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Bach Revival


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In the half‐century after J. S. Bach's death only a handful of his works were pubd., though these incl. C. P. E. Bach's edn. of the complete coll. of Vierstimmige Choralgesänge (Choral Songs for 4 Voices), issued by Breitkopf & Härtel (1784–7). Nevertheless, Mozart at the end of his life was a profound admirer of Bach, and at Bonn in 1780 Beethoven was instructed in the ‘48’ preludes and fugues, then still in MS. The revival gathered momentum with publication in 1801 in 4 centres (Bonn, Zurich, Vienna, and Leipzig, with a London reprint of the Bonn edn.) of the Well‐Tempered Klavier (Wohltemperierte Klavier) and the appearance in 1802 of Forkel's biography Über Johann Sebastian Bachs Leben. The Magnificat was pubd. in 1811, the St Matthew Passion in 1830, the Mass in B minor partially in 1833, fully in 1845, the St John Passion in 1830 (pf. score), vocal parts 1834; many cantatas, all the org. works, many works for klavier, and much besides appeared between 1803 and 1850. In the matter of perf., the critic Johann Friedrich Rochlitz (1769–1842) stimulated interest by his articles in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, which he founded in 1798, remaining ed. until 1818. Publication of the motets led to their perf. in the 1820s by the Berlin Singakademie under Carl Friedrich Zelter. At his house Mendelssohn and the Devrients met to study Bach's mus. On 11 Mar. 1829 Mendelssohn cond. the first perf. since Bach's day of the St Matthew Passion with the Singakademie. Two further perfs. followed within 5 weeks. In 1833 the Singakademie perf. the St John Passion and a much‐cut Mass in B minor. Other leading Ger. mus. centres, incl. Leipzig, followed Berlin's lead.

In Eng., where it might have been thought that J. C. Bach would have encouraged study of his father's work, little was done until Samuel Wesley's concerts of J. S. Bach's mus. in 1808 and 1809. William Crotch also helped, but the main stimulus came from Mendelssohn's visits in 1829 and 1832, when he played Bach's org. works in St Paul's Cath. and elsewhere. In 1837 he had a section of the St Matthew Passion incl. in the Birmingham Fest. But it was not until the later 19th cent. that regular perfs. of Bach's mus. in Eng. began. Sterndale Bennett cond. first complete Eng. perf. of St Matthew Passion (in English) on 6 April 1854, in London. It was f.p. at Three Choirs Fest. 1871.

Subjects: Music.


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