Chapter

The Music in its Historical Context

Russell Stinson

in Bach: The Orgelbüchlein

Published in print December 1999 | ISBN: 9780193862142
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199853106 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780193862142.003.0003
The Music in its Historical Context

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Modern scholars have discovered that many accompanimental motives used by Bach in the Orgelbüchlein are the same as those codified in Baroque music treatises according to rhetorical terminology. Primarily for this reason, it has become fashionable to see in these organ chorales a rhetorical as well as expressive musical language. The rhetorical analogy raises intriguing but unanswerable questions. To consider one of the most interesting: was Bach consciously emulating rhetorical practice? He probably was at least aware of the parallels to rhetoric offered by his Weimar colleague Johann Gottfried Walther in his Praecepta der musicalishen Composition, the composition treatise Walther wrote in 1708 for his pupil Prince Johann Ernst. In the Praecepta, Walter describes, through the use of rhetorical jargon, several of the accompanimental movies found in Orgelbüchlein.

Keywords: rhetorical; Baroque; expressive musical language; Johann Gottfried Walher; Praecepta

Chapter.  5753 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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