Although we have heard the music of J. S. Bach in countless performances and recordings, the composer himself still comes across only as an enigmatic figure in a single familiar portrait. As we mark the 250th anniversary of Bach's death, author Christoph Wolff presents a new picture that brings to life this towering figure of the Baroque era. This engaging new biography portrays Bach as the living, breathing, and sometimes imperfect human being that he was, while bringing to bear all the advances of the last half-century of Bach scholarship. Wolff demonstrates the intimate connection between the composer's life and his music, showing how Bach's superb inventiveness pervaded his career as musician, composer, performer, scholar, and teacher. And throughout, we see Bach in the broader context of his time: its institutions, traditions, and influences. With this highly readable book, Wolff sets a new standard for Bach biography.
Now appearing in an English translation, this book by Szymon Paczkowski is the first in-depth exploration of the Polish style in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach spent almost thirty years living and working in Leipzig in Saxony, a country ruled by Friedrich August I and his son Friedrich August II, who were also kings of Poland (as August II and August III). This period of close Polish-Saxon relations left a significant imprint on Bach’s music.
Paczkowski’s meticulous account of this complex political and cultural dynamic sheds new light on many of Bach’s familiar pieces. The book explores the semantic and rhetorical functions that undergird the symbolism of the Polish style in Baroque music. It demonstrates how the notion of a Polish style in music was developed in German music theory, and conjectures that Bach’s successful application for the title of Court Composer at the court of the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland would induce the composer to deliberately use elements of the Polish style.
This comprehensive study of the way Bach used the Polish style in his music moves beyond technical analysis to place the pieces within the context of Baroque customs and discourse. This ambitious and inspiring study is an original contribution to the scholarly conversation concerning Bach’s music, focusing on the symbolism of the polonaise, the most popular and recognizable Polish dance in 18th-century Saxony. In Saxony at this time the polonaise was associated with the ceremonies of the royal-electoral court in Dresden, and Saxon musicians regarded it as a musical symbol of royalty. Paczkowski explores this symbolism of the Polish royal dance in Bach’s instrumental music and, which is also to be found to an even greater extent, in his vocal works.
The Polish Style in the Music of Johann Sebastian Bach provides wide-ranging interpretations based on a careful analysis of the sources explored within historical and theological context. The book is a valuable source for both teaching and further research, and will find readers not only among musicologists, but also historians, art historians, and readers in cultural studies. All lovers of Bach’s music will appreciate this lucid and intriguing study.
Is the notoriety of the greats composers due to the real musical interest of their masterpieces for the people or to the result of a complex alchemy in which ideology mainly intervenes ? The name of Bach seems particularly to illustrate the influence of extra-musicals factors in the recognition of genius, real or supposed. The comparison with his contemporary Vivaldi allow to show the importance of such factors.