J. S. Bach
From the W. F. Bach Notebook
(W. F. Bach Clavierbüchlein)
Five Little Preludes BWV 939-943
Johann Sebastian Bach was a member of a family that hadfor generations been occupied in music. His sons were to continue thetradition, providing the foundation of a new style of music that prevailed inthe later part of the eighteenth century. Johann Sebastian Bach himselfrepresented the end of an age, the culmination of the Baroque in a magnificentsynthesis of Italian melodic invention, French rhythmic dance forms and Germancontrapuntal mastery.
Born in Eisenach in 1685, Bach was educated largely byhis eldest brother, after the early death of his parents. At the age ofeighteen he embarked on his career as a musician, serving first as a courtmusician at Weimar, before appointment as organist at Arnstadt. Four yearslater he moved to Muhlhausen as organist and the following year became organistand chamber musician to Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar .Securing his release withdifficulty, in 1717 he was appointed Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothenand remained at Cothen unti11723, when he moved to Leipzig as Cantor at the Schoolof st. Thomas, with responsibility for the music of the five principal city churches.
Bach was to remain in Leipzig until his death in 1750.
As a craftsman obliged to fulfill the terms of hisemployment, Bach provided music suited to his various appointments. It wasnatural that his earlier work as an organist and something of an expert on theconstruction of organs, should result in music for that instrument. At Cothen,where the Pietist leanings of the court made church music unnecessary, heprovided a quantity of instrumental music for the court orchestra and itsplayers. In Leipzig he began by composing series of cantatas for the churchyear, later turning his attention to instrumental music for the Collegium musicum
of the University, and to the collection and ordering of his own compositions.
Nevertheless throughout his career he took seriously the education of hischildren, an attention amply justified by the distinction of his second sonCarl Philipp Emanuel, his youngest, Johann Christian, and, in a morecontroversial career, of his eldest boy, Wilhelm Friedemann.
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach was born in Weimar in 1710, theson of Johann Sebastian and his first wife, his cousin Maria Barbara. He wastaught music by his father and was a pupil at the C6then Lateinschule, moving,when his father went to Leipzig, to the Thomasschule, where he completed hisstudies in 1729, going on to study for four years at Leipzig University. Heworked as an assistant to his father before moving to Dresden as an organistand thence, in 1746, to Halle, where he served as organist at the Liebfrauenkircheuntil 1764, his relationship with his employers becoming increasinglyunsatisfactory. He spent the remaining twenty years of his life in insecureindependence and mounting eccentricity.
Johann Sebastian had reason to entertain great hopes forhis first son. It was with him in mind that he wrote the first book of The Well-Tempered Clavier and direct evidence of the care he took in training theboy is seen in the Klavierbiichlein fur Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, thesurviving manuscript to which father and son contributed, not as a coherentvolume intended for publication, but as a notebook, in which Johann Sebastiansupervised the instruction of the ten-year-old Wilhelm Friedemann, not only asa keyboard-player but also as a composer.
The G minor Partia by Gottfried Heinrich Stolzel,for thirty years Kapellmeister to the court of Saxe-Gotha and prefered by somecontemporaries to Bach, starts with a French Ouverture, its slow dottedrhythms in the opening section, duly succeeded by a brisker fugal section.
There is a simple Air Italien, a Bourree and a Menuet
before Johann Sebastian Bach's model Trio, continuing with the sopranoclef for the right hand and with the alto clef for the left. The Allemande, BWV836, is the apparent work of father and son, one assisting the other.
The three minuets, in G major, G minor and G major, BWV841-3, are models of their kind in their simplicity, examples of compositionrather than keyboard exercises for a pupil who was already a proficient enoughperformer. These are here followed by seven Preludes, BWV 924-30, thesecond presumably by Wilhelm Friedemann, taking the first as his model. Afurther group, BWV 847-57, contains Preludes familiar from theirre-appearance as part of Book 1 of The Well-Tempered Clavier, assembledin 1722. The three-voice Fugue, BWV 953, here leads to an Allemande,Courante and Gigue from a Suite by Johann Sebastian'solder contemporary Telemann, godfather of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.
The present release ends with five Little Preludes,BWV 939-43, which do not appear in the W. F. Bach Clavierbachlein
but clearly have a similar purpose.