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BACH, J.S.: Musical Offering, BWV 1079

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JohannSebastian Bach (1685-1750)

TheMusical Offering, BWV 1079


On 7th July 1747 Bach'sson, Carl Philipp Emanuel, harpsichordist to King Frederick the Great,presented to his employer, in his father's name, an engraved copy of TheMusical Offering. Bach had dedicated the work most submissively to HisRoyal Majesty of Prussia, after having been prompted to compose it by his visitto Potsdam. The 'royal theme',which, on that occasion, 'would not work out properly' had now been 'worked outwith greater perfection' and Bach now wanted to make it known to the worldthrough this publication.


To the dedicatory copyBach also added the title: Regis Iussu Cantio Et Reliqua Canonica Arte Resoluta(By command of the King, the theme and the rest worked out in canonicstyle). The first letters spell the word Ricercare, and this acrosticdenotes the main feature of the work, the 'continual seeking out' of the royaltheme, in all conceivable forms of the art of variation.


The composer left littlein the way of instructions as to the order of the thirteen movements of thework or their instrumentation. In accordance with Baroque structuralprinciples, the present recording presents the work in the followingsymmetrical form:

I?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á II?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á III?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á IV?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á V

Ricercare?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á Five Canons?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á TrioSonata?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á Five canons?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á Ricercare

Thus two Ricercare form the outer frame.

The first, in three parts, is worked out as a strict fugue and the famoussecond, as a crowning conclusion, in six parts.


The ten canons fall intotwo groups. In the first the theme appears as a canto fermo, anindependent canon, in two parts in each case, developing in combination withit. In the Canon perpetuus super Thema Regium, the canto fermo lies,abridged, in the middle voice, entrusted to the violas, entwined in canon atthe double octave with oboe and bassoon; the canto fermo then appears inits normal form in the lower voice in the next canon, and again changes inshortened form to the upper part, given here to the flute, in the third canon,accompanied by a canon in contrary motion. The next two are characterized byremarks that Bach himself adds in explanation: Notulis crescentibus crescatFortuna Regis (As the note-values increase so may the fortune of the King)is added to the Canon 4. a 2 per Augmentationem, contrario Motu(Canon for two voices in augmentation and contrary motion). The theme isornamented and embedded in augmented form in a mirror canon. This is followedby an even more complicated circle canon: Ascendente Modulatione ascendatGloria Regis (As the modulation moves upward, so may the King's glory).


In the second group ofcanons the canonic melody develops from the royal theme itself. The number orvoices varies; the Canon a 4 is a particularly fine-sounding four-partcanon; in the Fuga canonica in Epidiapente (Canonic Fugue at the UpperFifth) a two-part canon appears, extended, as it were, into a three-part fugue.

After these displays of contrapuntal skill, there follows a puzzle canon, notedin one part only. Qul Erendo invenietis (Seek and ye shall find), writesBach, over the Canon, contrarium stricte reversum (Canon in strictretrograde), leaving the performer to find for himself the correct point ofentry for the second voice. Our recording proposes four distinct possibilities.

Of these the common interpretation, here with cor anglais and bassoon, comeslast; this is preceded by aversion with the strictly reversed canon in theviolas; in our first version, which is similar to the last, the first voice,the cello, starts one octave lower, while the following voice, the harpsichord,is played one octave higher, thus changing the soprano voice into a bass andthe 'strictly reversed' bass into a soprano. In the second version these twovoices exchange entries, the soprano, in the violas, one octave higher, beginsand the bass, one octave lower in the cellos, follows. After this comes atwo-part Canon cancrizans and, ending the group, the Canon perpetuus,where the flute and violin playa canon in contrary motion with continuoaccompaniment.


The central place in TheMusical Offering is occupied by the Trio Sonata, for which Bach,probably with the King in view, specified the instruments Flauto traverso. ViolinoeBasso continuo (Violoncello o Viola da gamba col Cembalo). In four movements,Largo-Allegro-Andante-Allegro, the royal theme is presented in a varietyof guises.


English Version: Keith Anderson

Item number 8553286
Barcode 730099428620
Release date 01/01/2000
Category BAROQUE
Label Naxos Records
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Ariane Pfister
Christian Benda
Nils Thilo Kramer
Sebastian Benda
Conductors Christian Benda
Orchestras Capella Istropolitana
Disc: 1
Musicalisches Opfer, BWV 1079
1 Ricercar a 3
2 Canon perpetuus super Thema Regium
3 Canon 2. a 2 Violini in unisono
4 Canon 3. a 2 per Motum contrarium
5 Canon 4. a 2 per Augmentationem, contrario Motu
6 Canon 5. a 2: Canon circularis per Tonos
7 Sonata sopra il Soggetto Reale: Largo
8 Sonata sopra il Soggetto Reale: Allegro
9 Sonata sopra il Soggetto Reale: Andante
10 Sonata sopra ill Soggetto Reale: Allegro
11 Canon a 4
12 Fuga canonica in Epidiapente
13 Canon a 2 Quaerendo invenietis: I
14 Canon a 2 Quaerendo invenietis: II
15 Canon a 2 Quaerendo invenietis: III
16 Canon a 2 Quaerendo invenietis: IV
17 Canon 1. a 2: Canon cancrizans
18 Canon perpetuus a Flauto traverso, Violino e Basso
19 Ricercar a 6
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