him, “he always, as soon as he had heard the
introduction to the theme, said beforehand what the composer ought to
introduce, and what possibly might be introduced. If the composer had
performed his work well, what he said happened: then he rejoiced, and
jogged his son, to make him observe it.” Otherwise, it is added, his
modesty made him the most lenient of critics.

The _Art of Fugue_ has already been mentioned as the last and most
massive of Bach’s works. It must have been begun in 1749, and so
careful was the author of what he wished to be considered as his
masterpiece—in the strict sense—that he had it engraved under his own
eyes.[75] He did not live to see it published[76]; the carelessness or
ignorance of those into whose hands it came allowed it to appear with
several extraneous insertions, and its intended regular structure of
fifteen fugues and four canons upon a single theme in D minor remained
long obscured. Not content with this gigantic fugue—for it is one
fugue through all its fifteen sections—Bach resolved to penetrate
still further into the labyrinth of harmonic combinations, and to
write, so it is said, a fugue in four parts with four subjects, all of
them to be reversed in each of the parts. He had not, however, gone
much beyond the introduction of the third subject, which contained in
the German notation the letters of his own name, when his excessive
application was terminated by a painful disorder in the eyes. He
had always been near-sighted, and now his vision almost failed. He
consulted an English oculist of repute, who was then in Leipzig; but
after two operations he became totally blind, and the medical treatment
he underwent broke his hitherto hale constitution. For half a year
he declined, until he found his rest on the evening of Tuesday, the
28th of July, 1750. Ten days before his death his eyesight for a short
space suddenly returned to him. It was a few days after that strange
illumination that he called Altnikol, his son-in-law, to him, and bade
him write at his dictation the chorale _When we are in the depths
of need_. But death had become a new presence to him. Often had he
lingered upon the idea in chorale and cantata; but now he felt himself
to have passed beyond the gulf. He bade Altnikol set other words at the
head of the music. The words were these: _Herewith I come before thy


The fact of Bach’s death was registered by the Town Council in the
following terms: _The Cantor at the Thomasschule, or rather the
Capelldirector, Bach, is dead_. They proceeded to resolve that _the
school needed a Cantor, and not a Capellmeister, although he must
understand music too_. Such was the public recognition of Leipzig’s
greatest man. His widow was suffered to live on in need, and to die a
pauper ten years after her husband. The youngest daughter was at last
relieved by a public subscription, in which Beethoven was proud to
join; but not by the town. The last infamy of Leipzig was achieved when
S. John’s churchyard, in which Bach had been laid to rest, was rooted
up and made into a road. His bones were scattered, no man knew or cared

The boys of the Thomasschule, of course, followed their cantor’s
funeral, and one of his colleagues published a short memorial upon his
friend. But Bach was very soon forgotten in his own school. His works
were doubtless performed, more or less frequently; but cantatas and
motets were required for the church service, and it was easier to fall
back upon the stores of music he had left, than to buy or transcribe
new pieces. How little the treasure was valued we may learn from the
circumstance that in 1803 over a hundred church compositions existed
there in autograph, while seven years later there remained but three in
score and forty-four in parts.

Nevertheless the name, only the name, of Bach continued powerful in
Leipzig. When the Gewandhaus was opened, in 1781, it was painted in
great letters upon a screen behind the orchestra; but nothing of his
was performed there until the concerts had existed for more than half a
century. It was his feeblest son, Johann Christian, whose compositions
were admired. The visit of Mozart, in 1789, of which I have before
spoken, did something to revive the interest in Bach’s music; but the
process was a slow one. His works became known among an increasing
number of scattered admirers; then they came to be partially published;
but it was not until 1842 that he had a monument on the Promenade,
behind the windows of his old house, not until 1850 that a worthier
monument was begun in the establishment of the Bach Society, whose
collection of the master’s works has hardly an equal in critical
accuracy or magnificence of form. The erection of the first was due to
the efforts of Mendelssohn; the second, in great measure, to Schumann.

From these two monuments we turn again to their original. Of Bach’s
figure we know nothing but the head and the square shoulders. His
countenance was one of singular dignity and refinement. The thick
eyebrows that stood out beneath his great forehead, knotted above
his long firm nose, seemed to denote a force, if not a severity, of
character; but the impression was softened by the sweet, sensitive
lines of his mouth. Both traits are true of the man. He had a strong
self-dependence, which was reflected in his sense of duty, the
consistency, the uprightness of his life, but which was liable to
exaggeration in self-will, even obstinacy. Partly this was owing to
his irritable temperament, the other side of his nature, born of an
acute sensibility, which might reveal itself either so or more often in
the tender charities of his family life. These double tendencies, the
fine and the strong, had their ground in his active and contemplative
religious faith; they find their testimony in his music. Only here we
see a third factor, not so manifest in his own life, in the boundless
flexibility of mind to which it points. If, however, one is asked the
dominant characteristics of it, there is but one reply,—manliness and
melody, the one never too vigorous to overpower the melody, the other
restrained by it from any approach to effeminacy.

It is these qualities that adjudge Bach the same place among musicians
as Milton holds among our own poets; and the thought has a touching
suggestion in the lack of recognition of his later years, and in his
blindness. But the likeness goes deeper into their work. Each is in
his craft the most learned of artists; each is ruled by an absorbing
religious sense. They are equals in chastened grace, in balance and
ear; and equally wanting in two special gifts, humour and dramatic

This is not the place to pursue the parallel more closely; but the
statement of it may help us to realise how little popularity can be
taken as an index of artistic worth, it may also serve as a warning to
those who insist on comparing Bach with other masters. He can as little
be compared with Beethoven, for instance, as Milton with Shakespeare.
That he should have been constantly brought into comparison with
Handel was, perhaps, inevitable; but to see the unfairness to both, it
is only necessary to observe that neither produced his best work in
the same fields as the other. Bach wrote nothing more than distantly
akin to the Oratorio; Handel attempted nothing great in Masses or in
Passion Music. Wherever they do enter into comparison, only ignorance
can excuse the claim of superiority often made for Handel. So it is
remarkable when they are set side by side as organists. With his
prodigious brilliancy Handel was untrue to the nature of the organ;
he made it a concert-instrument. Bach, on the other hand, developed
its powers to the utmost extent possible while preserving its church
character. Accordingly, it is not strange that no single work for organ
_solo_ by Handel is known to exist, while among contemporaries Bach was
hardly known except as an organ-master, and his works have remained to
organists the most precious of possessions. Mattheson, no unqualified
judge, courteously decided that in this sphere their names must stand
in alphabetical order.

To complete the picture of Bach as a performer, we must add to his
command of the organ and clavichord the skill he acquired as a
violinist. In both his appointments at Weimar this was his instrument,
and to have written and played the sonatas for violin solo, he must
almost have attained perfection in its technicalities. But his
favourite stringed instrument in later years was the viola, because it
placed him, “as it were, in the middle of the harmony, whence he could
best hear and enjoy it, on both sides;”[78] and, when he was in the
vein, he would extemporize an additional part to a trio or whatever
was being played. In the same way he would at sight combine scores on
the clavichord with astonishing fluency. That he could readily expand
a figured bass is only to say that he was proficient in the ordinary
training of an accompanist; but there are some details noticed by
Forkel in this connexion, which bear in an interesting manner upon a
vexed question of the present day, namely, the lawfulness of writing
“additional accompaniments” to his vocal works, and must not be passed

Bach was able, we are told, “if a single bass part, often ill-figured,
was laid before him, immediately to play from it a trio, or a quartet;
nay, he even went so far ... as to perform extempore, to three single
parts, a fourth part, and thus to make a quartetto of the whole.”[79]
The plain meaning of this is that, when he pleased, he did not play
simple chords to the given bass, but extracted from them two or three
strains of independent melody. The principle has been applied to many
of Bach’s compositions, especially by Robert Franz, whom a close study
of the master led to the opinion that, when Bach had left a vocal
piece accompanied only by a single bass, the natural way of making the
accompaniment satisfactory was to treat it polyphonically, in the same
style as Bach is recorded to have done sometimes himself; in other
words, to write new parts over it in counterpoint and imitation. The
necessity for some such treatment is argued from the decay, in modern
times, of the art of expanding even the common harmonies of a figured
bass. The real reason against it is that we may be thus obscuring the
relief of light and shade which Bach designed to produce by leaving
some pieces barely accompanied, as in contrast to the elaborate
orchestration of others. This is more weighty than the argument drawn
from the absence of any authoritative example of it; as for instance,
that it is not to be found in some exercises in figured bass by a pupil
which Bach corrected. It is obvious to answer that a master would
probably be content with accuracy in his scholar’s work, and would not
apply to it the same standard of elaboration, or allow the same freedom
of treatment, as he would desire in his own. No doubt Bach employed,
probably he preferred for teaching purposes, a simple accompaniment
of three or four-part harmonies. But side by side with this must be
placed the testimony of a pupil, that _he had never heard anything more
excellent than the singing of the voices among each other_, when Bach
accompanied: _the accompaniment was in itself so beautiful that even
the principal voice could not withdraw from the pleasure he received
from the accessory_. Failing this faculty now-a-days, it is probably
wisest to adopt the judgment of Mendelssohn and limit the additional
accompaniment to the writing out of the implied organ part.[80]

Two other facts demand notice in reference to the production of Bach’s
music in modern times. One is the non-existence of distinctive _solo_
singers. When an _aria_ was to be sung, a single member stood up out of
the body of the choir. This will explain the almost equal difficulty
of each. The other fact relates to the proportion of the choir to the
orchestra. In the last century the latter regularly outnumbered the
former; and Bach’s own scheme for the organisation of the music at
S. Thomas’s desiderated only twelve singers to a band of eighteen,
exclusive of the organ—the organ, be it remembered, being entrusted by
Bach with a very important part. Such a distribution must have given
the performances which he conducted a different colour from that which
they present now. He did not separate the voices and the instruments
so broadly as we are accustomed to do. The voice was to him hardly
more than any other instrument; and if we are to judge his music
fairly, we must consider the two elements of his band, not as choir and
accompaniment, but as one mass of sound, composed of two balanced and
co-ordinate parts.

It remains to give a brief sketch of the reception which Bach has had
in England. Probably Dr. Burney, the learned historian of music, was
the first to introduce him here; but he afterwards confessed that his
partial verdict was based solely upon a copy of the first half of the
Forty-Eight Preludes and Fugues—“a vile and most diabolical copy,” as
it turned out, fall of mistakes—and had never heard one played. The
first serious steps to promote the knowledge of Bach in England were
taken by a company of three enthusiastic worshippers at his shrine;
to one of whom is due the honour of the first publication anywhere of
the _Wohltemperirte Clavier_. It was brought out in London by A. F. K.
Kollman in 1799. The impulse thus given was carried on by two leading
musicians, Horn and Wesley, who planned a complete edition of Bach’s
works. The series was begun in 1809, but, although well received, did
not proceed very far. Eleven years later appeared a translation of
Forkel’s _Life of Bach_. The most interesting record, however, of this
movement, lies in a recently published collection of letters by Samuel
Wesley,[81] the greatest organist of his time.

The little band of enthusiasts set out as the apostles of a new
religion. Wesley proclaimed his championship of _Saint Sebastian_, as
a sacred mission, in the defence of truth and justice, against the
idolaters of Handel—quite unconscious how necessarily such a combat
must resolve itself into mere partisanship, and the very bigotry
which he opposed. He has, however, the credit of having convinced
the redoubtable Burney of the injustice of his published opinion of
Bach, and also of being the first in England to observe, what Forkel
had seized upon independently abroad, that of his “characteristic
beauties” “air” was “one of the chief and most striking.”[82] No doubt
his wonderful playing of the organ did something to make Bach known in
England; but it was long before he was really accepted. The movement,
in fact, for a time subsided; it was roused again into life by the
energetic work of Mendelssohn, who declared it was high time that the
“immortal master, who is on no one point inferior to any master, and
in many points superior to all, should no longer be forgotten.” He
prepared the road for the successful labours of Sterndale Bennett,
who, as the most prominent English musician, was able to force Bach
into notice in London. In 1849, a year before the foundation of the
German Bach-Gesellschaft, he established the Bach Society, with the
main object, however, not of publishing, but of producing the works of
Bach. By this the _S. Matthew Passion_ was performed in 1854 and 1858,
to be followed by part of the _High Mass_, and lastly by the _Christmas
Oratorio_. Moreover, as musical professor at Cambridge, Sir
William extended the study of Bach in a wider circle; and it was taken
up by many provincial associations. In the meanwhile Schumann’s widow
was asserting, by her wonderful playing, the rightful place of Bach’s
clavichord works among the treasures of the pianist. At length in
1871, the _S. Matthew Passion_ was produced at Westminster Abbey, and
since that time, there, or in S. Paul’s Cathedral, the _Passion Music_
and the _Christmas Oratorio_ have taken their constant position as
the special services of Holy Week and the new year. Other churches in
London, notably S. Anne’s, Soho, have taken up the example, and the
formation of the Bach Choir has added a new zeal to the cultivation of
the master. If England was late in acknowledging his greatness, nowhere
now are his works performed more regularly, and nowhere does he stand
in so wide and so assured a popularity.


[rest of family tree cont’s on next 2 pages]

(_Composers are distinguished by_ +spaced+ _type_.)

                      VEIT BACH,
                       d. 1619
           │                             │
           │                             │
         Lips                          HANS,
   (_See page 130_).                  d. 1626
                                  (_Der Spielmann_),
           │                             │                   │
           │                             │                   │
         Johann,                      CHRISTOPH,          +Heinrich+,
       1604-1673                      1613-1661           1615-1692
   (_Town Musician                (_Town Musician_),     (_Organist_),
    and Organist_),                   Erfurt and           Arnstadt.
         Erfurt.                       Arnstadt.
   (_See page 131_).               (_See page 132_).    (_See page 133_).

                        (_Town Musician
                         and Organist_),
        │                                 │                 │
        │                                 │                 │
      Johann                            Johann            Johann
     Christian,                        Aegidius,         Nikolaus,
     1640-1682                         1645-1717         1653-1682
     (_Viol_),                         (_Viol_),     (_Viola-da-Gamba_),
     Erfurt and                         Erfurt.            Erfurt.
     Eisenach.                            │
         │                                │
         │                                │
      ┌──┴───────────┐              ┌─────┴──────────┐
      │              │              │                │
      │              │              │                │
    Johann        Johann        +Johann            Johann
    Jakob,      Christoph,      Bernhard+,       Christoph,
   1668-1692     1673-1727      1676-1749         1685-post
    (_Town    (_Cantor and     (_Organist_),        1735
  Musician_),   Organist_),      Eisenach.        (_Town
   Eisenach.      Gehren.           │            Musician_),
                                    │            Erfurt.

[Transcriber’s note: Forward slashes indicate horizontal listing,
that is, brothers]

                  (_Town Musician_),
                      Erfurt and
       │                   │                     │
    +Georg               JOHANN               Johann
   Christoph+,          AMBROSIUS,          Christoph,
    1642-1697           1645-1695            1645-1693
   (_Cantor_),          (_Viol_),            (_Viol_),
    Schweinfurt.         Eisenach.           Arnstadt.
       │                   │                     │
       │                   │                   JOHANN
       │                   │                    Ernst,
       │                   │                   1683-1739
       │                   │                  (_Organist_),
       │                   │                   Arnstadt.
       │                   │
       │                   ├─────────────────┬───────────────┐
       │                   │                 │               │
     Johann              Johann           +JOHANN          Johann
    Valentin,            Christoph,       SEBASTIAN+,        JAKOB,
    1669-1720            1671-1721         1685-1750      1682-1722
     (_Town              (_Organist_),    (_Director    (_Haut-boy_),
    Musician_),           Ohrdruf.         Musices_),       Stockholm.
   Schweinfurt.              │             Leipzig.
       │                     │                 │
       │                     │                 ├───────────────────┐
       │                     │                 │                   │
   Johann                 Tobias            +Wilhelm,          +Johann
   Lorenz,                Friedrich,       Friedemann+,        Christoph
  1695-1773                b. 1695          1710-1784          Friedrich+,
  (_Organist_),           (_Cantor_),      (_Organist_),       1732-1795
     Lahm.                 Uttstädt.         Halle        (_Concertmeister_),
     /                       /                  /                 │
   Johann                  Johann           +Carl Philipp       Wilhelm,
   Elias                  Bernhard,           Emanuel+,       1753-1846
  1705-1755               1700-1744          1714-1788        (_Court
  (_Cantor_),              (_Organist_),  (_Capellmeister_),  Musician_),
   Schweinfurt.             Ohrdruf.             Berlin.        Berlin.
                             /                  /
                           Johann             Johann
                           Christoph         Gottfried
                           b. 1702           Bernhard,
                           (_Cantor_),       1715-1739
                            Ohrdruf.        (_Organist_),
                             /               Muelhausen
                           Johann               /
                           Heinrich,          +Johann
                           b. 1707           Christian+,
                          (_Cantor_),        1735-1783
                           Uehringen.         (_Court
                             /                Musician_)
                           b. 1713

            │                 │                      │
            │                 │                      │
         +Johann            +Johann                Johann
        Christoph+,         Michael+,             Guenther,
        1642-1703          1648-1694             1653-1683
      (_Organist_),       (_Organist_),         (_Organist_).
         Eisenach,           Gehren.              Arnstadt.
        │              │               │             │
        │              │               │             │
     +JOHANN        JOHANN          JOHANN        JOHANN
     Nikolaus+,     Christoph,      Friedrich,     Michael,
     1669-1753        b. 1674        d. 1730        (_Organ
   (_Organist_),     (_Music       (_Organist_),    Builder_),
       Jena.          Master_),     Muehlhausen.     abroad.
                     Erfurt and

                                 LIPS BACH,
                                  d. 1620;
                                presumably a
                                son of Veit.
                  │                                       │
              _Wendel_,                             Jonas and two
              1619-1682.                             other sons
                  │                                (_Musicians in
                  │                                    Italy_).
              │                         │                         │
           +Johann                   Nikolaus                   _Georg
           Ludwig+,                   Ephraim                   Michael_,
          1677-1741               (_Organist_),               1703-1771.
     (_Capell-director_),         Gandersheim.                    │
          Meiningen.                                              │
               │                                                  │
               │                                                  │
            ┌──┴────────────────────────┐                         │
            │                           │                         │
         Samuel                     Gottlieb                   Johann
         Anton,                    Friedrich,                Christian,
       1713-1781                   1714-1785                 1743-1814
  (_Court Organist_),     (_Court Organist_),            (_Music Master_),
       Meinigen.                    Meiningen.                  Halle.
                                     d. 1846
                               (_Court Organist_),


  (An obelus indicates that the date to which it is affixed is not
  absolutely certain. The numbers following the titles are those of the
  edition published by the Bach-Gesellschaft; those to which no number
  is attached remain in manuscript, with few exceptions, at Berlin.)

          I. Denn du wirst meine Seele (15)                    _Easter day_, 1704†
         II. Meine Seele soll Gott loben[84]                                 1707-8†
        III. Aus der Tiefe rufe ich: Psalm cxxx. (131)                        ”
         IV. Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (106)(_Actus tragicus_)      ”
          V. Gott ist mein König (71) (_Municipal_)          _4th February_, 1708
         VI. Der Herr denket an uns[85] (_Wedding_)                           ”
        VII. Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich                                  1708-12†
       VIII. Uns ist ein Kind geboren                       _Christmas day_, 1712-14†
         IX. Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee (18)               _Sexagesima_, 1713-14†
          X. Ich weiss, dass mein Erlöser lebt                 _Easter day_, 1713-14†
         XI. Nun komm’, der Heiden Heiland (61)             _1st in Advent_, 1714
        XII. Ich hatte viel Bekümmerniss (21)              _Per ogni tempo_,  ”
       XIII. Himmelskönig, sei willkommen[86]                 _Palm Sunday_, 1714-15
        XIV. Der Himmel lacht, die Erde jubiliret (31)         _Easter day_, 1715
         XV. Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe[87]    _4th after Trinity_,  ”
        XVI. Komm, du süsse Todesstunde                _16th after Trinity_,  ” †
       XVII. Ach ich sehe, jetzt da ich                _20th after Trinity_,  ”
      XVIII. Nur jedem das Seine                       _23rd after Trinity_, 1715†
        XIX. Bereitet die Wege (132)                        _4th in Advent_,  ”
         XX. Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn            _Sunday after Christmas_,  ”
        XXI. Mein Gott wie lang, ach lange             _2nd after Epiphany_, 1716†
       XXII. Alles was von Gott geboren[88]                   _3rd in Lent_,  ”
      XXIII. Wer mien liebet, der wird mein Wort (59)          _Whitsunday_,  ”
       XXIV. Wachet, betet, seid bereit (70)                _2nd in Advent_,  ”
        XXV. Herz und Mund und That                         _4th in Advent_,  ”
       XXVI. Der Friede sei mit dir       _Candlemas or Easter Tu., before_, 1717
      XXVII. Wer sich selbst erhöht (47)               _17th after Trinity_, 1720
     XXVIII. Das ist je gewisslich wahr                     _3rd in Advent_,  ” †
       XXIX. Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe (22)             _Quinquagesima_, 1723
        XXX. Du wahrer Gott und Davids sohn[89] (23)                ”         ”
       XXXI. Die Elenden sollen essen (75)              _1st after Trinity_,  ” †
      XXXII. Die Himmel erzählen (76)                   _2nd after Trinity_,  ”
     XXXIII. Ein ungefärbt Gemüte (24)                  _4th after Trinity_,  ” †
      XXXIV. Ärgre dich, o Seele, nicht                 _7th after Trinity_,  ”
       XXXV. Ihr die ihr euch von Christo nennet       _13th after Trinity_,  ” †
      XXXVI. Preise, Jerusalem (119) (_Municipal_)            _24th August_,  ”
     XXXVII. Höchsterwünschtes] Freudenfest
               (_Church festival at Stoermthal_)             _2nd November_,  ”
    XXXVIII. Christen, ätzet diesen Tag (63)                _Christmas day_,  ” †
      XXXIX. Dazu ist erschienen (40)                   _2nd Christmas day_,  ” †
         XL. Sehet, welch’ eine Liebe (64)              _3rd Christmas day_,  ” †
        XLI. Gottlob, nun geht das Jahr zu
               Ende (28)                           _Sunday after Christmas_, 1723-7†
       XLII. Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied               _New Year’s day_, 1724†
      XLIII. Schau, lieber Gott.                    _Sunday after New Year_,  ” †
       XLIV. Sie werden aus Saba (65)                            _Epiphany_,  ”
        XLV. Mein liebster Jesus ist verloren          _1st after Epiphany_,  ” †
       XLVI. Jesus schläft (81)                        _4th after Epiphany_,  ”
      XLVII. Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde (83)                  _Candlemas_,  ”
     XLVIII. Christ lag in Todesbanden (4)                      _Easterday_,  ” †
       XLIX. Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen (12)          _4th after Easter_,  ” †
          L. Erschallet, ihr Lieder                            _Whitsunday_, 1724†
         LI. Erwünschtes Freudenlicht                     _Whitsun Tuesday_,  ” †
        LII. O heilges Geist und Wasserbad                 _Trinity Sunday_,  ” †
       LIII. Siehe zu, dass deine Gottesfurcht          _2nd after Trinity_,  ”
        LIV. Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele, No.I.(69)      _12 thafter Trin._,  ”
         LV. Herr Gott, dich loben wir (16)                _New Year’s day_, 1721-7[90]
        LVI. Alles nur nach Gottes Willen (72)         _3rd after Epiphany_,  ”
       LVII. Herr, wie du willt (73)                   _3rd after Epiphany_,  ”
      LVIII. Nimm, was dein ist, und gehe hin.               _Septuagesima_,  ”
        LIX. Leichtgesinnte Flattergeister                     _Sexagesima_,  ”
         LX. Halt im Gedächtniss Jesum Christ (67)       _1st after Easter_,  ”
        LXI. Du Hirte Israëls (104)                      _2nd after Easter_,  ”
       LXII. Wo gehst du hin                             _4th after Easter_,  ”
      LXIII. Wahrlich, ich sage euch (86)                _5th after Easter_,  ”
       LXIV. Sie werden euch in den’ Bann thun (44) Sunday after Ascension_,  ”
        LXV. O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort (20)             _1st after Trinity_,  ”
       LXVI. Ihr Menschen, rühmet GottesLiebe             _S. John Baptist_,  ”
      LXVII. Erforsche mich, Gott (136)                 _8th after Trinity_,  ”
     LXVIII. Thue Rechnung                              _9th after Trinity_,  ”
       LXIX. Herr, gehe nicht in’s Gericht (105)                  ”           ”
        LXX. Schauet doch und sehet (46)               _10th after Trinity_,  ”
       LXXI. Du sollst Gott, deinen Herren lieben (77) _13th after Trinity_,  ”
      LXXII. Liebster Gott, wann werd’ ich sterben (8) _16th after Trinity_,  ”
     LXXIII. Es erhub sich ein Streit (19)                     _Michaelmas_, 1725†
      LXXIV. Ich lasse dich nicht (_Mourning at Pomssen_)    _6th February_, 1727
       LXXV. Wünschet Jerusalem Glück (_Municipal_)           _25th August_,  ”
      LXXVI. Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht (52)     _23rd after Trinity_, 1727-34
     LXXVII. Widerstehe doch der Sünde (53)                      ”            ”
    LXXVIII. Schlage doch, gewünschte Stunde (54)                             ”
      LXXIX. Meine Seele rühmt und preiset                                    ”
       LXXX. Wer nur den lieben Gott (93)               _5th after Trinity_, 1728†
      LXXXI. Gott, man lobei dich (120) (_Municipal_)              _before_, 1730
     LXXXII. Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe[91]                  _Christmas day_, 1729-30†
    LXXXIII. Gott, wie dein Name                           _New Year’s day_,  ” †
     LXXXIV. Sehet, wir gehen hinauf gen Jerusalem              _Quinquag._,  ” †
      LXXXV. Auf, mein Herz                                _Easter Tuesday_,  ” †
     LXXXVI. Ich steh mit einem Fuss im Grabe            _3rd after Epiph._, 1730†
    LXXXVII. Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinge                 (_Wedding_),  ” †
   LXXXVIII. Ein’ feste Burg (80) (_Reformation Festival_)      _31st Oct._, 1730†
     LXXXIX. Erhöhtes Fleisch und Blut[92]          _Whitsun Monday, about_,  ”
         XC. Schwingt freudig euch empor (36)           1st in Adv., about_   ”
        XCI. Ich habe meine Zuversicht                 _21st after Trinity_, 1730-31
       XCII. Wer da gläubet und getauft wird (37)               _Ascension_, 1731†
      XCIII. Dem Gerechten muss das Licht                       (_Wedding_),  ” †
       XCIV. Es ist das Heil (9)                        _6th after Trinity_,  ” †
        XCV. Herr, deine Augen sehen (102)             _10th after Trinity_,  ” †
       XCVI. Geist und Seele wird verwirret (35)         _12th after Trin._,  ” †
      XCVII. Wir danken dir, Gott (29)(_Municipal_)             _27th Aug._,  ”
     XCVIII. Es ist nichts Gesundes (25)               _14th after Trinity_,  ” †
       XCIX. Wer weiss, wie nahe mir mein Ende (27)    _16th after Trinity_,  ”
          C. Man singet mit Freuden vom Sieg                   _Michaelmas_,  ”
         CI. Ich glaube, lieber Herr (109)             _21st after Trinity_,  ” †
        CII. Ich armer Mensch (55)                     _22nd after Trinity_,  ” †
       CIII. Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (140)       _27th after Trin._,  ”
        CIV. Ich habe genug (82)                                _Candlemas_, 1731-2
         CV. Ich bin vergnügt (84)                           _Septuagesima_,  ”
        CVI. Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt (112)       _2nd after Easter_,  ”
       CVII. Ich liebe den Höchsten                        _Whitsun Monday_,  ”
      CVIII. Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen (51)          _15th after Trin._,  ”
        CIX. Gott soll allein mein Herze haben           _18th after Trin._,  ”
         CX. Ich will den Kreuzstab (56)               _19th after Trinity_,  ”
        CXI. Ich geh’ und suche (49)                   _20th after Trinity_,  ” †
       CXII. Was Gott tut, das ist wolgetan,
               No I. (98)                              _21st after Trinity_,  ” †
      CXIII. Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott               _Trinity Sunday_, 1732
       CXIV. Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ           _4th after Trinity_,  ”
        CXV. Siehe, ich will viel Fischer (88)          _5th after Trinity_, 1732
       CXVI. Vergnügte Ruh                              _6th after Trinity_,  ” †
      CXVII. Es wartet alles auf dich                   _7th after Trinity_,  ”
     CXVIII. Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen
               König (137)                             _12th after Trinity_,  ”
       CXIX. Christus, der ist mein Leben (95)           _16th after Trin._,  ” †
        CXX. Was soll ich aus dir machen (89)            _22nd after Trin._,  ” †
       CXXI. O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort (60)            _24th after Trinity_,  ” †
      CXXII. Ach Gott wie manches Herzeleid (58)    _Sunday after New Year_, 1733
     CXXIII. Was Gott thut, das ist
               wohlgethan, No. II. (99)                _15th after Trinity_,  ” †
      CXXIV. In allen meinen Thaten (97)                                     1734
       CXXV. Nun danket alle Gott (_imperfect_)                     _about_   ”
      CXXVI. Lobet Gott in seinem Reichen
               (11) (_Oratorium_)                        _Ascension, about_   ”
     CXXVII. Was willst du dich betrüben (107)   _7th after Trinity, about_   ”
    CXXVIII. Sei Lob und Ehr’ dem höchsten Gut (117)                _about_   ”
      CXXIX. Was Gott thut, das ist wohlgethan, No. III.(100)       _about_   ”
       CXXX. Es ist ein trotzig und versagt Ding           _Trinity, after_  1732
      CXXXI. Unser Mund sei voll Lachens (110)           _Christmas, after_  1734
     CXXXII. Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal (_Jubilee music_)        _after_   ”
    CXXXIII. Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brod’ (39)           _Trinity, after_   ”
     CXXXIV. Es ist dir gesagt, Mensch (45)        _8th after Trin., after_   ”
      CXXXV. Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele, No. II.          _New Year’s day_, 1735
     CXXXVI. Wär’ Gott nicht mit uns (14)              _4th after Epiphany_,  ”
    CXXXVII. Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen (66)                  _Easter Monday_,  ”
   CXXXVIII. Ein Herz, das seinen Jesum[93] (134)          _Easter Tuesday_,  ”
     CXXXIX. Ich bin ein guter Hirt (85)                 _2nd after Easter_,  ”
        CXL. Ihr werdet weinen (103)                     _3rd after Easter_,  ”
       CXLI. Es ist euch gut, dass ich hingehe (108)     _4th after Easter_,  ”
      CXLII. Bisher habt ihr nichts gebeten (87)          _5th aft. Easter_,  ”
     CXLIII. Gott fähret auf mit Jauchzen (43)              _Ascension day_,  ”
      CXLIV. Auf Christi Himmelfahrt allein (128)
                                         _Ascension day_ (_second service_),  ”
       CXLV. Sie werden euch in den Bann tun       _Sunday after Ascension_, 1735
      CXLVI. Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort (74)          _Whitsunday_,  ”
     CXLVII. Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt (68)             _Whitsun Mon._,  ”
    CXLVIII. Er rufet seine Schafe mit Namen              _Whitsun Tuesday_,  ”
      CXLIX. Was frag’ ich nach der Welt (94)           _9th after Trinity_,  ”
         CL. Wo soll ich fliehen hin (5)               _19th after Trinity_,  ”
        CLI. Gott, der Herr, ist Sonn und Schild (79)  _21st after Trinity_,  ” †
       CLII. Ich freue mich in dir (133)                _3rd Christmas day_,  ”
      CLIII. Jesu, nun sei gepreiset (41)                  _New Year’s day_, 1736
       CLIV. Bleib’ bei uns (6)                             _Easter Monday_,  ”
        CLV. Wer Dank opfert (17)              _14th after Trinity, before_  1737
       CLVI. O Jesu Christ, mein’s Lebens Licht (118)                         ”
      CLVII. Gott ist unsere Zuversicht[94]                     (_Wedding_), 1737-8
     CLVIII. Freue dich erlöste Schaar (30)               _S. John Baptist_, 1738
       CLIX. O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe (34)         _Whitsunday_, 1740-1
        CLX. Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ (116)    _25th after Trinity_, 1744
       CLXI. Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (62)       _1st Sunday in Advent_, 1736-44
      CLXII. Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ (91)             _Christmas day_,  ”
     CLXIII. Christum wir sollen loben schon            _2nd Christmas day_,  ”
      CLXIV. Selig ist der Mann (57)                             ”            ” †
       CLXV. Süsser Trost, mein Jesus kommt             _3rd Christmas day_   ” †
      CLXVI. Das neugeborne Kindelein (122)        _Sunday after Christmas_,  ”
     CLXVII. Liebster Immanuel (123)                             _Epiphany_,  ”
    CLXVIII. Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen (32)        _1st after Epiphany_,  ” †
      CLXIX. Meinen Jesum lass ich nicht (124)                   ”            ”
       CLXX. Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen (13)          _2nd after Epiphany_,  ” †
      CLXXI. Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid (3)                 ”            ”
     CLXXII. Was mein Gott will, das
               g’scheh’ allzeit (111)                  _3rd after Epiphany_, 1736-44
    CLXXIII. Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin (125)           _Candlemas_,  ”
     CLXXIV. Ich hab’ in Gottes Herz und Sinn (92)               _Septuag._,  ”
      CLXXV. Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’ Mensch und Gott (127)  _Quinquagesima_,  ”
     CLXXVI. Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbaths (42)     _1st after Easter_,  ” †
    CLXXVII. Ach Gott vom Himmel sieh darein (2)        _2nd after Trinity_,  ”
   CLXXVIII. Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele                        ”            ”
      LXXIX. Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam (7)         _S. John Baptist_,  ”
      CLXXX. Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort (126)    _6th after Trinity_,  ”
     CLXXXI. Meine Seele erhebet den Herren (10)    _Visitation of S. Mary_,  ”
    CLXXXII. Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz (138)   _15th after Trinity_,  ” †
   CLXXXIII. Nun ist das Heil and die Kraft (50)               _Michaelmas_,  ”
    CLXXXIV. Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir (130)                    ”        ”
     CLXXXV. Ach lieben Christen, seid getrost (114)   _17th after Trinity_,  ”
    CLXXXVI. Herr Christ der ein’ge Gottessohn (96)    _18th after Trinity_,  ”
   CLXXXVII. Ich elender Mensch (48)                   _19th after Trinity_,  ”
  CLXXXVIII. Aus tiefer not schrei ich zu dir (38)     _21st after Trinity_,  ”
    CLXXXIX. Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit (115)      _22nd after Trinity_,  ”
        CXC. Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig (26)    _24th after Trinity_,  ”
       CXCI. Es reifet euch ein schrecklich Ende (90)  _25th after Trinity_,  ”
      CXCII. Ihr Pforten zu Zion (_Municipal_)
              _composed in Leipzig_.[95]
     CXCIII. Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder (135)         _3rd after Trinity._
      CXCIV. Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält       _8th after Trinity._
       CXCV. Nimm von uns, Herr (101)                 _10th after Trinity._
      CXCVI. Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut (113)  _11th after Trinity._
     CXCVII. Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (33)     _13th after Trinity._
    CXCVIII. Jesu, der du meine Seele (78)            _14th after Trinity._
      CXCIX. Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott (139) _23rd after Trinity._
         CC. Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (1)         _Annunciation._


[1] The lines on this print are given by Spitta, vol. i. p. 9:—

  _Hier siehst du geigen Hansen Bachen,
  Wenn du es hörst, so mustu lachen.
  Er geigt gleichwohl nach seiner Art
  Und trägt einen hübschen Hans Bachens Bart._

[2] Spitta, i. 160. The genealogist, however, in a list of thirty-seven
musicians, signalises one drunkard, Johann Friedrich, the third son of
the great Johann Christoph: _ibid._ 139.

[3] _Ausdrückend_ was the distinctive title associated to his
great-uncle by Philipp Emanuel Bach: Spitta, i. 50.

[4] According to the new style the day is the 31st. Handel was born
a month earlier; and English notices, since the year in this country
began on the 25th of March, place his birthday in 1684. That this
should create a misconception in the minds of foreign writers was
natural; but it is curious that they have all failed to detect the
source of the confusion, and unanimously exposed an imaginary error.

[5] _Bach-Gesellschaft_, II. No. 15.

[6] They are a fugue in C minor, and a prelude and fugue in the same
key, printed in Peters’ collected edition of the instrumental works,
series v. pt. 4. 9 and 5.

[7] Dr. Spitta analyses the characteristics of Bach’s pedal-use in
these early fugues as (1) incidental, for a single emphasis, (2)
in cadences, and (3) as a pedal-point to strengthen a prolonged
fundamental harmony: i. 243 f.

[8] To the latter part of the stay at Arnstadt are attributed the
preludes and fugues in C and A minor (Peters, v. 3. 7, 9) and a
fantasia in G (v. 4. 11). Another fantasia and a fugue, both in G
and presumably of the same period, remain in MS., one in the Berlin
library, the other in the possession of the present cantor of S.
Thomas’s, Leipzig, Dr. Wilhelm Rust.

[9] Besides the pieces mentioned below, a prelude and fugue in E flat
(a MS. in Dr. Rust’s possession), and a fugue in E minor seem to belong
to the Arnstadt period, if indeed this latter does not date as far back
as Lueneburg. It appears at No. 212, p. 12, of Peters’ cheap edition,
to which, as the most generally accessible, I always refer for the
clavichord works.

[10] Another _capriccio_, which may be even earlier than the preceding,
has in one copy the interesting heading, _In honorem Joh. Christoph.
Bachii_, his brother and old preceptor at Ohrdruf (No. 216, p. 2).

[11] Bach’s appointment is dated 14th June, 1707. The signatures of
three members of the consistory are absent; they offer a pathetic
excuse. Their houses had just been burnt to the ground in a great fire
that had laid waste much of the town, and they were destitute even of
the means of signing their names, _hätten keine Feder oder Tinte, wären
wegen des Unglücks so bestürzet, dass sie an keine Music dächten; wie
es die anderen Herren machten wären sie zufrieden_: Spitta, i. 851 f.

[12] The description of the scene, in somewhat sesquipedalian Latin, is
quoted by Spitta, i. 801.

[13] Note to Quintilian, _Inst. Orat._ i. xii. 3, in Spitta ii. 89.

[14] Forkel, _Life of J. S. Bach_, pp. 30 f., _E. T._, London, 1820.

[15] The early works for organ have already been enumerated, above pp.
21 f.

[16] An excellent catalogue of this edition is contained in Alfred
Doerffel’s _Thematisches Verzeichniss, u.s.w._, Leipzig, 1867.

[17] He might indeed just go too far, as we may see from the complaints
made against Bach when at Arnstadt (above p. 25).

[18] Handel too was a student of Legrenzi, as a motive in one of his
oratorios bears witness.

[19] Mattheson proposed the theme some years later, without stating its
derivation, to a candidate for examination on the organ: Spitta, i. 634

[20] This fugue is based upon the G minor violin-sonata, and possibly
was composed at Coethen.

[21] To this period belongs also a fragmentary _Fantasia_ in C minor,
preserved in MS. at Berlin.

[22] The inventory of Bach’s property at his death mentions among his
books August Pfeiffer’s _Anti-Calvinismus_. He certainly possessed
it at Coethen, as witnesses the inscription on a _Clavier-Büchlein_
written for his second wife.

[23] Their intimate relations may be illustrated by the fact that a
child of Bach’s, born in November, 1718, was christened after the
Prince and one of his brothers, who with a sister and two courtiers all
stood sponsors to the boy.

[24] Bernhard Bach came to occupy his father’s old post at Muehlhausen.
He afterwards studied law at Jena, but died there of a fever in 1739.

[25] Spitta, i. 665-669.

[26] A fifth, in A minor, remains in MS. at Berlin.

[27] Dr. Spitta argues in support of its genuineness, and is inclined
also to accept another one, at present unpublished, of which he quotes
the opening bars: vol. ii. p. 686.

[28] Add to these three detached minuets printed at 216, pp. 30 f.

[29] An early sonata and two _capriccios_ have already been noticed
above, p. 23.

[30] At Weimar he had already written a concerto in C minor, which
remains in MS. The arrangements for clavichord of Vivaldi’s violin
concertos (217) are of singular interest, as evidence of Bach’s view of
the requirements and capacities of the clavichord; but they cannot be
included in a list of his original works.

[31] The other three have been already included under the _concertante_

[32] Three of them have been excellently transcribed for the pianoforte
by Joachim Raff, and published at Leipzig by Rieter-Biedermann.

[33] Another composition for these instruments is one of the endless
varieties of the _Musikalische Opfer_, but its position there removes
it somewhat from the field of Bach’s chamber works.

[34] Forkel, pp. 22 f.

[35] Goerner has one claim to remembrance, since he lived to draw
out the stops for Mozart when he made his historical visit to the
Thomaskirche in 1789.

[36] Vol. ii. p. 52.

[37] To this class we may assign without hesitation the cantatas, _Ich
bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke_ (No. 84) and _Ich habe genug_ (No.
82). The latter is printed in a form which Bach afterwards gave to it,
changing the soprano into a bass _solo_. Possibly _Wer nur den lieben
Gott lässt walten_ (93) had a like origin: see Spitta, ii. 274 f., 302
f., 269 ff. A secular cantata of which the subject closely resembles
that of the two first-named works should seem to belong to the same
category: it is printed in the Bach-Gesellschaft xi. (2) p. 105.

[38] _Ein Teuflisches Geplerr und Geleyer._ The expression occurs in
his treatise on Thorough Bass, printed by Spitta, ii. 913-950.

[39] Published by the Bach-Gesellschaft, xi. (2) p. 139. The music was
used again for the Coronation Festival in 1734.

[40] B.-G. xx. (2) p. 73; used again for the King’s birthday.

[41] B.-G. xi. (2) p. 3.

[42] This and the two following exist in MS. at Berlin.

[43] B.-G. xx. (2) p. 3. It was revived for a royal anniversary in 1736
or 1737.

[44] Cp. below, p. 106.

[45] The _Edifying Reflexions of a Tobacco-smoker_ are printed by C.
H. Bitter in his Life of Bach, vol. i. pp. 124 f. (Berlin, 1865), and
the music added in facsimile at the end. The words recall entirely the
old English song, _Tobacco’s but an Indian weed_, of Tom d’Urfey’s
_Pills to Purge Melancholy_, 1699, or Wither’s delicious verses, with
the refrain _Thus think and drink tobacco_, of which d’Urfey’s are a
_réchauffé_. But the English has not the analogy of the pipe and the
human soul carried into such detail as Bach’s text; witness the lines:—

  Wie oft geschieht’s nicht bei dem Rauchen,
  Dass, wenn der Stopfer nicht zu Hand,
  Man pflegt den Finger zu gebrauchen?
  Dann denk’ ich, wenn ich mich verbrannt,
  O macht die Kohle solche Pein;
  Wie heiss mag erst die Hölle sein.

[46] The two comic cantatas have been published by S. W. Dehn in two
editions; the second is issued by C. A. Klemm at Leipzig.

[47] Three are mentioned: one is lost; the second probably dates from
Coethen, and is published by the Bach-Gesellschaft, xi. (2) p. 75; and
the third had already been used for certainly three occasions before it
was adapted to a marriage festival, it seems in 1749.

[48] Possibly we should add a cantata which seems to belong to some
court festival, and exists in private hands at Dresden: Spitta, ii. 450

[49] MS. at Berlin.

[50] Afterwards absorbed into the church cantata, _Erhöhtes Fleisch und

[51] Afterwards re-written as church cantata No. 35.

[52] The _Trauer-Ode_ is published in the Bach-Gesellschaft, xiii. p. 3.

[53] Of this sort Bach is only known to have written three cantatas, of
which two remain. One, _Non sà che sia dolore_, lies in MS. at Berlin;
the other, _Amore traditore_, is printed by the Bach-Gesellschaft, xi.
(2) p. 93.

[54] All but No. 2 have been published at Leipzig by Breitkopf and
Haertel: a few others are of doubtful genuineness.

[55] Preface to the twentieth volume, first division, of the

[56] Vol. ii. pp. 335 ff.

[57] Vol. ii. pp. 338-346.

[58] Sometimes in Italy the oratorio was actually presented with all
the scenic accessories of the opera, just as Liszt’s _Saint Elisabeth_
was performed at Weimar, in 1881.

[59] The only change is by way of addition, namely, of two place from
S. Matthew xxvi. 75, xxvii. 51, 52, to the distinct invigoration of the
somewhat colourless narrative of the fourth Gospel.

[60] G. A. Macfarren, preface to Novello’s edition of the _Passion_, p.

[61] In the interval it had apparently formed part of the Passion music
written for 1725, of which indeed it remains the solitary relic. See
above, p. 89.

[62] This idea had already suggested itself to Telemann, in his _S.
Mark Passion_; and before him it had been used by Heinrich Schuetz in
his _Seven Words_. Another method had been to give Christ’s words to a
chorus, as though too great for any single voice: Spitta, vol. ii. pp.
374 f.

[63] The smaller masses are in G major and minor, A, and F; the two
former are simple adaptations of pieces from the church cantatas. All
are of later composition than the _S. Matthew Passion_; those in G and
A apparently dating from about 1737. The four Masses are printed in the
eighth volume of the Bach-Gesellschaft. A _Christe eleison_ in C minor
and four _Sanctuses_ (B.-G. xi. pt. 1) complete the list of Bach’s
Latin works.

[64] As already mentioned, p. 65, the _Kyrie_ and _Gloria_ of the High
Mass were written for Dresden and dedicated to the king on the 27th
of July, 1733; the _Credo_ may have been composed for use at Leipzig
even a year or two earlier. The completion of the whole cannot be fixed
later than 1738.

[65] Bach’s thankfulness has often this same emotional tenour. In
the Mass it is made conspicuous by the identity of the music of the
_Dona nobis_ with that of the _Gratias agimus_. The subject is an
old church one. Bach had used it before in the great chorus of his
Rathswahl-Cantate of 1731, _Wir danken dir, Gott_ (No. 29), where
the similar, but different and less elaborate treatment of the same
subject—the second subject also is all but identical—offers an
instructive study.

[66] Forkel, p. 87.

[67] See above, p. 53.

[68] One good he got from it. The town having awoke to the advantage
of hearing good music, it became more liberal in the arrangements, and
especially the financial arrangements of the Thomaskirche. It had slept
apparently through the _S. Matthew Passion_.

[69] The title is often given in French as the _Clavecin bien tempéré_;
but this is confusing, for the works were never intended for the
harpsichord (_clavecin_), but for the more expressive clavichord

[70] “You will then,” he adds, “surely become an able musician.”

[71] An early form of the prelude and fugue in G (in the second part)
will be found in No. 214, p. 42, and yet another prelude to the same
fugue at p. 44. The relation of these essays to their inimitable
successor is full of suggestion. Similarly the prelude and fugue in A
flat (also in the second part) were at first written in F. See 214, p.

[72] It is interesting to compare the great organ-fugues, as that in G
which dates from 1724-5, or that in C from 1730.

[73] Pp. 57 f, cp. 68 f.

[74] The most scholarly edition of the _Wohltemperirte Clavier_ was
prepared by Franz Kroll for the Bach-Gesellschaft, and appears in the
fourteenth volume. Kroll has also brought out a reprint of the text in
Peters’ cheap series, by far the most convenient for students, since
it is unencumbered by the additions of later pianoforte-music makers,
marks of _tempo_, emphasis, &c.

[75] Not, however, by his sons’ hands, as is commonly stated. The
_Kunst der Fuge_ is edited by Dr. Rust in the twenty-fifth volume of
the Bach-Gesellschaft (first division): its study should be accompanied
by Moritz Hauptmann’s musician-like _Erläuterungen_, published by

[76] It was published in 1752. The only works that appeared in Bach’s
lifetime were the five parts of the _Clavier-Uebung_ containing
clavichord and organ compositions, the _Musikalische Opfer_, and a
_Canon_ written for Mizler’s Musical Society.

[77] The chorale was added in the first edition of the _Kunst der
Fuge_, and its place there, though musically irrelevant, is surely
justified by a fine sentiment. Forkel touchingly says, “The expression
of pious resignation, and devotion in it, have always affected me
whenever I have played it; so that I can hardly say which I would
rather miss—this chorale, or the end of the last fugue,” p. 91. The
rigour of criticism has of course relegated the piece to the category
of organ-works (vii. 58).

[78] Forkel, p. 78.

[79] Forkel, p. 28.

[80] See Spitta, vol. i. 713; ii. 124f.: and compare W. S. Rockstro’s
article, _Orchestration_, in Mr. Grove’s _Dictionary of Music and

[81] A second edition appeared in London in 1878. There are few more
amusing examples of ardent hero-worship than this collection contains.
Bach is first “our Demi-God,” “our grand Hero,” “our Sacred Musician,”
“our Apollo,” “this marvellous Man.” At length Wesley’s rhetoric fails,
and his idol becomes “THE MAN (which expression I prefer to any epithet
of _great_, or _wonderful_, &c., which are not only common, but _weak_,
as is every other epithet applied to one whom none can sufficiently
praise),” p. 36.

[82] Curiously enough, Johann Adam Hiller, a respectable musician and a
successor of Bach at the Thomasschule, admired Bach’s counterpoint and
part-writing, but found his melodies “odd” (_sonderbar_).

[83] The detailed arguments in favour of this arrangement will be found
in Spitta, vol. i. pp. 225-230; 339-350; 369-372; 438-461; 480-507;
525-565; 790 f.; 797-801; 803-814; vol. ii. 181-306; 545-569; 774-790;
791-810; 830-838: with which compare the various prefaces in the
edition of the Bach-Gesellschaft, vols. i.-xxviii.

[84] An incomplete work discovered by Dr. Spitta in the chantry at
Langula near Muehlhausen: vol. i. pp. 339 f.

[85] Printed by the Bach-Gesellschaft, xiii. (1), p. 73.

[86] Printed in J. P. Schmidt’s Kirchengesänge.

[87] Printed in the same.

[88] Rewritten as No. 80 of the _B.-G._

[89] Originally intended as the _Probe-Stück_ for his post at Leipzig,
but discarded in favour of the preceding number. Perhaps it was
produced on the same Sunday in the following year.

[90] The dates of Nos. LVI.-LXXIII. do not admit of an exact

[91] Fragment afterwards mainly absorbed into a marriage cantata (No.
XCIII.) printed by the Bach-Gesellschaft, xiii. (1), p. 3.

[92] Rewritten from a Coethen serenade: see above, p. 79, n. 3.

[93] Rewritten from a secular cantata: see above, p. 79, n. 1.

[94] Printed by the Bach-Gesellschaft, xiii. (1), p. 97.

[95] This and the eight following numbers are of uncertain date.



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