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On-line Book Review



Dimension: 24 x 17 x 1.1 cm
TITLE Bach und Corelli: Studien zu Bachs Rezeption von Corellis 'Violinsonaten' op. 5 unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der "Passaggio-Orgelchoräle" und der langsamen Konzertsätze von Dominik Sackmann.
PUBL. DETAILS München-Salzburg: Musikverlag Katzbichler, 2000. 184p. Paperback. DM 78 / Euro 38.
ISBN 3-87397-095-3
TO ORDER Musikverlag Katzbichler, Zirnberg 5, D-94344 Wiesenfelden, Germany.
Tel: (+49) (0)9964 601 690; Fax: (+49) (0)9964 601 691 E-Mail:
DESCRIPTION a serious scholarly monograph, investigating Corelli's influence on Bach.
WORKS COVERED BWV 12, 21, 106, 146, 182, 208, 244, 402, 525, 529, 530-1, 564, 574, 579, 592-597, 599-691, 695, 706, 713, 715, 718, 720, 722, 725-6, 728-732, 734, 736, 738, 768-70, 807-9, 869, 916, 944, 971-78, 972-5, 979, 988, 996, 1001, 1003, 1019, 1029-30, 1035, 1040-43, 1046, 1052-65.
READERSHIP scholars working in the following fields: Bach's stylistic development, Italian influence in Bach’s works, style analysis, early organ chorales, Bach’s concerto movements.
RESEARCH CONTRIBUTION the most up-to-date and comprehensive research on Bach’s Corelli reception; systematic examination of the so-called ‘Arnstädter Gemindechoräle’

Arcangelo Corelli (1653–1713) is one of a few Italian composers whose names are frequently mentioned in Bach literatures, especially those that deal with the context in which the young Bach learned their Italianate style of writing, the style which was then regarded highly not only in Germany but also in further afield. It is thought that it had a significant contribution to Bach’s artistic development, as one can find the traces of its characteristic traits in his works.

Yet until when one actually tries to identity exactly what Corelli’s works Bach studied and how he acquainted them, it is difficult to measure the impact of his influence, for it could have come from various sources (including indirect influence via Bach’s contemporaries such as Reinken, Böhm and Telemann). It is surprising to find that despite Corelli’s fame and achievement in the history of Western music there was only a handful of research works on this subject before Sackmann pursued it here; it is in sharp contrast to the research on Vivaldi’s influence on Bach, which is one of the most popular study topics in this subject area. (See a list of literatures on Bach and Vivaldi in the Bach Bibliography). This may reflect the relative fames they respectively achieved; but it would seem more likely that it was lack of clear evidence in the case of Corelli that hindered facilitating the research. Source studies indicate fairly clearly, for instance, that Bach was amply exposed to the works of Vivaldi. A number of Bach’s transcription of Vivaldi’s concertos survive (i.e. BWV 972–3, 975–6, 978 and 980). In stark contrast, there is only one piece by Corelli, i.e. the fugue in B minor (BWV 579), which is modelled on the second movement of his op.3, no.4 (1689). In working on it Bach added an extra voice, while massively expanding it as an impressive fugue of 102 bars (Corelli’s original was in three-part texture, and 39 bars long); it not only manifests Bach’s great interest in Corelli’s style but also reveals Bach’s individuality, absorbing foreign elements as his own. Still, this was the limited extent to which we commonly regard as Bach’s understanding of Corelli’s music and, therefore, there is a plenty of room for Sackmann to expand the issue of Bach’s ‘Corelli reception’.

Contents in brief
I. Voraussetzungen für Johann Sebastian Bachs Begegnung mit Arcangelo Corelli
II. Johann Sebastian Bachs vermeintliche "Arnstädter Gemeindechoräle"
III. Arcangelo Corellis Agréments zu den langsamen Sätzen der Violinsonaten op.5
IV. Stationen von Bachs Rezeption des Corelli-Stils
V. Corelli-Rezeption und Bachs Melodik: Zusammenfassung und Ausblick
comprehensive research on Bach's Corelli reception

Sackmann’s investigation begins with a general historical survey as to how Bach might have encountered Corelli’s works (in particular his op.5), and how widely his works are known in Germany. His discussion on Bach’s preoccupation with the Italian music in general before 1713 (pp. 25–32) looks to me to be an excellent summary of this important topic, as it has been neglected by so many biographers of J. S. Bach. His extended discussion on the role played by Electoress Sophie Charlotte of Brandenburg may not be directly relevant here; nevertheless it is a fascinating case study demonstrating how the transmission of Corelli’s music was affected by social and political factors in a foreign soil. Further studies in the future may indeed reveal vital missing links that connect Bach and Corelli (and many other figures) more convincingly.

He then move on to argue two main points: (1) the so-called ‘Passaggio-Orgelchoräle’ or more commonly known as ‘Arnstädter Gemindechoräle’—a new genre of organ music distinguished from Bach’s other chorale preludes by the well-known criticism by the consistory on Bach’s organ playing after his extended trip to Lübeck (‘many curious variationes in the chorale, and mingled many strange tones in it, and for the fact that the Congregation has been confused by it’ [NBR, no.20 / BDok II, no.16]), viz. BWV 715, 722, 726, 729, 732, 738—and (2) slow movements (many from concertos) that shows stylistic reference to Corelli, viz. BWV 21/1, 622, 1041/2, 1043/2, 1046a/2, 1052/2, 1055/2, 1060/2, 1064/2. Sackmann’s approach is both systematic and cautious, which is essential when discussing such complex issues as style and authenticity, pursuing possibly all the conceivable aspects that are needed to be covered under each point. Both the coverage and his treatment of literatures are also fair and critical, making the style of his writing pleasant and secure.

One question emerges from reading this book: Corelli was primarily known as the composer of ‘trio sonatas’ (opp.1–4), and I wonder what pictures would emerge if one looks into this (e.g. BWV 525–530 and 1039)?

Published on-line on 9 February 2001

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