On-line Book Review



Dimension 26.2 x 18.5 x 2.0 cm
TITLE About Bach, edited by Gregory G. Butler, George B. Stauffer and Mary Dalton Greer.
PUBL. DETAILS Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2008. xi, 216p. Hardback, $30.00.
ISBN 978-0-252-03344-5
TO ORDER University of Illinois Press, 1325 South Oak Street, MC-566, Champaign, IL 61820-6903, USA
DESCRIPTION A series of essays honouring the Bach scholarship of Christoph Wolff, compiled by his colleagues and students, which demonstrates the far-reaching aspects of Bach’s musical influence.
WORKS COVERED BWV 11, 21-4, 26, 65, 71, 75-6, 80, 82, 149, 185, 190, 196, 198, 203, 207a, 209, 212, 214-5, 224, 227, 232, 244, 247-8, 772-801, 806-817, 825-31, 846-893, 971, 988, 1030, 1032, 1047, 1049-50, 1057, 1061a, 1067, 1079, 1080, Anh. I 11, 14, 196.
READERSHIP Musicologists, performers, general.
RESEARCH CONTRIBUTION Analytical and contextual studies offering new perspectives on old topics.

A bout Bach, a collection of fifteen essays, seems an appropriate way to honour a scholar devoted to the diverse aspects of J.S. Bach’s life and works, precisely because multifaceted, interdisciplinary and interrelated research has become the hallmark of Bach studies today.

It is clear that Christoph Wolff’s devotion to his subject and students has born great fruit. The volume fills a void in Bach research by combining a range of specialised studies on a variety of current issues. Due to a renewed interest in the intricacies of Bach’s vocal music, essays on this particular subject are of special relevance. Placing the vocal works in contexts outside of themselves, these studies offer intriguing theories on their origin and purpose.

In the opening essay Kathryn Welter proposes that Pachelbel’s treatise Deutliche Anweisung provides much needed information about his organ instruction methodology. Although it does not directly concern Bach, Welter’s analysis of Johann Eckelt’s tablature manuscript offers valuable insights into the teaching styles of the Baroque era, common to Bach’s day.

Contents in brief
  • Welter, Kathryn: A Master Teacher Revealed: Johann Pachelbel's Deutliche Anweisung.
  • Dalton Greer, Mary: From the House of Aaron to the House of Johann Sebastian: Old Testament Roots for the Bach Family Tree.
  • Fisher, Alexander J.: Combinatorial Modeling in the Chorus Movement of Cantata 24, Ein ungefärbt Gemüte.
  • Melamed, Daniel R.: Choral Unison in J.S. Bach's Vocal Music.
  • Ochs, Michael: You Say Sabachthani and I Say Asabthani: A St. Matthew Passion Puzzle.
  • Scheide, William H.: Sein Segen fliesst daher wie ein Strom, BWV Anh. I 14: A Source for Parodied Arias in the B-Minor Mass.
  • Schulze, Hans-Joachim: Johann Friedrich Schweinitz, 'A Disciple of the Famous Herr Bach in Leipzig'.
  • Chen, Jen-Yen: Johann Christian Bach and the Church Symphony.
  • Butler, Gregory G.: Scribes, Engravers, and Notational Styles: The Final Disposition of Bach's Art of Fugue.
  • Koopman, Ton: Notes on J.S. Bach and Basso Continuo Realization.
  • Stauffer, George B.: Music for 'Cavaliers et Dames': Bach and the Repertoire of His Collegium Musicum.
  • Talle, Andrew: A Print of Clavierübung I from J.S. Bach's Personal Library.
  • Hill, Robert: Carl Reinecke's Performance of Mozart's Larghetto and the Nineteenth-Century Practice of Quantitative Accentuation.
  • Risinger, Mark: 'Grand Miscellaneous Acts': Observations on Oratorio Performance in London after Haydn.
  • Seaton, Douglass: Back from B-A-C-H: Schumann's Symphony No. 2 in C Major.


The Piano in Nineteenth-Century British Culture. Instruments, Performers and Repertoire, edited by Therese Ellsworth and Susan Wollenberg
Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing (2007) xxv, 270p. Hardback, £55.00 / $99.00.

Mary Dalton Greer suggests that Bach’s reading of Leviticus 25 prompted his compilation of a six-generation family tree. She also proposes that Cantata BWV 196, Der Herr Denket an uns, may be Bach’s own wedding cantata. Greer’s comparison of Psalm 115 and the cantata, exemplifies the need for broader research in Bach’s works, specifically his vocal works. In so doing, she has provided a possible answer to the old question: “Why did Bach write this work?”

Alexander Fisher offers a new and exciting perspective on understanding Bach’s music through a synthesis of existing materials, examining specific links between Cantatas BWV 21, Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis, and BWV 24, Ein ungefärbt Gemüte, (from Bach’s late Weimar and Leipzig periods respectively). His suggestion that Bach reused old material because he needed new material and wanted to stretch the limits of form is a point worthy of consideration.

Daniel Melamed’s essay identifies possible motivating factors of Bach’s unison choral writing. His careful examination of each composition containing choral unisons (BWVs 198, 245, 71) leads him to conclude that Bach’s use of unison underscored, as well as clarified, the importance of the text. This essay opens further avenues for the study of Bach’s compositional techniques as Melamed yet again brings Bach’s skills as a master composer to light.

Michael Ochs offers an interesting new perspective on Bach’s use of “eli, eli lama asabthani”, found in the score of the St. Matthew Passion. He demonstrates that it is not an coincidence that both Bach’s autograph and Johann Christoph Farlau’s 1756 copy read asabthani. Ochs’ remarkably careful study of the texts leads the reader to seek other similar examples of Bach’s text settings, including a detailed study of all the St. Matthew Passion texts.

Previous research has led scholars to conclude that Bach’s use of parody was much more of a common occurrence than previously thought. Many scholars (e.g. Dürr, Stauffer, Marshall, Kobayashi and Smend among others) have examined Bach’s use of parody in the B-minor Mass. William H. Scheide’s examination of the arias from Bach’s B-minor Mass, comparing each aria with a movement from his lost wedding cantata, Sein Segen fliesst daher wie ein Strom, BWV Anh. 14 is an example of this trend. By matching the musical imagery from these arias to the Cantata’s texts, Scheide presents a plausible source for the other eight arias, thus providing a glimpse into the working schemes of a composer who skilfully reuses and transforms his own works to fit his needs.

Ton Koopman’s study of basso continuo sources during and around Bach’s lifetime provides information that touches on every area of Bach studies. Focusing on documents written after 1750 and referencing the Voß manuscript, Koopman lists basso continuo rules that were common in Bach’s day. The Voß manuscript is especially interesting as it includes realisations of many Bach scores, including the St. John Passion. From these sources Koopman concludes that doubling never occurred due to intonation issues. The reference to the Musicalishe Handleitung as the most important contemporary source for this subject invites Bach scholars and performers to explore a helpful resource.

Other essays range in subject from Schulze’s insightful introduction to Schweinitz, a long forgotten pupil of J.S. Bach, to J.C Bach’s musically monumental form, the sinfonia da chiesa. Butler’s fascinating discoveries concerning the conception of the Art of Fugue and Stauffer’s work on the Leipzig Collegium Musicum repertory both offer new insights. Talle’s provocative essay, which contradicts Jones’s claim of discovering the Handexemplar of the Clavierübung I challenges earlier research, while Welte, Risinger and Seaton provide interesting analyses of post-Bach music.

These essays, linked by their relation to the great composer, demonstrate the ways in which Bach’s influence recapitulates over time. The scholars represented in this volume remind the world of Bach studies that there is much yet to understand About Bach.

Published online on 12 October 2009