N E W S L E T T E R              Fall 2001

News · History ·  CD Review · Performer's view ·  Book review ·  Tool for Research


ABS Houston 2002

   Planning continues for the American Bach Society biennial meeting in Houston, April 26-28, 2002, hosted by the University of Houston and Rice University.  The theme of the meeting is “J.S. Bach: Liturgy ñ Music ñ Theology.”  Matthew Dirst is chairing the local arrangements, and ABS members will receive information on registration, travel, and lodging later in the year. 

   In addition to scholarly papers and presentations, the program will include two Bach concerts.  On Friday evening the Houston Bach Choir will perform passion music by C.P.E. Bach recently recovered from the Berlin Sing-Akademie library, and on Saturday evening Houston Early Music will present a concert by the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra and Emma Kirkby.

   Other events will include the awarding of the Scheide prize and research grant, the annual business meeting and luncheon, and of course, the opportunity to meet and talk with fellow Bach scholars and enthusiasts.  We will post information on the ABS web page ( as it becomes available.  For questions about programming you may write to Daniel Melamed at For local arrangements, contact Matthew Dirst at   Mark the dates and plan to join us on April 26-28, 2002!

News from Members

Betty Bang Mather  is co-authoring a book on BWV 1013, in which biblical psalmody is posited as a model for the composition.  Linda Bunza served on a baroque music panel and gave a slide presentation entitled “J. S. Bach: His Life and Music.”  Richard Coffey and Louis Nuechterlein presented a program on Bachís St. Matthew Passion entitled “Moments That Amaze,” in conjunction with Mr. Coffeyís performance of the work.  Stephen Crist is serving as Chair of the Local Arrangements Committee for the annual meeting of the AMS, November 15-18, 2001, in Atlanta.  Cory Hall presented a paper entitled “Bachís Use of the S-D-G Motive” for the AMS Southern Chapter and for CMS, lectured on temporal organization in Bachís Six Partitas in conjunction with his performance of the work, and is writing a book entitled Tempo and Duration in the Music of J. S. Bach.  Dale Higbee directed several Bach performances featuring one-on-a-part vocal forces, including BWV 131, 182, and selections from BWV 21 and 208.  Igor Kipnis has added six new titles, including BWV 825-31, 971, 988, 989, 1030-32, 1033-35, as well as three reissues to his extensive Bach discography, which can be visited at Marissen has received a sabbatical fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies to work in the United States, and a research fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to work at the University of Leipzig theology department, where his projects will include a book about Bach on high Christology, and infancy narratives in Luke and Matthew.  Daniel Melamed directed performances of four J. L. Bach motets (drawing upon his recent A-R Edition of the works), and plans further performances this season.  Ruth MontÈ is preparing a two-part lecture series entitled “Mysteries and the Genius of J. S. Bach reflected in The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1,” in conjunction with her performances of the work.  Frank Morana was appointed editor for the Organ Historical Society quarterly journal The Tracker, and welcomes articles, reviews, commentary, and news on any aspect of the historical organ.  Joan Parsley launched a new program entitled “Bachís Building Blocks,” which was presented at nine public and private elementary schools.  John Yocom presented a discography on the St. Matthew Passion for the Connecticut Public Radio program Whatís New.

William H. Scheide Prize and Research Grant

   The Society invites nominations for the William H. Scheide Prize and applications for the William H. Scheide Research Grant.

   The William H. Scheide Prize, a sum of $1000 to be awarded biennially, honors a publication of exceptional merit on Bach or figures in his circle by a scholar in the early stages of his or her career.  Awards will normally go to citizens or permanent residents of the United States or Canada.  Eligible publications include books, articles or editions that have appeared in the previous two calendar years.  Nominations, which may be submitted by any member of the Society, should include the name of the author along with a complete bibliographic citation.  Nominations for publications appearing in 2000 or 2001 should be sent by February 15, 2002 to Daniel Melamed at or School of Music, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405.  Self-nominations are welcome. 

   The William H. Scheide Research Grant, a stipend ordinarily ranging from $500 to $4000, awarded annually, provides support for a research project on Bach or figures in his circle.  This grant is available to Ph.D. candidates as well as those who have held the doctorate for no longer than seven years.  Applications will be accepted from any member of the Society; awards will normally go to citizens or permanent residents of the United States or Canada.  Applications should include a research proposal of no more than three pages double-spaced, along with a curriculum vitae and a budget, all in English.  Applications should be sent by February 15, 2002 to Daniel Melamed at or in triplicate to School of Music, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. 

   Winners will be announced and awards presented at the Societyís annual meeting in Houston in April, 2002.


   For the scholarly edition Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: The Collected Works, we are attempting to gather as much information as possible on the surviving manuscript and printed sources of C.P.E. Bachís music.  If you or your local library owns any 18th-century sources, letters, or other documentary evidence, please contact our editorial offices at the address below.  We would be especially interested to learn of prints not listed in RISM A/I and B/II, and manuscripts not listed in RISM Online (series A/II).  We can assure you of our utmost discretion in protecting your privacy and anonymity if so desired.

Paul Corneilson, Managing Editor
C.P.E. Bach: The Collected Works
The Packard Humanities Institute
11A Mt. Auburn St., Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone: 617-876-1317.  Fax: 617-876-0074

Bach Festivals

    Listed here.

A Brief History of the American Bach Society

Alfred Mann and George J. Buelow

    The Neue Bachgesellschaft (New Bach Society), founded in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century became an international organization after the Second World War.  Germany was divided into two separate, independent states, and the Bachgesellschaft was no longer administered by one central office but rather by one in East and one in West Germany.  This stimulated the search for and development of new chapters, and a group of Bach Society members in the United States became primary candidates to form one of those chapters.

   The oldest American Bach organization was the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, founded around the same time as the Neue Bachgesellschaft.  The conductor (1970-1980) of the Bethlehem Bach Choir, Alfred Mann, consulted with American members of the Neue Bachgesellschaft and offered the Bach Choirís headquarters as the American office; thus in 1971 preparations for organizing an American chapter of the Neue Bachgesellschaft were begun.  Mann was greatly helped in this endeavor by the Choirís archivist, Richard Watt, Professor of German at Lehigh University, who for a time assumed informal secretarial functions.  Mann followed up these organizational preparations with a visit with Professor Christhard Mahrenholz, then president of the Neue Bachgesellschaft, at his home in Hanover, Germany, to consult with him about the organization of the new chapter.

   The American Bach scholar Arthur Mendel agreed to call a meeting at Princeton University to inaugurate the American chapter.  At that meeting, later in 1971, Gerhard Herz, Bach scholar at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, was elected the first chairman of the American Chapter of the Neue Bachgesellschaft, and a board consisting of Herz, Mendel, and Mann (the latter acting as chapter secretary),  was  named to administer it.

The chapter held its first membership meeting in Bethlehem during the Bach Choirís 65th Festival at the end of May, 1972.  The terms of chapter officers, at first appointed pro tem, coincided with those for the officers of the Neue Bachgesellschaft.  Successive chairmen of the American Chapter were: Robert Marshall, Brandeis University, Robert Freeman, then of University of Rochester and Director of the Eastman School of Music, and George J. Buelow, Indiana University.

   On assuming the chairmanship in 1987, Buelow suggested to the board that the growth of the chapter warranted its independence.  He helped to establish the American Bach Society (ABS), which included the important step of achieving the status of a non-profit corporation in 1988, and became its first President in 1989. An informal affiliation with the Neue Bachgesellschaft continued (as have affiliations with the Bach Choir of Bethlehem and the Riemenschneider Bach Institute at Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea, Ohio).  Buelow was succeeded as President by Don O. Franklin, University of Pittsburgh (1992-1996), George B. Stauffer, then at the City University of New York (1996-2000), and currently, Robin A. Leaver, Westminster Choir College of Rider University (2000-  ).

CD Review

J. S. Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II, performed on the Harpsichord, Clavichord, Organ, and Fortepiano by Robert Levin.  H‰nssler (CD 92.117).

Yo Tomita

    In the Spring issue of the Newsletter, Robert Levin discusses his theories about Bachís WTC II, as put to the test in his recent May 2000 recording.  His central premise is that the WTC is susceptible of interpretation upon a wide variety of keyboard instruments, and accordingly, he chooses five different instruments that were available to Bach ñ clavichord, organ, single-manual harpsichord, double-manual harpsichord, and fortepiano ñ and selects one for each prelude and fugue pair.  This approach is reminiscent of a similar, earlier attempt by Daniel Chorzempa (Philips, 1994), who used a comparable set of early instruments.  What are the differences between them?  How original is Levinís approach?  How significant is it for the study of 18th century performance practice?

   In his liner notes, Levin throws open a thorny issue of textual matters in discussing how he chose the texts for his performances.  Acknowledging specific circumstances in which each work was conceived, compiled, and revised, there are numerous variant readings handed down in various manuscripts, and scrupulous care needs to be exercised when reconstructing a single version in performance.

   How well does Levin accommodate recent research in his performance?  Beyond the points addressed in his notes, there are many additional points that emanate from the performance itself, as well as from the premises adopted.  The following, then, is a musicological response to his “performerís view.”

   Levinís practical approach to picking and choosing instruments has both external and internal dimensions.  There is still much room for investigating the extent to which the rise of the fortepiano influenced Bachís musical life in the late 1730ís (see, for instance, Eva Badura-Skodaís study in Bach-Jahrbuch 1991 and BACH 31/1).  But the wide range of styles explored by the individual pieces in WTC II tends to support the view that, here, the composer may have intended to explore the particular traits of certain instruments more rigorously.  Whether or not he ever performed or intended to perform WTC II in this manner, however, is not at issue.

   What strikes me strongly is that Levin selects different instruments than Chorzempa in so many cases: in the 24 prelude and fugue pairs, there are only nine instances of overlap.  That Levin deliberately avoids using the same instrument for any adjacent pairs is also worth noting, and it makes good sense when hearing the whole collection from beginning to end.

   One of the highlights of Levinís performance in my opinion is the A-flat major, for which he selects the fortepiano.  Source evidence suggests that the Prelude, which he considers quite rightly “a towering masterpiece,” could have been one of the first pieces Bach wrote following his trip to Berlin in August 1741.  Though we know few details of Bachís activities in Berlin, it is hard to imagine that he simply stayed with his son and did nothing else.  One could surmise that he met influential figures and learned something that may have been reflected in this piece.  Perhaps he had the opportunity to play some of the fine instruments there ñ including the Silbermann pianos, as suggested by Levinís own inspired playing; quite apart from his masterly control of various shades of color on this delicate instrument, Levin successfully creates a sense of musical architecture which is most impressive.

   In several instances, however, Levinís choice of instrument puzzles me.  One example is the Prelude in D minor ñ in my mind, a harpsichord piece ñ for which Levin chooses the fortepiano.  Another is the Prelude in E-flat, which I would have considered a clavichord piece, and which Levin plays on the organ.  (Chorzempa, by the way, chooses organ for the D minor, and clavichord for the E-flat.)  In these pieces, Levin apparently made his choices on the basis of the fugues; but if our goal were to find the best-suited instrument in each case ñ leaving aside what Bachís own performance practice might have been ñ it surely would make better sense to drop the premise that each prelude and fugue pair must be performed on the same instrument.  These pairs often have separate histories, separate origins, and scarcely share common stylistic elements.

   In Levinís choice of organ stops for the C major Fugue, despite a beautiful-sounding start, a problem becomes apparent once the bass enters: since this bass does not speak quite clearly in the lower register, it can not take full part in the fugal discourse, and Bachís dramatic climax (painstakingly reshaped at mm. 68-83) is not materialized in sound.  Still, I must confess that, in Levinís hands, this performance does not disappoint.  Similarly, in the E-flat Prelude, where his light and well-articulated touch conveys the essence of this playful gem, I was happy to be proven wrong in the choice of organ as opposed to clavichord.  While we owe much to Bachís universal instrumental idiom that allows many instruments to produce equally convincing results, Levin deserves much credit for his imaginative approach in making the individual pieces speak.  I find his interpretations both diverse and original, and his handling of the instruments imposing.  Though I have slight qualms with his sometimes monotonous handling of the clavichord and occasional inflexibility and stiffness at the harpsichord ñ emanating, apparently, from his extraordinary technical facility ñ I must say that his performance on these instruments is masterful also.  He explores a very wide range of emotion, which is particularly impressive on the fortepiano in, for instance,  the lazy, resigned mood of the C-sharp minor Prelude on the one hand, and the wild and ruthlessly passionate playing of the A minor Fugue on the other.  The ways in which he characterizes various motifs with bold but well-controlled articulation, treats suspensions expressively, controls the strength of the musical flow, marks cadential points exquisitely, and in one instance, improvises a thrilling bridge passage after a pause, all contribute substantially to a unique compilation of these wonderful musical jewels.

   Returning to the issue of text, Levin throws a valuable light on his performance, “in view of the supposed ëlast autograph edition,í restored piece for the more developed variant of the A and B versions, each from the NBA.”  He discredits other editions for their picking and choosing in variant readings, and claims to have “categorically refrained from [making] such a combination, with two minor exceptions: (1) embellishments that were partly improvised during this recording, and (2) for repetitions we occasionally used deviant versions in the second round for the sake of variety.”  This is a fine stance, but there are some problems in the way he puts it into practice.  First, quite a few pieces Levin selects from the NBA are, in my view, earlier versions, and not the later, definitive versions, e.g., the Preludes in D-sharp minor and G-sharp minor, and the Fugues in C minor, A minor, and B major.  Second, there is evidence of a deliberate mix-up of readings from the two versions in the Fugue in C-sharp.  Third, both the selection and treatment of variants that Levin uses for binary movements do not appear to be have been considered carefully and consistently.  Determining the state of a version (whether it is early or later) is often difficult in WTC II ñ it seems that Bach himself worked on improvements as opportunity allowed, both in his own scores and in pupilsí scores.  For many movements, neither the A or B versions represent Bachís final intentions, and the NBA is not the ideal tool in this regard, notwithstanding the massive Kritische Bericht.  There are many different kinds of variants and it is essential that we understand how they were introduced, i.e., whether as minor corrections and adjustments, or as significant compositional departures that express musical ideas more effectively.  For the A minor fugue, for example, Levin selects version B, which has a tighter contrapuntal fabric.  But version A is the later version, and in it Bach loosened some of the compositional references in order to enhance the expressive quality of the movement, e.g., in introducing a new suspension at m. 6, and in broadening the use of the lower register at m. 15.  Knowing the course of Bachís revision in turn informs us as to how Bach himself might have thought about “effective performance.” 

   But selecting an earlier version is not necessarily a mistake.  Levinís choice in the A minor Fugue conforms well to his non-indulgent playing style, in which the version with the purer form of musical logic might be preferable.  Yet I am tempted to ask, were he to play version A convinced that it contained Bachís own hints for a more effective performance, would that  significantly impact his approach?

   Another type of variant that might be incorporated into performance is that which seems to exist only for the sake of variety, which is exactly how Levin treats the D major Prelude (e.g., at m. 36).  But it is unclear why he does not pursue this treatment more vigorously in, say, the Preludes in D-sharp minor and G-sharp minor, where he could have played version B at the outset, and version A (which contains the more highly developed variants) in the repeats.  This idea certainly extends into improvisation practice, and Levin, according to the license extended to all good 18th-century performers, explores this in the F minor Prelude with results that are refreshing and exciting. 

   This recording provides plenty of food for thought in addition to many hours of listening enjoyment.

Performer's View                               

Bach and the Performance of Meaning

 John Butt

   A few years ago I wanted to try to present a new perspective on the Bach chorus dispute and, in so doing, came to believe that certain aspects of performance and performance practice might have constituted a significant part of the message of the music, insofar as it was designed to work in the liturgy.  Performance practice has generally been related to music in formalistic terms: the original ñ and thus presumed correct ñ form of performance is seen as essential to the identity of the music.  In other words, there has often been the underlying belief that recapturing the original sounds in their entirety would somehow lead to the duplication of the original experience, or bring us closer to some Platonic essence of the piece.  On the other hand, those who have sought various levels of symbolism or textual exegesis in the music have tended to ignore the transitory element of performance and looked only for clues firmly encoded in the notation.  My newfound concern with the relation between the practice of performance and the sense to be communicated is not so much to capture an original and essential meaning in Bachís music; rather, it is to show how significant performance itself might be to the way music signifies in general, and also how meanings that are momentary and fragmentary are just as powerful as those that are fixed within the musical text.  In other words, meaning by connotation rather than denotation might be one of the most potent ways that music works as a performance art.  I am thus using Bach as a specific case of this form of meaning-generation rather than suggesting the correct interpretation of his music, which has, after all, worked so successfully and in so many ways outside the context of its original performance and use.

   A point I recently drew in an article “Bachís vocal scoring: what can it mean?” (Early Music, xxvi [1998]: 99-107) was that the original parts to Bachís two Passions seem to suggest that the tenor who sung the Evangelist and the bass who sang Christus also appear to have sung all the other solos, choruses, and chorales within that range.  To many, this is patently absurd, given that when, for instance, Christ dies in the John Passion, he suddenly seems to stand up again and sing the bass aria “Mein teurer Heiland.”  In other words, weíve gotten into the habit of thinking that the Passions were designed like operas with clearly differentiated character roles.

   Nevertheless, it is striking that the two bass arias in the John Passion, and those for Basso I (i.e., the part labeled Christus) in the Matthew Passion, come toward the end of the work, when Christ is largely silent or already dead.  Thus, we would hear a singer who is sonically associated with Christ as a human being trying to follow and imitate Christ, a remarkably potent and poignant move.  The fact that the bass aria with the chorale “Mein teurer Heiland” comes at precisely the moment after Jesus dies could be highly significant rather than absurd.  At the line “Es ist vollbracht, bin ich vom Sterben freigemacht?” (It is fulfilled, am I freed from death?), the sense of the singerís salvation is particularly strong ñ having just died, he now has the means towards eternal life; he is freed from death both as a human being and as Christ himself.  Moreover, the accompanying chorale begins with the lines “Jesu, der du warest todt, lebest nun ohní Ende” (Jesu, you who were dead now lives without end) addressed by the entire chorus of singers to the very singer who took the part of Christ.  At the moment of death, his resurrection and immortality are thus assured, very much in accordance with the Johannine approach to Christís passion.

   Imitation of Christ is also the central theme of the first Basso I aria in the Matthew Passion, “Komm, s¸sses Kreuz” (Come, sweet cross, I will say, my Jesus, just put it on me! / Should my pain become too heavy, then help me to carry it Yourself).  This comes after the accompanied bass recitative “Ja! freilich will in uns das Fleisch und Blut” (Yes, gladly is the flesh and blood in us compelled to the cross; The more it benefits our souls, the more painfully it weighs).  This pair of solos comes at the point at which Simon of Cyrene helps Christ bear the cross.  Simon is, literally, the first human to carry Christís burden, who, more than anyone, teaches us by example that if we imitate Christ he will reciprocally help us in our travail.  Thus, the bass concertist makes his first appearance as a soloist at precisely the moment in which a human being first begins to imitate Christ.  The fact that he has been imitating Christ throughout the entire Passion up until this juncture renders the point extremely strongly that the imitator of Christ in Bachís passion music, in effect, draws strength from the first imitator of Christ in Jerusalem, and is to be understood by the congregation as acting in the role of Simon of Cyrene.

   Although I have not given any more sustained attention to this issue recently, there are two further points that have occurred  to me within the course of several performances of the Matthew Passion.  First, the example of “Komm, s¸sses Kreuz” also contains what is perhaps the most demanding part that Bach ever wrote for the viola da gamba ñ particularly if the player is performing cold.  Bach had originally planned this for the lute, but there was clearly much to be gained by capitalizing on the greater projection of the gamba.  Its sound would be relatively unfamiliar within the context of the performance (regardless of whether it had already been used for “Geduld”), and would thus give a new sensation to jolt the listener into conceiving of the actual weight and substance of the cross.  Moreover, its difficulty must surely relate to the difficulty of carrying the cross and of the imitation of Christ in the more general sense.  Perhaps something of this sense is lost in performances today (especially on highly edited CDís) where gamba playing is almost too good!  This is not a request that modern players try to feign incompetence, but itís fascinating to speculate how Bach may have calculated for different levels of achievement in performance.

   A second, perhaps less frivolous point concerns the way that “Erbarme dich” has been written for its performers.  We tend to regard this as a superlative solo for the alto, accompanied by a violin obbligato that sets the scene, but which is then basically subservient to the voice.  However, most people would identify the true melody of this piece as that which is imparted by the violin, and not the alto, which promptly diverts into countermelody after its opening gesture.  In other words, Bach has written a melody that is basically impossible to sing in its entirety.  The voice can sing the fragments that come within its range, but then can only shadow the violin, singing either a simpler version of the same melody, or a countermelody.  In an aria that relates so directly to human failing, coming at the point at which Peter has betrayed Christ, we hear a model of musical perfection ñ an opening ritornello for the solo violin, to which a human singer aspires without ever quite succeeding: “Have mercy, my God, for my tearsí sake.  Look hither, my heart and eyes weep bitterly over Thee.”  There is also a sense in which the opening ritornello dominates the whole piece in terms of musical structure.  It sets the scene as the complete, opening eight-bar ritornello, then it is essentially repeated, both in segments and as a whole, throughout the remainder of the piece.  Often, the reiterations of the ritornello, as in the last section of the vocal part, are not even obvious to the casual listener.  There is, here, another model of musical perfection in that the agility of the violin not only represents an unattainable model for the singer, but is also present throughout the entire piece as the very support of the musical entity, sometimes conspicuously (e.g., in interludes, in what would often be called the ritornello proper), but more often concealed.  Here, Bachís model of musical perfection can be seen as an allegory for a model of spiritual perfection, the model of Christ that we are all enjoined to imitate, even in the knowledge (so pressing at this point in the story) that we cannot entirely succeed.

   What I am suggesting is that much of the meaning that a contemporary audience may have found in this music lay in unpredictable places ñ in the person of a performer, in the difficulty of an instrument, or in the formal perfection of the music measured against the necessary imperfections of the performance medium.  This is what I have called meaning by connotation rather than meaning by denotation ñ less certain, but often equally or more powerful.  I have tended to assume that much of this must have been intended by Bach, although there is obviously no way of proving this.  It may well be that some of it was unintended or intended somehow unconsciously.  However, the point remains that seemingly insignificant issues of performance (not least, Bachís famed difficulty as a composer) can have a considerable bearing on the sense conveyed; it is not a matter of performance as merely the mouthpiece of a latent, stable message, but rather, that meaning can be generated fleetingly and elusively within the very act of performance.

Book Review

Albert Clement. Der dritte Teil der Clavier¸bung von Johann Sebastian Bach: Musik, Text, Theologie (Middelburg: Edita Almares, 1999), xii + 450 pp.

Jan-Piet Knijff

   This is a comprehensive study of Bachís Clavier¸bung III.  The author discusses the music, text, and theological meaning of the chorales Bach set in his first printed collection for organ.  In addition, he discusses the Prelude and Fugue in E-flat, and presents a possible new background for the four Duets. 

   Clement, who is associate professor at Utrecht University, studied organ, musicology, and theology, and took his Ph.D. in musicology in Utrecht in 1989 with a dissertation on the relationship of text and music in Bachís chorale variations.  His publications have since concentrated on text, music, and theology in Bachís music.  He was elected president of the Internationale Arbeitsgemeinschaft f¸r theologische Bachforschung in 1999.

   This is a valuable book.  It is a pity that there is no English summary, and that so few musicians outside the German-speaking countries will read German well enough to work their way through it.  In fact, a reading knowledge of German alone will not suffice, since Clement also cites passages in French, Dutch, and Latin without providing translations.

   A somewhat unpleasant aspect of the book is the manner in which Clement frequently criticizes other authors.  He is undoubtedly right in saying that many earlier studies on the topic have failed to take into account the extant literature.  (He points out that, in some cases, various authors have seemed to have arrived at the same ideas independently.)  Clement himself consistently reviews the literature before stating his own view on a work.  The problem with this, however, is that many authors have not done a very good job writing on Clavier¸bung III, and Clement has a tendency to go on excessively about all kinds of mistakes in their work ñ wrong bar numbers, missed thematic entries, erroneous basic assumptions, and so forth.  Although the criticism itself may be quite valid, it becomes a bit tiresome to read so much negative material time and time again.

   Before his discussion of the individual pieces, Clement discusses the background of the Clavier¸bung title.  He includes an overview of other composersí collections with the same title, from Kuhnau (1689) to Kirnberger (1766).  Clementís little quibble about the Goldberg Variations is interesting ñ in his opinion, that work should not be called Clavier¸bung IV.  (Though the original title says Clavier¸bung, it does not mention “fourth part” in any way.)  In Clementís view, this is not simply a mistake, but clearly indicates that the publication does not belong to the earlier Clavier¸bung series.  He even goes so far as to call the NBA publication of the work as Clavier¸bung IV a  “falsification of history.”

   Clement goes on to discuss the overall plan of Clavier¸bung III in detail.  The cyclic structure that he presents for the work is fascinating.  He shows how the final fugue mirrors the pedaliter Kyrie settings, all in three flats, referring to the Trinity.  On the other hand, the manualiter Kyrie settings in the modality of E, with the three Gloria settings in F, G, and A, mirror the four Duets, which are in E minor, F, G, and A minor.  The stunning examples of Bachís (presumed) use of number symbolism calls for special attention.  Clement comes up with a whole series of magic triangles of bar totals.  These were discovered by the Dutchman Thijs Kramer, and inspired by work done half-a-century ago by the Dutch musicologist Henk Dieben.  (Dieben put the bar totals of WTC II into a series of interconnected magic squares, for example.)  Next comes discussion of the Prelude and Fugue in E-flat, the frame of the collection.  Clement explains the Trinitarian background to both pieces.  He connects the three themes of the Prelude with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, respectively.  Similarly, the three parts of the fugue also refer to the three persons of the Trinity.  Interestingly, both in the Prelude and the Fugue, the manualiter sections relate to God the Son.  The Trinitarian character of the Fugue is underscored by the total number of entries of the main theme: 27=3x3x3.

   In the section that finishes the introduction, Clement points out that the third (and, so far as he is concerned, the last) part of Bachís Clavier¸bung is intended for an instrument with “three” keyboards, i.e., in the use of two manuals and pedal.  This clearly creates a climax in that Part I is for a single-keyboard instrument, and Part II, for a double-keyboard.

   The remainder of the book divides into three groups: Missa (Kyrie and Gloria), Catechismus sonorus (The Catechism Chorales), and Die musikalische Hausandacht (The Musical Prayer at Home; the four Duets).  Clement gives the full text (i.e., all verses) for each chorale, taken from the hymnal  published by Schemelli (to which Bach himself contributed) in 1736, only three years prior to the publication of  Clavier¸bung III.  The melody for each chorale follows the Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch of Vopelius (1682), which was at Bachís disposal in Leipzig.  Clement first discusses each chorale apart from Bachís compositional setting.  Then follows the discussion and analysis of that setting.  Clement often uses small schemes to explain the distribution of themes throughout a piece, which is very helpful.  He then gives a survey of the literature for the specific work, and finally presents his own view.

   Most of the time, Clement posits a specific chorale verse that Bach presumably took as a point of departure.  This is quite often not the first verse.  (Clement criticizes Chailley for taking for granted that a chorale setting is based on the first verse of the hymn).  For example, the pedaliter setting of “Dies sind die heilígen zehn Gebotí ” is based on verse 11, while the manualiter setting of the same chorale is based on verse 12.  Similarly, the pedaliter setting of “Jesus Christus unser Heiland” is based on verse 1 of the chorale, while the manualiter setting is based upon verse 2.  The great “Vater unser im Himmelreich,” in every respect one of Bachís most difficult pieces, is based on verse 4 of Lutherís hymn.  Of the three settings of “Allein Gott in der Hˆh sei Ehr,” the first illustrates the first verse, and the trio the second, while the fughetta combines the third and fourth verses.  While Clement is often quite convincing in his interpretations, it is hard to say whether this owes mainly to his strong writing and harsh criticism of other authors.  My feeling is that his interpretation of the “Vater unser” (based on the stanza “Dein Will gescheh, Herr Gott, zugleich”) is particularly striking, while the idea that Bach combined stanzas 3 and 4 for “Allein Gott in der Hˆhí ”somehow does not quite convince.

   The most remarkable part of the book is probably Group III, subtitled Eine Mutmassung (A Suspicion).  Here, Clement presents a new view on the four Duets.  First, he states that their idiom points to stringed keyboard instruments rather than the organ; he mentions their closeness in style to, for example, the two-part Inventions.  This is supported by some documentation, in that one manuscript specifically designates the Duets as “per il cembalo” while Bachís cousin and secretary Johann Elias Bach mentions in a letter about Clavier¸bung III that the pieces in it are “mainly for organists” (emphasis added).  The Duets would therefore seem to be intended for home use rather than church use.  At this point, Clement introduces a book by the 17th century theologian Heinrich M¸ller, who, after Luther and August Pfeiffer, was the most strongly represented author in Bachís library (Bach owned at least five books by M¸ller).  It is entitled Geistliche Erquick-Stunden / Oder Dreyhundert Haus- und Tisch-Andachten (Rostock, 1666 and many other editions).  Number 194 in this collection of “300 Prayers for Home and Table” is called “Von vier s¸ssen Dingen” (On Four Sweet Things) and is reprinted in facsimile by Clement.

   The “four sweet things” are: Word of God, Cross, Death (particularly, not being afraid of death), and Heaven.  It is in many ways very striking how these seem to characterize the four Duets quite well.  It is interesting also that the term duetto is sometimes used by Bach for a dialogue between, for example, the Soul and Holy Spirit.  This is relevant because M¸ller talks about the relationship between the Soul and the “four sweet things.”

   In his Schlussbetrachtung (Conclusion), Clement once again makes a strong case for the structural role of numbers, number symbolism, and the meaning of related time signatures (3/4 - 6/8 - 9/8 in the manualiter Kyrie settings, for example).  Finally, the author mentions that an earlier version of Clavier¸bung III might once have existed.

   In a few instances, Clement makes brief remarks about organ registration.  With regard to the Fugue in E-flat, he warns against playing the manualiter middle section on a different manual, as one would destroy the Trinitarian idea thereby.  While I suppose few scholarship-oriented organists would disagree, the remark comes across as slightly schoolmasterish.  Even in good old Europe, there are many organs in which the continuous use of a single organo pleno registration would certainly not be the best artistic choice.  The pedaliter version of “Dies sind die heilígen zehn Gebotí ” is possibly inspired by Grignyís five-part fugues with their standard registration of Cornet for the right hand, Cromorne for the left, and 8í Flute in the pedal.  Few organists, however, would consider using Grignyís registration for Bachís piece, and Clementís suggestion for Trumpet in the left hand, Principals in the right, and 8, 16í in the pedal adds very little to standard practice so far as I can tell.

   This important book will be will be indispensable for any serious organist and scholar dealing with the subject.  It would, by the way, be interesting to have a similar interdisciplinary discussion of the “Great Eighteen,” Russell Stinsonís excellent recent monograph on that collection notwithstanding.  Meanwhile, it would be useful to have at least a summary of Clementís findings in English.

A Tool from the Late 17th Century for Chorale Research

 Daniel R. Melamed

    Every student of 17th and 18th century Lutheran church music faces the problem of identifying hymn stanzas.  This is easy enough if a composition uses the first verse of a well-known chorale, but internal stanzas of less familiar hymns present a challenge, especially when one is working not from a score (where the chorale melody provides an obvious starting point for identifying texts associated with it) but from a text alone, as for example, in the libretto of a passion setting.

   For Bachís music, of course, there are several reference works that identify every chorale text he set, and these tools can also be useful for the music of other composers if the stanza in question is one that Bach happened to use.  Another useful tool is the index to the modern edition of Michael Praetoriusís works, Gesamtausgabe der musikalischen Werke von Michael Praetorius, Vol. 21, Generalregister, ed. Walther Engelhardt (Wolfenb¸ttel, 1960), which conveniently tabulates each chorale stanza in Praetoriusís huge output.  It, too, is limited ñ if that is ever the right word for the encyclopedic Praetorius ñ to the hymns he treated.

   Neither of these tools is comprehensive, and each is effective only if one knows the first line of a stanza.  To cover more of the repertory and to permit identification of a random line, one really needs a concordance to chorales like the volume published as a supplement to the Evangelisches Gesangbuch (EG): Ernst Lippold and Guenter Vogelsang, eds, Konkordanz zum Evangelischen Gesangbuch, Handbuch zum Evangelischen Gesangbuch 1 (Gˆttingen, 1995).

   In consulting this useful book, one has to make allowances for modern spelling, and of course the book is limited to the repertory of the present-day EG.  Research on music of the 17th and 18th centuries usually requires a more comprehensive source that focuses on the hymns in use in those years.  In fact there is one, a concordance to chorales prepared by Georg Serpilius (1668-1723) and published in 1696. It is immensely useful for the modern researcher, but it also has implications for the way we think about the working methods of 18th-century composers and authors of librettos.  I reproduce most of the title of this work in all its Baroque splendor: 

Georgi Serpili, Evangelischen Predigers in Regenspurg Neuverfertigte Lieder-Concordantz ¸ber D C. Kirchen- und andre geistreiche Ges‰nge / Zu besondern Nutzen der Lehrer denen Zuhˆren zu Erbauung des Christenthums und zeitlichen Vorschmack der ewigen Freude Nach Art der Biblischen Concordantz m¸hsam zusammen getragen. Dabey ein dazu gehˆriges Gesang-Buch und nˆthige Anweisung / wie das Werck f¸glich soll gebrauchet werden . . . Dresden und Leipzig / Verlegts Johann Christoph Mieth und Joh. Christoph Zimmerman / Pirna mit Stremelis Schr. drucks G.B. Ludewig / 1696.

 [Georg Serpilius, Pastor in Regensburgís newly-prepared concordance to 600 church hymns and other spiritual songs, of particular use to the teacher and his audience for the building of Christendom and a worldly foretaste of eternal joy, painstakingly assembled in the manner of a biblical concordance.  With an accompanying hymnal and necessary instruction on how the work might properly be used...] 

The accompanying hymnal is entitled: 

Verneuert und vermehrtes Christliches Gesang=Buch / In sich haltend Sechshundert Alte und Neue Kirchen= und andere Geistreiche Ges‰nge / So zum Gebrauch der Neu=verfertigten Lieder=CONCORDANZ zusammen getragen worden. 

   In the United States, I know of print copies of this work at the Library of Congress, at Harvard University, and at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York; and microfilm copies at Florida State University, Emory University, Indiana University, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  (The Library of Congress can supply microfilms of its copy; go to

   The volume is arranged (as its title says) just like a biblical concordance: each entry, in alphabetical order, is a word found in a chorale stanza.  Sub-entries present each full chorale line that includes that word, with a citation to the chorale in the accompanying hymnal.  So, for example, the entry for “Wolff” reads: 

                        126       4         der ergrimmten Wˆlffe Sinn.
                                     7         und erw¸rgte Wˆlff und Drachen.
                                    11         selbst die wilden Wˆlffe heulen.
                        363       7         und wie ein Wolff die Schaafe.
                        550       6         hast unsern Wolff zur¸ck gef¸hrt.

    This tells us that the word appears in the 4th, 7th and 11th stanzas of hymn 126, “Fliest, ihr Tr‰nen, fliest und schiesset,” a text by Siegmund von Birken to the melody “Jesu, der du meine Seele”; in the 7th stanza of hymn 363, “Hˆrt an, ihr Vˆlker, hˆrt dach an” by Paul Gerhardt (melody: “Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam”); and in the 6th stanza of the same authorís “Wie ist so gross und schwer die Last” (melody: Warum betr¸bst du dich, mein Herz”).  This is a short entry; more common words (“Liebe,” for example) go on for pages.  The entire concordance encompasses nearly 1000 pages, with about 70 entries per page.

   The assembler of this imposing work, Georg Serpilius (1668-1723) was a member of the clergy who spent most of his career in Regensburg.  He is best known today for his role as a leading figure in the first flowering of hymnological studies around the turn of the 18th century.  In addition to this concordance, he was the author of studies of the background and textual history of many well-known hymns.  (There is information on Serpilius and his work in Martin Rˆssler, “Die Fr¸hzeit hymnologischer Forschung,” Jahrbuch f¸r Liturgik und Hymnologie 19 [1975]: 123-86; this article also contains an excellent bibliography of early writings on hymns.  I am grateful to Robin Leaver for pointing this out to me.)

   Serpiliusís station in Regensburg, in the midst of Roman Catholic strongholds, helps explain the polemical tone of the two prefaces (one by the compiler and one by the Hamburg preacher Johann Friedrich Mayer) defending the Lutheran hymn against Catholic critics and imitators.  The more substantive parts of the preliminary material make it clear that the volume was aimed at interpreters who might use the concordance to locate theological themes in hymns, just as they would use a biblical concordance as a guide to scripture.

   The interpreters Serpilius had in mind were principally scholars and preachers, presumably including those who wrote the newly fashionable Lied-Predigt, the sermon based on a hymn.  (See Martin Rˆssler, Bibliographie der deutschen Liedpredigt [Nieuwkoop, 1976].)  This practice may have a close connection to Bachís so-called chorale cantata cycle of 1724-25, essentially the musical equivalent of hymn sermons.  But of course there was another kind of scriptural interpreter to whom such a concordance might have been useful: the compiler of the libretto of a sacred cantata, passion setting, or other church work that used carefully selected hymn stanzas alongside biblical texts and free poetry.

   Some of the relationships between chorale stanzas and the words and themes of church compositions are obvious, and would probably have occurred to any author reasonably familiar with the hymn repertory.  For example, the question “Bin ichs?” in Bachís St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244, is answered by the stanza “Ich bins, ich sollte b¸ssen.”  But the choice of some theologically appropriate stanzas is more subtle.  Even though seasonal hymns would have made a good starting point in most cases, the search for just the right chorale stanza for a given purpose would have been much easier with a tool like Serpiliusís concordance.

   There is every reason to think that authors of cantata and passion texts in the early 18th century ñ including those who worked with J. S. Bach ñ consulted Serpiliusís work.  Modern researchers can continue to put it to good use.

© 2001 by The American Bach Society.
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