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On-line Book Review


outer box: page size 31 x 23.6 cm
TITLE Ernst Wacker, Bach-Gedenkjahr 2000. Johann Sebastian Bach. Das Wohltemperierte Clavier 1722. Besonderm ZeitVertreib aufgesetzt. Die Zeit-Ortung des Werkes aus der Musica Poetica und Tonometrie des Komponisten neu erschlossen und der geistlichen hausmusik zurückgegeben.
PUBL. DETAILS Verlag Graffiti. Werner Fuchs & Ralf Henning, Kaiserstraße 80, 77933 Lahr, Germany.
ISBN n/a
TO ORDER Verlag Graffiti. Werner Fuchs & Ralf Henning, Kaiserstraße 80, 77933 Lahr, Germany. Email: or FAX: +49 (0)7821-43216
DESCRIPTION Edition and commentary of Well-Tempered Clavier, book 1, from theological perspective
WORKS COVERED BWV 846-869 (still incomplete at the time of review)
READERSHIP Bach Enthusiasts, esp. numerology and WTC I
RESEARCH CONTRIBUTION Highly speculative theological interpretation of Bach's music.

E ntitled ‘Bach Memorial Year 2000’, this publication looks totally unique. Physically, it consists of eight prelude-fugue pairs (nos. 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11 and 12 of the Well-Tempered Clavier I), each movement being contained in separate leaves and provided in a card box. As it currently stands, the product is still incomplete, as only two of six instalments are available at the time of writing this review.
The music is a colour photo-reproduction of the Henle Edition (1997), heavily annotated by the editor, Ernst Wacker, using several colour-pens. The last page of each gathering contains the commentary of the accompanying movement (and not the movement itself, so that you can look at the music and the commentary together side by side), where the author expounds the theological significance he believe Bach intended to convey in his composition.

Wacker’s fundamental concept and approach have close resemblence to Harry Hahn (Symbol und Glaube im I.Teil des Wohltemperierten Klaviers von Joh. Seb. Bach, Wiesbaden, 1973). Their difference is nevertheless clear: Wacker constructs his theory more coherently by claiming that each prelude-pair of WTC I is associated with the text of the Gospel and Epistle read during the first 24 Sundays after Trinity. He also provides the associated chorale melody (shown in the following table as C.F. [cantus firmus]) and sacred cantatas.

 Sample pages (Fugue no.3 in C# major, bars 26-55
The Ground Plan of  WTC I by Ernst Wacker
  1st Sunday after Trinity    
Prelude 1 C major Luke 16:19-31  
Fugue 1 C major 1 John 4:16-21  
  2nd Sunday after Trinity    
Prelude 2 C minor Luke 14:16-24  
Fugue 2 C minor 1 John 3:13-18  
  3rd Sunday after Trinity    
Prelude 3 C#major Luke 15:1-10  
Fugue 3 C#major 1 Pet. 5:6-11  
  4th Sunday after Trinity   BWV 177
Prelude 4 C# minor Luke 6:36-42 C.F. "Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ"
Fugue 4 C# minor Rom. 8:18-23  
  5th Sunday after Trinity   BWV 93
Prelude 5 D major Luke 5:1-11 C.F. "Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten"
Fugue 5 D major 1 Pet. 3:8-22  
  6th Sunday after Trinity   BWV 9
Prelude 6 D minor Mat. 5:20-26 C.F. "Es ist das Heil uns kommen her"
Fugue 6 D minor Rom. 6:3-11  
  7th Sunday after Trinity   BWV 187/7
Prelude 7 Eb major Mark 8:1-9 C.F. "Singen wir aus Herzensgrund"
Fugue 7 Eb major Rom. 6:15-23  
  8th Sunday after Trinity    
Prelude 8 Eb minor Mat. 7:15-23  
Fugue 8 D# minor Rom. 8:12-17  
  9th Sunday after Trinity   BWV 94/5 !
Prelude 9 E major Luke 16:1-9 C.F. Was frag ich nach der Welt
Fugue 9 E major 1 Cor. 10:1-13  
  10th Sunday after Trinity   BWV 46/6
Prelude 10 E minor Luke 19:41-48 C.F. "O großer Gott von Treu" ("von Macht")
Fugue 10 E minor 1 Cor. 12:1-11.  
  11th Sunday after Trinity    
Prelude 11 F major Luke 18:9-14  
Fugue 11 F major 1. Cor. 15:1-11  
  12th Sunday after Trinity   BWV 69a/6
Prelude 12 F minor Mark 7:31-37 C.F. "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan"
Fugue 12 F minor 2. Cor. 3:4-11  
  13th Sunday after Trinity   BWV 33
Prelude 13 F# major Luke 10:23-37 C.F. "Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ"
Fugue 13 F# major Gal. 3:15-22  
  14th Sunday after Trinity   BWV 78
Prelude 14 F# minor Luke 17:11-19 C.F. "Jesu, der du meine Seele"
Fugue 14 F# minor Gal. 5:16-25  
  15th Sunday after Trinity    
Prelude 15 G major Mat. 6:24-34  
Fugue 15 G major Gal. 5:25-6:10  
  16th Sunday after Trinity    
Prelude 16 G minor Luke 7:11-17  
Fugue 16 G minor Eph. 3:13-21  
  17th Sunday after Trinity    
Prelude 17 Ab major Luke 14:1-11  
Fugue 17 Ab major Eph.4:1-6  
  18th Sunday after Trinity   BWV 96
Prelude 18 G# minor Mat. 22:34-46 C.F. "Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn"
Fugue 18 G# minor 1. Cor. 1:4-9  
  19th Sunday after Trinity   BWV 48/3
Prelude 19 A major Mat. 9:1-8 C.F. "Ach Gott und Herr" ("Solls ja so sein")
Fugue 19 A major Eph.4:22-32  
  20th Sunday after Trinity    
Prelude 20 A minor Mat. 22:1-14  
Fugue 20 A minor Eph. 5:15-21  
  21st Sunday after Trinity   BWV 188/6
Prelude 21 Bb major Joh. 4:47-54 C.F. "Auf meinen lieben Gott"
Fugue 21 Bb major Eph. 6:10-17  
  22nd Sunday after Trinity    
Prelude 22 Bb minor Mat. 18:21-35  
Fugue 22 Bb minor Phil. 1:3-11.  
  23rd Sunday after Trinity   BWV 60/5
Prelude 23 B major Mat. 22:15-22 C.F. "Es ist genug, so nimm, Herr, meinen Geist"
Fugue 23 B major Phil. 3:17-21  
  24th Sunday after Trinity   BWV 161/1+6
Prelude 24 B minor Mark 5:41-42. C.F. "Herzlich tut mich verlangen"
Fugue 24 B minor Col. 1:9-29  

But is Wacker’s hypothesis credible? I do not think so. Besides the fact that the great majority of cantatas he selected for his interpretation (see the table above) are composed after 1722 (and thus cannot be considered as reliable evidence for Bach’s awareness of them at the time of composing WTC I), the evidence he presented is neither sufficient nor coherent. He relies very heavily on number alphabet (A=1, B=2, C=3, etc.) and the counting the number of notes, bars and ornaments (!), which was very popular in 1970s but since largely rejected. Here are some of his main points of argument:

While the numerical information should be treated with greater caution (see my review of Mäser), it is important to distinguish which numbers are meant by Bach and which are not. Without first establishing the credible foundation, no theory can withstand the criticism. As a speculation, Wacker's theory is interesting, but not convincing.
Published on-line on 13 November 2001

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