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The Mozart connection

Mozart, during his first and only visit to Leipzig remarked enthusiastically after listening to J.S. Bach’s motet 'Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied' ‘Now, there is something one can learn from’. And so he did!

After Bach’s death his music was almost forgotten. His memory was kept alive only in Leipzig and a few other little pockets of reverent admiration. In April 1782 Mozart wrote to his father: “Every Sunday at 12 I go to Baron van Swieten (President of the Court Commission Studies in Vienna) and there we play nothing but Händel and Bach. I am just building up a collection of Bach fugues – by Sebastian as well.  One of the most important phases in Mozart’s creative development begins with these Sunday afternoons in van Swieten’s home. Alfred Einstein writes: “For Mozart the encounter with these compositions resulted in a revolution and a crisis in his creative activity. He was too great and fine a musician not to feel deeply and painfully the conflict produced when his habit of thinking in terms of gallant and ‘learned’ music was shaken by the encounter with a living polyphonic style and other fundamental elements of Bach’s music.’ Mozart began by copying out and rearranging some of Bach’s works, went on by composing fugues in Bach’s style, and from there gradually blended that style into his own in a more and more personal way.

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Funeral music for Prince Leopold – a precursor for St Matthew Passion

Klagt, Kinder, klagt es aller Welt (Cry, children, cry to all the world), also called Köthener Trauermusik (Köthen funeral music), BWV 244a was probably composed by J.S. Bach throughout 1727 and 1728 for Leopold, Prince of Anhalt—Köthen. The music is lost, but the libretto survives. As Bach is known to have used musical material which also appeared in his St. Matthew Passion, it has been possible to make reconstructions. One reconstruction attempt was made by Dr. Mark Smith from Adelaide in 2001 and deposited in the Bach Archive Leipzig. We have asked Mark to write this story:

This funeral music was a fitting conclusion to a relationship important to both Bach and Leopold. However, it is also music that has come to us second-hand, imperfect, and poorly understood. Leopold had symptoms of a chronic illness already at the age of 20, and his portrait by J.C. Müller of 1724 shows a man who appears much older than his 29 or 30 years.

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Did you know that Bach had a good sense of humour?

If you have a closer look at the above painting (the only true portrait), you discover that Bach is holding the sheet of music upside down. Bach had a very good sense of humour and liked surprising his audience which we can see in this painting: the canon on the sheet of music doesn’t show only three but six voices. As a beholder we can see three voices (at least the more experienced ones amongst us) and from Bach’s perspective, he can see another three.

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Visual symbolisation: how Bach illustrates the ecclesiastic context of his compositions

In several compositions such as in the St Matthew’s Passion or the St John’s Passion for example, Bach uses the crucifixion symbol in his notes to refer to the sufferings of Jesus Christ by means of visual symbols. A four-note motif is used, in which the first and the fourth note are the same or almost the same, whereas one of the two notes in between is higher, the other lower; thus he reminds of the crucifix.

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C.P.E. Bach's 300th anniversary: A genius musician

8 March 2014 marked the anniversary of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s birthday.  Johann Sebastian Bach's second eldest son is the most important representative of the sentimental movement in music. The sentimental movement finds itself at home in between the baroque epoch and the classical movement from Vienna. C.P.E. Bach's body of work is incredibly diverse. It includes a variety of musical styles of instrumental music, including symphonies, chamber music, piano sonatas, pieces for solo instruments as well as ecclesiastic and worldly vocal music

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