Views on Bach: An Historical Perspective

Alice Artzt

A French dictionary published in 1813 (ed. Peignot) ends its perfunctory paragraph on Johann Sebastian Bach, with the statement, ‘…and he left some pieces of music, and eleven sons, all admirable in their art’.1 In less than a century, the climate of opinion had changed quite radically in all the arts, and with it, new ideals in music came to the fore while those of Bach and of Baroque music in general were scornfully pushed aside. The new music dealt with simple, natural, melody designed to appeal to the heart of the listener and not with a confused and obscure tangle of counterpoint. Music was now expected to proceed logically and in just proportion according to reason, rather than be forced into complex, contrived, symbolism-ridden fugues and canons. Indeed the fugue was looked upon by Carl Maria von Weber as ‘…un morceau de musique où les exécutants partent les uns après les autres, mais les auditeurs partent tous à la fois.’2* What use had such a philosophy of music or ‘Old Bach’, in whose songs ‘one cannot get rid of the polyphonic instrumentation that accompanies them.’3 Clearly M. Peignot was correct in refusing to allot more space in his dictionary to Bach, for he understood, as did Hegel, that Bach had not written the right kind of music and that the music of their time was far more advanced and worthy of discussion.4 Even as early as 1737, Johann Adolph Scheibe in his paper Der Critischer Musikus levelled at Bach a criticism replete with the new vocabulary of the Age of Reason:

Ce grand homme ferait l’admiration de toutes les nations, s’il avait plus d’agrément et s’il n’ôtait pas le naturel à ses pièces en y mettant de l’enfl ure et quelque chose d’embrouillé et s’il n’en obscurcissait la beauté par un art excessif…Toutes les manières, tous les petits ornements, enfin tout ce que l’on comprend dans la méthode du jeu accompli, il l’exprime formellement en toutes notes et cela enlève non seulement à ses compositions la beauté de l’harmonie mais rend encore le chant entièrement inintelligible.5

This is not to say that Bach was not well known and admired both during his lifetime and subsequently. But it was as an organist and a consultant of organ builders and acousticians that he was revered. Among musicians he was respected for his erudition and craft. His music, however, was little loved or known even while he was alive, and his manuscripts increased in rarity as the century progressed.

The celebrated Charles Burney, in his impressive General History of Music of 1776, although he rendered homage to Bach’s genius, apparently did not consider it worth his while to listen to any of the great man’s works. Content with what must have been a quick perusal of ‘a most vile and diabolical copy’6 of the first twenty-four preludes and fugues of The Well Tempered Clavier given him by C.P.E. Bach, he writes:

I have never seen a fugue by this learned and powerful author upon a motivo, that is natural and chantant; or even an easy and obvious passage that is not loaded with crude and difficult accompaniments.7

Later in his book he stated with assurance that if Bach and his son, Emanuel, had been able to live a more cosmopolitan life, they would have simplified and improved their styles to become the two greatest musicians of the century.8

However Mr. Burney was not allowed to remain of this opinion. For an Englishman, Samuel Wesley, a fanatical Bach lover, went to great pains to convert Burney to his own way of thinking. Mr. Wesley explained his consternation and his subsequent actions in one of his colourful letters to his friend Mr. Jacobs:

I am grieved to witness in my valuable Friend Doctor Burney’s Critique…so slight an acquaintance with the great and matchless Genius whom he professes to analyse: and I have however much satisfaction in being able to assure you, from my own personal experience, that his present judgement of our Demi-God is of a very different Nature from that at the time he imprudently, incautiously, and we may add ignorantly pronounced so rash and false a verdict…as that which this Day read, for the first Time upon the greatest Master of Harmony in any Age or Country.9

He went on to tell of Burney’s delight and amazement upon hearing some of Bach’s fugues played for the first time. Nor was this the only conversion Mr. Wesley attempted, for less than two months after his episode with Burney, he wrote to his friend about another man whose enlightenment he had undertaken:

There can be no question that while he is hearing the Sublimities of our Idol he must prefer them to any other Sounds that could have been conceived; but no sooner does a Temptation to his besetting Sin (the blind Worship of Handel) fall in his way, than he returns to his ‘wallowing in the mire’.10

Although Mr. Wesley’s devotion may seen a bit extreme, such adoration was not an unusual phenomenon among the few Bach lovers of the time, and indeed, was probably necessary in all its excess to accomplish its end, namely the propagation of the works of Bach. Besides organizing numerous concerts in England he was instrumental in preparing the first English translation of the Forkel biography which contained, as he stated gleefully in another of his letters, ‘a list of all the Works of our Apollo’.11 The blatant inaccuracies of this edition, however, serve to reduce one’s admiration for Wesley’s efforts on its behalf. For this translation was so very poor, according to Charles Sanford Terry, as to be incompatible with the supposition that the translator (Mr. Stephenson the banker)12 had understood the German of the original.13

Johann Nikolaus Forkel’s German should have merited a correct translation by Wesley and his entourage, if by no one else, for it reiterated that Englishman’s sentiments almost exactly:

…I am convinced that there are no words adequate to express the thoughts Bach’s transcendent genius stirs one to utter…Bach cannot be named except in terms of rapture and even of devout awe.14

It was from these two kindred spirits that what was to become a sort of Bach cult arose. Blind as their passion for Bach’s music would appear to be, there is no reason to suppose that they did not each have as thorough a knowledge and understanding of his work as the current philosophies of music allowed them.

But such was not the case later in the century. In certain circles, the love of Bach came more and more to be what is commonly called a status symbol, with the attendant result that, as H. Heathcote Statham puts it:

…among many of the general musical public who profess a devout faith on the subject there is little ability to render a reason; and…a great many persons at present ‘talk Bach’ with only a very vague idea as to what are his really great qualities.15

This was the situation to an even greater extent in Germany where as Berlioz wrote in 1841–1842, ‘Bach is Bach, as God is God.’16

This attitude is entirely understandable in light of the increasingly nationalistic tendencies of Germany in that day. For to Germans, the most important of Bach’s attributes was that he was a German, and this factor was responsible in great part for the revival of his works in the nineteenth century. Forkel expostulated eloquently on the subject, as did nearly every other Teutonic writer who succeeded him:

For Bach’s works are a priceless national patrimony; no other nation possesses a treasure comparable to it. Their publication in an authoritative text will be a national service and raise an imperishable monument to the composer himself. All who hold Germany dear are bound in honour to promote the undertaking to the utmost of their power.17

Also during the nineteenth century, what was later to be called the ‘great man’ explanation of history came into general cognizance. Certain composers were seen as ‘fathers’ of various movements in music. In 1840 Schumann wrote with confidence that ‘…art owes to Bach… nothing less …than what a religion owes to its founder’.18 This notion coupled with nationalism led to some amazingly warped concepts of Bach’s place in history. Wagner, writing circa 1865, said:

Whosoever would seize the wondrous individuality, the strength and meaning of the German Spirit in one incomparably speaking image, let him cast a searching glance upon the else so puzzling, well-nigh unaccountable figure of Music’s wonder-man Sebastian Bach…See there that head, insanely muffled in the French full-bottomed wig; behold that master a wretched organist and cantor, slinking from one Thuringian parish to another, puny places scarcely known to us by name; see him so unheeded, that it required a whole century to drag his works from oblivion; finding even Music pinioned in an art-form the very effigy of his age, dry, stiff , pedantic, like wig and pigtail set to notes: then see what a world the unfathomably great Sebastian built from out these elements!19

In a Germany which felt this way, it is not surprising that successively more efforts were made to popularize and publish Bach’s music. In the late eighteenth century, his manuscripts had become so rare that Mozart had heard none of his music until 1782, when he became a regular visitor at the home of Baron von Swieten, who allowed him to borrow and copy the few manuscripts he possessed.20 Thereafter he loved Bach and studied him assiduously, as did Beethoven who, however, had been fortunate in coming into contact with Bach’s music much earlier in his life. This early acquaintanceship occurred through Beethoven’s teacher, Christian Gottlob Neefe, who proudly wrote in 1783 that the eleven-year-old Beethoven (he would have been thirteen in 1783) knew most of The Well-Tempered Clavier by heart.21 This precocious exposure to Bach was to produce tangible results not only in the great influence on Beethoven’s own works, but indirectly in the publication of Bach’s works, since Beethoven encouraged such efforts whenever possible. As early as 1801, he wrote to Anton Hoffmeister:

Your desire to publish the works of Sebastian Bach is something that really warms my heart which beats sincerely for the sublime and magnificent art of that first father of harmony.22

It was not until 1850, however, that the systematic publication of Bach’s works was begun in earnest with the foundation of the Bach Gesellschaft by Moritz Hauptman, Otto Jahn, Carl Ferdinand Becker, and Robert Schumann.23 Beginning its formidable task on the centenary of Bach’s death, this society took until 1900 to finish publication of his complete works, after which it dissolved itself. These new volumes were, although far from perfect, much more accurate and scholarly than the previously sporadically published volumes. In 1837 Schumann had written pleading for more authoritative and complete editions, and evidently having taken his own advice, he himself later prepared an arrangement of the cello sonatas.24 Judging, however, from a most diplomatic letter written by Joachim in July of 1860 to Clara Schumann, he must not have taken that advice quite seriously enough. Joachim found it his sad duty to advise Clara against the sonatas’ publication since both he and ‘Johannes’ had discovered it to contain many ‘un-Bachlike passages.’ He apologised for his fastidiousness, but cited as a reason ‘…the exactitude with which editions of Bach’s works (are) now criticised…’25

Nevertheless this was a vast improvement over the attitude so confidently held by Zelter in 1827 that the ‘French influence’ was thoroughly undesirable. Since it could be easily removed ‘like thin froth’ to reveal the ‘shining content’, he felt no compunctions about performing the operation on many of Bach’s works. Indeed he waxed so self-congratulatory that he deluded himself into believing his ‘heart’ when it told him ‘…that old Bach nods approval, just as the worthy Haydn used to say, ‘Yes, yes, that was what I wished!’26

It must not be supposed from the preceding quotation that Zelter was not an avid admirer of Bach’s works. He was so much so that he was instrumental in making possible the famous Gewandhaus performance of the St. Matthew Passion in 1829 conducted by Felix Mendelssohn. It was also he who first introduced Mendelssohn to the works of Bach. Although in this performance many of the arias were deleted, the texts cut and the instrumentation changed radically, nonetheless the interest it provoked in Bach’s music led to many further performances and, in the end, to a much greater awareness of the necessity for accuracy and scholarship both in editing and in performance practice.27 William Foster Apthorp in 1894 pointed to the lack of a living tradition and especially to technical difficulties as the primary problems to be overcome.28 The solution of the latter problem seems generally to have been accomplished by the slowing of the tempo to ‘a most cautious moderato’ as Wagner terms it.29 George Bernard Shaw, reviewing a performance of the B minor Mass, called attention to the same fault:

Among the inevitable shortcomings may be classed the loss of effect in some of the brighter numbers – notably the Pleni sunt coeli – by the jog-trot which seems to be Mr. Goldschmidt’s prestissimo… there were moments on Saturday when the audience…may have profanely felt that one glass of champagne administered to the conductor would have made an acceptable difference in the effect.30

As Bach’s music, both instrumental and vocal, became better known, controversies arose over the respective merits of his instrumental compositions as opposed to his vocal compositions. His vocal writing was praised because the choral ideal was compatible with his predominantly organ-like concept of style, but arpeggios and ornaments were shunned as alien intrusions incongruous with a perfected organ style.31 Later in the century his organ and clavier works were held up as the highest model primarily because of his ‘clever’ combination of the French ornamental style with his own German style. However, he was said to ‘betray too great a lack of genuine good taste’ in his vocal compositions.32 One writer in 1833 felt that his violin compositions were unviolinistic33, while another in 1894 thought that ‘In no composer of his day, nor before his time, does it appear that the particular instruments or voices for which he wrote played so functional a part in his inspiration.’34 H. Heathcote Statham criticizes Bach in the following terms:

In those keyed instruments, which were incapable of any expression from diminishing or swelling or in any way modulating the force of a sustained note…special expression was sought for by breaking up a note in a group of little detached notes, in the shape of trills and twitterings; and this unsatisfactory and oft en unmeaning method, arising out of the effort to make organ and harpsichord express what they were unfitted to express, is duly transferred by Bach to his vocal solos, which are full of aimless twittering, to the exclusion of the nobler and more expressive forms of pure and fl owing vocal melody.35

Bach’s recitatives seem also to have met with varied criticism. Hauptman in 1833 found that ‘their melody has too large a range, and the minute expression attached to particular words is overdone,36 while Apthorp in 1894 stated that ‘as a writer of recitative, Bach stands preeminent.’37 These are the opinions one would expect to find, since the earlier part of the century was orientated towards the well-regulated clarity of the eighteenth century and would deem any sort of excess, expressive or otherwise, to be in bad taste. The latter part of the century on the other hand, was beginning to see in Baroque music some of the expressive elements it used in its own music.

Criticisms of Bach’s setting of words to music revealed this same dichotomy. For the most part, works written in the first part of the century found that his songs were either unskilful or in bad taste. Goethe in a letter to Zelter said that, ‘In the vocal music there is a frequent discrepancy between music and words.’38 Hauptmann writing in 1843 found that in comparison with the music of Gabrieli, Bach’s motets were neither vocal nor sacred.39 In contrast with these opinions, the majority of late nineteenth century writers saw in Bach more of their own variety of expressivity than there was in reality. The view that ‘No man even among our modern romanticists and tone painters, ever put a greater wealth of meaning into a phrase than Bach did,’ came to be accepted, at least in moderation, by most romantics.40 George Bernard Shaw felt that ‘Sebastian Bach could express in fugue or canon all the emotions that have ever been worthily expressed in music.’41

The relative fame of Handel, whose zealous advocates made the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries reverberate with his praises, as opposed to the relative obscurity of Bach, is also related to this change in attitude. While the classical ideal held sway, Handel with his more melodious, Italianate, symmetrical pieces, was bound to achieve great popularity, and any advocate of Bach’s supremacy, such as Wesley, must indeed have felt ‘the blind worship of Handel’ to be a sin, so insidious must his music have seemed.42 Later in the century the tables were turned, except in England, where Handel continued to reign well into the twentieth century. The elements in Bach which were admired by the romantics were aptly summarized by an American, W.S.B. Matthews, who wrote in 1897:

The diatonic chords and combinations in which Handel found an ever-complete satisfaction, are not sufficient for Bach, and we find continually new chords, evasive cadences, and a flowing continuity of thought, belong ing to the master mind.43

The advent of the Romantic era and all its affinities for the music of Bach did not bring with it a universal acceptance of this new attitude. Indeed, many romantic musicians stuck to the old views, some of them perhaps more as a matter of inbred prejudice than as a result of objective study. One of these was Hector Berlioz who, although unfamiliar with the works of Bach, disliked them because of their fugal associations (he had had, according to Boschot, his fill of fugues at the Conservatoire).44 This animosity prompted him to write about a performance of the Bach concerto for three claviers, played by Chopin, Hiller, and Liszt:

It was heart rending, I assure you, to see three such admirable talents, full of fire, brilliant in youthful vitality, united in a bundle to reproduce this ridiculous and stupid psalmody.45

Tchaikovsky, on the other hand, seems to have been open-minded enough, as he admits to finding Bach’s fugues entertaining; however he cannot bring himself to consider Bach a genius.46

Unlike Tchaikovsky, however, most of those musicians writing in the early part of the century recognized, however unwillingly, the genius of Bach on an abstract level. But, if they had been unfortunate enough to have heard some of the great man’s music, they found his fugues anything but entertaining. By them, Bach’s wig was taken as a symbol of his anachronistic tendencies and hurled at him in derision. Mendelssohn noted in a letter to his sister that many people ‘…believe Bach to be nothing but a wig stuffed with learning.’47

The situation was still worse and apparently longer lasting in America where, as Mr. Apthorp related, ‘…you can hardly show enthusiasm for Bach, except in certain circles, without being accused of canting.’48

But, as Hans von Bülow said in 1896, a new ‘school’ appeared and ‘brushed away the curls of the peruque from that sublime human face…’49 Apthorp, two years earlier, had eloquently advocated this same new attitude towards Bach in his book of essays:

Listen to it with an ear that pierces through the surface, and what you hear is not the mere whirring of cog wheels of a highly perfected mechanism, but the very heart of humanity itself.50

He was so emphatic about the worth of Bach that he considered a person’s admiration of the master as a ‘trustworthy gauge’ of that person’s musical nature and culture.51

Most of the romantics would have been rated highly by Mr. Apthorp. Whether or not they knew anything at all about music seemed not to matter very much. Musicians and non-musicians, their praises were legion. Elbert Hubbard in his notorious Little Journeys, termed Bach ‘a very great and lofty soul’, but he then went straight on to show that he was human after all:

Bach was a villager and a rustic and like Jean Francois Millet used to hoe in his garden, trim the vines, play with his children putting them to bed at night, or in the day cease from his work to cut slices of brown bread which he would spread with honey for the heedless little importuner, who had interrupted the making of a chorale that was to charm the centuries. At times he would leave his composing to help his wife with her household duties – to wash the dishes, sweep the room or care for a peevish, fretful child.52

William Cart two years earlier had compared Bach’s music to ‘…les clairs-obscurs magiques d’une cathédrale du moyen âge…’53 But Romain Rolland carried his laudatory prolixity beyond belief in his novel Jean-Christophe:

Il entendait gronder l’Océan de l’âme de Jean-Sébastien Bach: les ouragans, les vents qui soufflent, les nuages de la vie quis’enfuient, – les peuples ivres de joie, de douleur, de fureur, et le Christ, plein de mansuétude, le Prince de la Paix, qui plane au-dessus d’eux, – les villes éveillées par les cris des veilleurs, se ruant, avec des clameurs d’allégresse, au devant du Fiancé divin, dont les pas ébranlent le monde, – le prodigieux réservoir de penséees, de passions, de formes musicales, de vie héroïque, d’hallucinations shakespeariennes, de prophéties à la Savonarole, de visions pastorales, épiques, apocalyptiques, enfermées dans le corps étriqué du petit cantor thuringien, au double menton, aux petits yeux brillants sous les paupières plissées et les sourcils relevés…54

It is quite evident that Bach had by now become a romantic. Classical composers do not wash dishes or compose storms and hallucinations, nor do pedantic wigs. Wagner’s quotation from a review of Bitter’s Bach biography makes it even clearer that Bach was a romantic in every sense of the word, even partaking of a tinge of Marxism:

With labour and rare force of will he struggles up from poverty and want to the topmost height of art, strews with full hands an almost incommensurable plenty of most glorious masterworks, strews it on an age which can neither comprehend nor prize him, and dies beneath a burden of down-weighing cares, lonely and forgotten, leaving his family in poverty and privation…55

But if one considers the comparative influence of Bach and that of the classicists, William Cart was quite right in saying that:

Sans viser au paradox on peut dire que malgré son austérité, malgré ses formes d’un autre âge, Bach est plus moderne que Mozart. C’est à lui, et non plus à Mozart que regardent les compositeurs d’aujourd’hui.56

Bach’s influence was both of a very direct nature, in that his music was studied by most of the important romantic composers, and of a more nebulous sort. His relative freedom from symmetrical four-square form, his complexity of voice leading, and his unorthodox chromaticism were seen by the romantics as a precedent for their revolt against classicism, while at the same time it allowed them to look back to more ‘romantic’ times. Mr. Apthorp may be exaggerating a bit when he says that ‘Sebastian Bach is the great source and fountainhead from whence well-nigh all that is best and most enduring in modern music has been derived,’57 but Parry’s contention that Bach is ‘not only un-classical but anti-classical,’58 is certainly sound. In short, we must agree with him that:

A little consideration will show that the revived interest in J.S. Bach’s music is the outcome of the admission of the romantic plea in art.59


1 Alfred Einstein, ‘Bach Then and Now’, The Monthly Musical Record, vol. lxx (London: Augener, 1940), pp 177–178.

2 ‘…a piece of music where the players leave one after the other but the audience leave all at the same time.’ Quoted in M. Adolphe Boschot, ‘La Résurrection de Bach’, Académie des Beaux-Arts Séance Annuelle du 8, Nov. 1950 (Paris: Didot et Cie, 1950), p 10.

3 Dr. Alfred Schone and Ferdinand Hiller, The Letters of a Leipzig Cantor, tr. A.D. Coleridge (London: Novello, Ewer & Co, 1892), p 118.

4 A.D. Coleridge (tr. & ed.), Goethe’s Letters to Zelter (London: George Bell & Sons, 1887), p 353.

5 ‘This great man would have the admiration of all nations if he had more charm and did not deprive his pieces of naturalness, putting in bombast and obscurity and if he did not hide the beauty by excessive art…All the mannerisms, all the little ornaments, in the end all one understands in the method of the accomplished performance, he expresses explicitly in all notes and this removes not only the beauty of the harmony from his compositions but also makes the melody entirely unintelligible.’ Quoted in André Pirro, J.S. Bach (Paris: Librarie Felix Alcan, 1924), p 71.

6 Reginald Lane Poole, Sebastian Bach, ed. F. Hueffer (London: Marston, 1882), pp 124–125

7 Charles Burney, A General History of Music (New York: Dover, 1957), p 96.

8 Ibid. p 955.

9 Eliza Wesley (ed.), Letters of Samuel Wesley to Mr. Jacobs (London: William Reeves, 1878), p 1.

10 Ibid. p 17.

11 Wesley, Letters, p 6.

12 Ibid.

13 J.N. Forkel, Johann Sebastian Bach, His Life, Art and Work, tr. S. Terry (London: Constable & Co, 1920), Introduction by Terry.

14 Ibid. p xxx.

15 H. Heathcote Statham, My Thoughts on Music and Musicians (London: Chapman & Hall,1892), p 174.

16 Irving Kolodin (ed.), The Composer as Listener (New York: Horison Press, 1958), p 21.

17 Forkel, Johann Sebastian Bach, p xxv.

18 Robert Schumann, Music and Musicians, tr. & ed. F. R. Ritter (London: William Reeves, 8th edn), p 46.

19 Richard Wagner, Richard Wagner’s Prose Works, vol. iv, tr. W.A. Ellis; London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co, 1895), p 162.

20 Einstein, ‘Bach Then and Now’, p 176.

21 Hans T. David & Arthur Mendel (ed.), The Bach Reader (New York: Norton, 1945), p 361.

22 Emily Anderson (ed.), The Letters of Beethoven (London: Macmillan,1961), vol. 1, p 47.

23 David & Mendel, The Bach Reader, p 373.

24 Schumann, Music and Musicians, p 27.

25 Nora Bichley (tr.), Letters to and from Joseph Joachim (London: Macmillan, 1914), p 208.

26 Coleridge, Goethe’s Letters to Zelter, pp 284–285.

27 Einstein, ‘Bach Then and Now’, pp 178–179.

28 William Foster Apthorp, Musicians and Music Lovers and Other Essays (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1894), p 93.

29 John N. Burk, Letters of Richard Wagner (New York: Macmillan, 1950), p 544.

30 George Bernard Shaw, How to Become a Musical Critic, ed. D.H. Laurence (New York: Hill & Wang, 1961), p 62.

31 Schone & Hiller, The Letters of a Leipzig Cantor, pp 75 and 159.

32 David & Mendel, The Bach Reader, p 265.

33 Schone & Hiller, The Letters of a Leipzig Cantor, p 159.

34 Apthorp, Musicians and Music Lovers, p 85.

35 Statham, My Thoughts on Music and Musicians, p 213.

36 Schone & Hiller, The Letters of a Leipzig Cantor, pp 157–158.

37 Apthorp, Musicians and Music Lovers, p 91.

38 Dr. Hans Rosenwald, ‘Changes in Approach to Bach’, The Musical Record, vol. lxx (London:

Augener, 1940), p 42.

39 Schone & Hiller, The Letters of a Leipzig Cantor, vol. ii, p 10.

40 Apthorp, Musicians and Music Lovers, p 69.

41 Shaw, How to Become a Musical Critic, p 105.

42 See p 2 above.

43 W.S.B. Matthews, ‘The Importance of Bach and Handel in Music’, Music, ed. W.S.B. Matthews, vol. xiii, Chicago, Dec. 1897, p 175.

44 Boschot, ‘La Résurrection de Bach’, p 11.

45 David & Mendel, The Bach Reader, p 373.

46 Jacques Barzun (ed.), Pleasures of Music (New York: Viking, 1951), p 495.

47 G. Seldon-Goth. Felix Mendelssohn Letters (New York: Pantheon, 1945), p 32.

48 Apthorp, Musicians and Music Lovers, p 62.

49 Hans von Bülow (ed.), J.S. Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue (New York: Schirmer, 1896), Preface.

50 Apthorp, Musicians and Music Lovers, p 83.

51 Ibid. p 96.

52 Elbert Hubbard, Little Journeys to the Homes of Great Musicians, vol. 1 (New York: Roycrofters, 1901), p 114.

53 ‘…the chiaroscuro magic of a medieval cathedral.’ William Cart, étude sur J. S. Bach (Paris: Librarie Fischbacker, 1899), p 259.

54 ‘He heard the roar of the ocean of Johann Sebastian Bach’s soul: the hurricanes, the winds that blow, the clouds of life which float by, the people drunk with joy, with sorrow, with fury, and Christ, full of meekness, the Prince of Peace, who soars above them, the towns (awakened by the cries of watchmen) prostrating them selves, with shouts of joy before the divine Betrothed, whose footsteps disturbed the world; the prodigious reservoir of

thoughts, of passions, of musical forms, of heroic life, of Shakespearean hallucinations, of Savonarola-like prophecies, of pastoral visions, epics, apocalypses, enclosed in the small body of the little Thuringian cantor, with a double chin, with little bright eyes under wrinkled eyelids and raised eyebrows…’ Romain Rolland, Jean Christophe, La Foire sur la Place (Paris: Librarie Paul Ollendorff , 25ème édition), p. 256.

55 Wagner, Richard Wagner’s Prose Works, p 163.

56 ‘Without aspiring to paradox one could say that in spite of his austerity, in spite of his old-fashioned forms, Bach is more modern than Mozart. It is to him, and no longer to Mozart, that today’s composers look.’ Cart, étude sur J. S. Bach, p 263.

57 Apthorp, Musicians and Music Lovers, p 71.

58 C. Hubert H. Parry, Style in Musical Art (London: Macmillan, 1911), p 328.

59 Ibid.

First published in EGTA Guitar Journal no. 3 (1992), pp 44–50

Copyright © 1992 by Alice Artzt

Back to articles page