Return to Homepage

On-line Book Review


Dimension: 25.2 x 19.7 x 2.0 cm
TITLE The Keyboard in Baroque Europe, edited by Christopher Hogwood
PUBL. DETAILS Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, 2003); xviii+245p; £50.00 (US$75.00). Hardback
ISBN 0-521-81055-8
TO ORDER Cambridge University Press, The Edinburgh Building, Shaftesbury Road, Cambridge CB2 2RU, UK. Phone +44 (0)1223 312393; Fax +44 (0)1223 315052
DESCRIPTION A wonderful collection of twelve essays written by some of the leading scholar-performers on aspects of baroque keyboard music.
WORKS COVERED BWV 244, 248, 582, 599-644, 772-831, 846-893, 928, 971, 978, 988, 1046-51, 1072, 1079, 1080.
READERSHIP Students, scholars and serious performers of Bach's keyboard works.
RESEARCH CONTRIBUTION Each essay contributes to our better understanding of the topic being discussed.

he fact that this volume was dedicated to Gustav Leonhardt on his 75th birthday tells much of its contents. It contains 12 scholarly essays covering the period 1630-1790 that discuss the keyboard music of the Baroque with a distinct focus on J. S. Bach.

The range and focus of these essays seem to reflect Leonhardt’s significant and wide-ranging contributions to the performance of the Baroque repertoires. Of these twelve, six articles (nos. 5-10) concerns the works of J. S. Bach (nos. 5-8) and his sons (nos.9-10). For this review I shall concentrate on the portion of J. S. Bach.

Notes on the contributors



Alexander Silbiger: 'On Frescobaldi's recreation of the chaconne and the passacaglia'


Rudolf Rasch: 'Johann Jacob Froberger's travels 1649-1653'


Pieter Dirksen: 'New perspectives on Lynar A1'


Christopher Hogwood: 'Creating the corpus: the "Complete keyboard music" of Henry Purcell'



John Butt: 'Towards a genealogy of the keyboard concerto'.


Davitt moroney: 'Couperin, Marpurg and Roeser: a Germanic Art de Toucher le Clavecin, or a French Wahre Art?'


7. Christoph Wolff: 'Invention, composition and the improvement of nature: apropos Bach the teacher and practical philosopher'
8. Peter Williams: 'Is there an anxiety of influence discernible in J. S. Bach's Clavierübung I?'
9. David Schulenberg: ''Towards the most elegant taste': developments in keyboard accompaniment from J. S. to C. P. E. Bach.'
10. Peter Wollny: ''... welche dem größten Concerte gleichen': the polonaises of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach.'



Menno van Delft: ''Schnellen': a quintessential articulation technique in eighteenth-century keyboard playing.'


Robert D. Levin: 'Mozart's non-metrical keyboard preludes.'



Lars Ulrik Mortensen: 'J. S. Bach: Keyboard Partita in A minor after BWV 1004.'


should be read by everyone studying Bach’s keyboard works

Butt examines the background of a striking coincidence he noticed---namely in 1707-8 Bach and Handel independently wrote their first ‘organ concertos’ (i.e. organ obbligatos in Bach’s cantata 71 ‘Gott ist mein König’ and Handel’s oratorio ‘Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno’). Through his wide-ranging discussion touching on broader cultural issues and nearly a dozen key figures in the history of Western music in Europe, he concludes that it was the theory and practice of thoroughbass which gave Bach and Handel the necessary skills and knowledge to come up with what we now see as the birth of the keyboard concerto. One small question remains, however, as to the case of Vivaldi’s RV 779 (p.97) how it fits into the picture of Bach and Handel.

Moroney argues how Bach may have viewed the French approach to harpsichord teaching. Moroney argues that the use of thumb was much more widely practised in the French harpsichord playing, quite contrary to what we are often told that it was Bach who was the pioneer of this performance technique. Apart from this issue, I think his discussion on Marpurg is very valuable, especially when we consider his promotion of Bach’s works in the second half of the 18th century.

Wolff examines the fundamental premises of Bach’s compositional art and its communication through his teaching methods. He does this by first expanding his theory as to why Bach needed to make the fair copies of the Inventions and Sinfonia and the Well-Tempered Clavier (the idea he stated briefly in his monograph of 2000); he then explores in Bach’s compositions the elements of imitating and perfecting of nature, a fascinating reading of philosophical dimension, by revisiting the Scheibe-Birnbaum controversy. This is a very well-focused, insightful essay.

For me personally, however, it was Williams’s article which caught my attention the most. Using Harold Bloom’s theory of ‘power of influence in poetry’ as a metaphorical glue, Williams binds together a host of unique stylistic features that he noticed in Bach’s Clavierübung I, and discusses them as various modes and forms of ‘influence’. While acknowledging the difficulties in distinguishing between a more general scene of the changing tradition of music and the direct influence Bach may have received from a specific work by a specific composer, Williams boldly points out how Bach could have acquired some stylistic ideas from others such as Couperin and Rameau and how he reacted to them, positively or negatively. If you are looking for hard evidence and new facts, you may be disappointed; he raises many questions rather than offering answers, too. But Williams offers numerous leads into future directions of research, with his usual insightful comments on many stylistic aspects of the composition. It is a fascinating reading, and above all, very thought provoking.

In all, this is a wonderful collection of scholarly essays that should be read by everyone studying Bach’s keyboard works. If I am to list a small list of requests, then I have two wishes: (1) to provide much fuller references (in notes) and examples, so that readers can follow up the claims made by the authors; (2) to print the final chapter in larger type, so that we can play from the book.

Published online on 22 April 2004

Return to the previous page