Anniversary of Bach's death

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Anniversary of Bach's death

Today, July 28th, is the anniversary of Bach's death. Bach wrote several cantatas for funerals, but you'll hear those on other times in the year. I thought for once that it would be appropriate to select possibly the last work he was working on before turning completely blind, probably somewhere 1748-1749: Die Kunst der Fuge (The Art of the Fugue). This is a collection of fugues and canons on one or more themes, written for no specific instrument (some think it was ment to be studied rather than to be played, but where's the joy in that?).

A manuscript by Bach survives, but, as Wikipedia describes it so well: "...it breaks off abruptly in the middle of its third section, with an only partially written measure 239. This autograph carries a note in the handwriting of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, stating "Über dieser Fuge, wo der Name B A C H im Contrasubject angebracht worden, ist der Verfasser gestorben." ("At the point where the composer introduces the name BACH [for which the English notation would be B♭–A–C–B♮] in the countersubject to this fugue, the composer died.") This account is disputed by modern scholars, as the manuscript is clearly written in Bach's own hand, and thus dates to a time before his deteriorating health and vision would have prevented his ability to write, probably 1748–1749."

There are scores of versions out there, for all possible instruments or ensembles. Hapsichord, organ, piano, string quartet, flute quartet, saxophone quartet, full orchestra, and even the Swingle Singers. Truly interesting to discover.
My personal favourite piano version is by Tatiana Nikolayeva, but it's not available on streaming services... So I chose another piano version that I like, a more recent one, by Pierre-Laurent Aimard. Listen to it and remember Bach.

Cantatas

  • Die Kunst der Fuge, BWV 1080
    (first performance 1740-1750, Leipzig period)

Playlist

WBCF0728-Anniversary of Bach's death

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Image of the day

The grave of Johann Sebastian Bach in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig.

The grave of Johann Sebastian Bach in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig.