Simply... Philharmonic!2: Recorder in fugue 2.0 Filharmonia Narodowa

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Simply... Philharmonic!2: Recorder in fugue 2.0
Consort Brouillamini, photo: Arthur Beaulieu

After the death of his parents, in 1694 and 1695, the ten-year-old Johann Sebastian Bach left Eisenach for Ohrdruf, where he was cared for by his elder brother Johann Christoph, organist at the local church of St Michael the Archangel. We may suspect that Johann Christian possessed a music library, as is suggested by an entry in the Bach’s Nekrolog published four years after the composer’s death which mentions that the young Johann Sebastian pleaded with his brother to allow him access to books containing works by contemporary composers of music for keyboard instruments. When he was refused, he would pilfer a book and copy it out by moonlight. This anecdote appears to reflect the path of Bach’s self-tuition in the art of composition. His search for good models from other composers of this time was not confined solely to making handwritten copies of their works. He also transcribed them, as exemplified by his arrangement for solo keyboard instrument of five concertos from Antonio Vivaldi’s collection L’Estro Armonico, Op. 3. As the composer’s first biographer, Johann Nicolaus Forkel, states, it was Vivaldi’s works that taught Bach ‘musical thinking’.


Simply… Philharmonic! Project 2:

Exactly 300 years ago, in May 1723, Johann Sebastian Bach took up the post of cantor at St Thomas’s Church in Leipzig. His duties included providing the musical setting in the city’s principal churches, which led him to compose cantatas for the liturgical year. Yet Bach’s creative path began much earlier, during his teenage years, when he came under the care of his elder brother, Johann Christoph. It was there, as the anecdote goes, that he first tried copying out the works of German masters of keyboard music. In later years, however, he also took an interest in Italian and French music, copying out Charles Dieupart’s Six Suittes de clavessin, for example, and Girolamo Frescobaldi’s Fiori musicali, and he also transcribed concertos by Antonio Vivaldi and others. As a mature composer, he turned to nearly all the musical genres of his time, avoiding only opera. The Leipzig cantor’s compositional path was symbolically crowned with Die Kunst der Fuge, BWV 1080, which assured his standing in the history of music as a peerless master of fugue and counterpoint.

Daniel Laskowski