Return to Homepage

On-line Book Review

YO TOMITA


FRONT COVER OVERVIEW

Dimension: 24 x 16.5 x 2.5 cm

TITLE The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach. Volume 1: 1695-1717. Music to Delight the Spirit by Richard D. P. Jones.
PUBL. DETAILS Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. xiv+335p. Price: £75 (hard back)
ISBN 0-19-816440-8
TO ORDER Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford, OX2 6DP, UK.
SUMMARY
DESCRIPTION A monograph examining Bach's early works through a detailed study of the composer's creative development.
WORKS COVERED BWV 4, 12, 18, 21, 31, 54, 61, 63, 70a, 71, 80a, 106, 131-2, 143, 147a, 150, 152, 155, 161-3, 165, 172, 182, 185, 186a, 196, 199, 202, 208, 223, 232, 244-5, 248, 527, 531-3, 535-6, 538, 540-3, 545a, 549a, 550-1, 563-6, 569-70, 572, 574b, 575, 578-9, 582, 588-9, 592-6, 599-644, 651a-67a, 668, 690, 694-5, 700, 706, 709-15, 717-22, 724-27, 731, 733-5, 737-9, 741-2, 770, 776-8, 798, 806-17, 820-3, 826, 830-3, 846-93, 894-6, 899, 903, 910-17, 921-3, 944, 946-51, 954-5, 957, 963, 965-7, 972-87, 988-9, 992-3, 996-8, 1001-6, 1013, 1026, 1044, 1046-52, 1061, 1063, 1066-9, 1080, 1085, 1090-1121, Anh.I 192, 200.
READERSHIP Students and scholars studying Bach's music, esp. from style analysis.
RESEARCH CONTRIBUTION Style analysis; chronology of Bach's early works.

T

his is the first volume of an anticipated two-volume series examining Bach’s complete works. This volume supposes to examine all ‘authenticated’ compositions that Bach wrote in his youthful years before he left Weimar for Cöthen.

Discussing in two distinct parts — Formative Years (c. 1695-c. 1709) and First Maturity (c.1709-1717) — the author attempts to demonstrate how Bach’s creative development can be traced in his compositions. Through careful analysis of music, Jones identifies key aspects of Bach’s musical fabric, forms, styles and techniques that develop and mature, capturing a fascinating image of ‘Bach the supreme composer’. To me Jones does this to a level that has never been attempted and succeeded before.

Contents

List of Abbreviations

Part I  Formative Years (c.1695-c.1709)

1  Introduction

2  The sonata and other genres

3  Fugue and fantasy I

4  The Neumeister Collection and other organ chorales

5  The early cantatas

6  Conclusion

Part II  First maturity (c.1709-1717)

1  Introduction

2  The concerto and other genres

3  Fugue and fantasy II

4  The Orgelbüchlein and other chorales

5  The Weimar Cantatas

6  Conclusion

Bibliography

Index of Bach's works

General Index

The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach. Volume 1: 1695-1717. Music to Delight the Spirit by Richard D. P. Jones.
Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. xiv+335p. Price: £75 (hard back)

How it looks

Unlike other commentators, Jones chose not to discuss individual pieces in chronological (albeit hypothetically) or BWV order, but in groups of pieces of the same genre from roughly the same period. In Part I, he starts with ‘the sonata and other genres’ in which he covers suites, sonata, capriccio, sonata-fugue and toccata, and moves on to discuss more substantial genres in depth. Likewise Part II begins with a section called ‘the concerto and other genres’ where concerto transcriptions, toccata, sonata, suite, variations are discussed in small sections before moving on to the discussion of well-known compositions.

This classified discussion happened to be particularly effective as he was able to draw similarities and differences within the same genre, often providing opportunities for him to speculate various possibilities, e.g. Bach was under the influence of other composers, ambitiously exploring various ideas, etc. By placing against the background of rich musical scenes as possible sources for Bach’s learning, Bach’s shortcomings, strengths and other compositional accomplishments are highlighted, which Jones tracks convincingly to the later stage of Bach’s compositional development. In addition, he suggests the dates of Bach’s youthful works that cannot be dated by source evidence alone, which is another of his fine contribution to scholarship.

Every new book tries to fill some gaps of our knowledge. In Bach Studies, it is not too difficult to find them, as the frequent appearance of monographs shows. To me, however, what is more important is the significance of their findings, the knowledge that convincingly explains mysteries, yet-to-be proven theories, and why Bach’s music sounds special to us. It is not easy to find the gaps of this kind. Although the recently rediscovered aria in May 2005 “Alles mit Gott und nichts ohn’ ihn” (BWV 1127) is omitted from his discussion, it is evident that this is a product of first-rate research, clearly filling a unique and important gap of knowledge in Bach scholarship. The language used by Jones is clear, cautious and logical, and is a model for every musicology student. It may not be a book that one enjoys reading from the beginning to the end in one sitting: many pages are filled with so detailed discussion of individual pieces that it is essential to have a score and time to digest his arguments. This much effort is definitely worth it.

Published on 18 August 2007