The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

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IcedNote
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The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by IcedNote » Wed Jan 06, 2010 5:23 pm

Hi. 8)

So last quarter I taught a class all about the life and works of Mozart. I asked for your input about which pieces to focus on, and I really enjoyed reading your responses.

So now it's this quarter, and I have a class all about the life and works of Bach (he of the J.S. variety).

So what would your list of 10 pieces be? Remember, this isn't necessarily your Top 10. Rather, it's the 10 pieces you would use to expose some non-music majors (and a bunch of actual music majors) to The Man.

What say you? :D

-G
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Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Jan 06, 2010 6:16 pm

This is going to be monumentally unoriginal, but I think you need to balance accessibility, foundationality (if there is such a word) and variety. Also, I think that seriousness of purpose requires you to present whole works, which eliminates Air on a G string and Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, though maybe not the Chaconne. So:

1. A Brandenburg, and I think number 5 is the easiest to love followed by number 2

2-10 Something else. (just kidding)

2. The Italian Concerto

3. The Chaconne.

4. Aw, go for the P&F in C from the WTC, but the whole thing so they'll realize there's more than just the famous Prelude.

5. The Magnificat

6. An instrumental concerto, perhaps the reconstructed Concerto for Oboe and Violin

7. Cantata BWV 4 "Christ lag in Todesbanden" (completely in a category by itself but whaddaya gonna do?)

8. A sonata for harpsichord and a solo instrument, perhaps flute (make sure it's one of the authentic ones, not the one with the famous siciliano).

I'm too close to the organ music to make a good recommendation for a beginning listener, but for gosh sake, Garrett, PLEASE don't play them the Toccata in D minor. Way too big a cliche, they will laugh when they hear the opening, extremely idiosyncratic in Bach's output, and not among his best works for the instrument.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by ContrapunctusIX » Wed Jan 06, 2010 6:21 pm

Brandenburg #2, 5
Overture #2, 3

D Minor partita

Art of Fugue - if they're beginners you'll probably want to get a recording with a keyboard, orchestral or quartet arrangement

Mass in B Minor

Goldberg variations

Suite No. 1 for solo Cello

Concerto for 2 violins

Cantata "Ein Feste Burg ist unser Gott"

BONUS: Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue

I'm guessing you're going to teach them about fugue and counterpoint and all that. The works I selected should give them a pretty good foundation for it.
10 works seems to few for Bach. I can think of at least 10 more I'd suggest. 3rd brandenburg, suite #1, some of the keyboard partitas/french suites, maybe an organ work, etc.
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Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Jan 06, 2010 7:07 pm

I have a lot to recommend. Unfortunately they are all by Handel. 8) :lol:
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Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Jan 06, 2010 8:02 pm

The Goldberg Variations
Sonata and Partita for Violin
Ich Habe Genug
A Cello Suite
Viola De Gamba Sonata
Trio Sonata
A Violin Concerto
An Orchestral Suite
Toccata and Fugue in D minor
The Well Tempered Clavier

An attempt at a general cross section of his work...mainly pretty obvious stuff...
Sent via Twitter by @chalkperson

James

Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by James » Wed Jan 06, 2010 10:34 pm

Your chronology is off, you should have started with JS Bach, he's leagues beyond any other composer... & pick anything, really, there is always something that can be learned & discovered from him...nothing is mediocre, nothing is lacking in good taste, the mystery, the invention, the depth... overflowing with a deep religious/spiritual feeling, etc etc etc

A few quick beginner recommendations:
* Brandenburg Concertos 2, 3, 5 ....vital, deeply rhythmic, joyous, singing music.
* English Suites ... or the Partitas ...
* Organ ... chorale preludes ... some of the best music ever... believe it : The 18 Leipzig Chorales, his end of life gathering together/ summation of the best of his organ work ...
* Mass in B Minor ... big work ... meaty ... incredible variety of music ... the final section is one of my favourite pieces of Bach.

James

Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by James » Wed Jan 06, 2010 10:39 pm

jbuck919 wrote:PLEASE don't play them the Toccata in D minor. Way too big a cliche, they will laugh when they hear the opening, extremely idiosyncratic in Bach's output, and not among his best works for the instrument.
Agreed, I've always hated it and I don't believe it was by him, i mean listen to it...ugh.

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Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by RebLem » Wed Jan 06, 2010 11:13 pm

1. Toccata & Fugue in D Minor, S. 565
2. Sonata 3 for Solo Violin.
3. The Art of the Fugue.
4. Orchestral Suite 3.
5. Brandenburg Concerto 2.
6. Concerto for 2 Vilins.
7. Magnificat.
8. Cantata 8.
9. The Coffee Cantata.
10. St Matthew Passion.
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Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by IcedNote » Wed Jan 06, 2010 11:28 pm

James wrote:Your chronology is off, you should have started with JS Bach, he's leagues beyond any other composer...
Oh I don't get to choose when these classes are given. There's a whole series of "Music of a Master Composer" courses here: Bach, Beethoven, Handel, Stravinsky, etc., so they inevitably cycle. :)

Thanks for all of your thoughts! I'd like to see y'all battle over Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. :mrgreen:

-G
Harakiried composer reincarnated as a nonprofit development guy.

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Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by moreno » Thu Jan 07, 2010 3:12 am

Not necessarily my favourites, but very suitable for beginners:

-Concerto for Four Keyboards in A minor BWV 1065
-Brandenburg Concerto No. 3
-Suite for Orchestra No. 3
-Bist Du Bei Mir (Anna Magdalena's Notebook)
-Well-Tempered Clavier, 1st Book, Prelude
-Cantata BWV 208
-Cantata BWV 147
-Cello Suite No. 1
-Concerto for 2 Violins BWV 1043
-And, why not, Toccata and Fugue in D minor

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Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by premont » Thu Jan 07, 2010 7:45 am

James wrote:.. I've always hated it [BWV 565] and I don't believe it was by him, i mean listen to it...ugh.
Actually I do not know of any other composer, who might have been able to write it (unless this is the only surviving work of an otherwise completely unknown composer, rather unlikely). And it is indeed possible to play it, as if it was written by Bach, - try f.i. Gustav Leonhardt (Seon/Sony), Helmut Walcha (Archiv) or Hans Christoph Becker-Foss (Intercord -maybe OOP).

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Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by Auntie Lynn » Thu Jan 07, 2010 9:55 am

I'm not sure what you mean by "beginner" -- every kid I ever knew had to play Anna Magdalena...do you mean 'listen to' or 'perform it yourself' - ??

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Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by Werner » Thu Jan 07, 2010 10:21 am

I don't know whether some of the large scale works mentioned here would be suitable for these classes. John mentioned the Italian Concerto, which seems a good example. I also like the Chaconne, even though it's a part of a bigger work. And, BTW, why not present the thoughts on it by Brahms and Busoni?

Or how about Bach's sole piece of program music, the Capriccio on the Departure of a Bevoved Brother?

And, Corlyss, if this thread can't handle JSB's great contemporary, his time may come, n'est-ce pas?
Last edited by Werner on Thu Jan 07, 2010 3:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by jbuck919 » Thu Jan 07, 2010 10:21 am

premont wrote:
James wrote:.. I've always hated it [BWV 565] and I don't believe it was by him, i mean listen to it...ugh.
Actually I do not know of any other composer, who might have been able to write it (unless this is the only surviving work of an otherwise completely unknown composer, rather unlikely).
Absolutely. I could not have said it better.
And it is indeed possible to play it, as if it was written by Bach, - try f.i. Gustav Leonhardt (Seon/Sony), Helmut Walcha (Archiv) or Hans Christoph Becker-Foss (Intercord -maybe OOP).
Oh, it is not a piece to be dismissed. It is only weak in comparison to other works by Bach. Though it has its own unique characteristics, it belongs with two other early works of Bach, the Toccata (Adagio and Fugue) in C major and the Prelude and Fugue in D major. The C major, like the D minor, has an "experimental" feature which Bach never went back to, in this case a slow movement in the middle (a rather well known and quite beautiful number on its own, in fact). Of the three, it is actually the D minor which has the most cohesive, riveting, "mature" fugue.

Last edited by jbuck919 on Thu Jan 07, 2010 11:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

James

Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by James » Thu Jan 07, 2010 11:06 am

Na...it doesn't sound like Bach to me at all. I'll happily remain in the minority here, it sounds too crude and uncharacteristic of him.

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Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by Wallingford » Thu Jan 07, 2010 4:56 pm

Auntie Lynn wrote:I'm not sure what you mean by "beginner" -- every kid I ever knew had to play Anna Magdalena...do you mean 'listen to' or 'perform it yourself' - ??
Word to your mother!!!

No kid can escape the Minuet in G (i.e., the one stolen for "Lover's Concerto").
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
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Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by Marc » Thu Jan 07, 2010 5:22 pm

BWV 565:
Johann Sebastian Bach?
Johann Heinrich Buttstett?
Johann Peter Kellner?

Some parts of the Fugue seem to be inspired by a theme of the Fantasia in a minor P 125, of Johann Pachelbel.

J.S. Bach was scholed by his eldest brother Johann Christoph Bach, who was a pupil of Pachelbel and probably used lots of copies of Pachelbel's music in his teaching. This Fantasia was not yet published, not even during J.S. Bach's entire life. That's why many believe that a young J.S. Bach might well have been the composer, because of the close relationship between Pachelbel and the Bach family.

Because of the both North and South German influences in BWV 565, J.H. Buttstett, who was also a pupil of Pachelbel, also comes to mind. He was an important keyboard composer in his time, like J.S. Bach he was slightly 'old-fashioned', and he is known for combining those northern and southern styles.

Of the Bach pupils, J.P. Kellner is known for adapting much of the Grandmaster's style. I once read that some scholars are almost certain that he's the composer. :!:
Then it wouldn't be a Stylus Phantasticus, but a Sturm und Drang piece! :wink:

Cast yer votes, ladies & gentlemen. :?

Oh, btw: I like to listen to BWV 565 very much, but it's my least favourite Toccata by Bach.
It's a great introduction to free baroque organ music though, who ever the composer might be.
But the only surviving (late 18th century) copies of the piece mentioned Sebastian as the composer. It wouldn't surprise me if those sources proved to be more reliable than all those searching and digging 20th and 21st century closet scholars. :mrgreen:

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Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by jbuck919 » Thu Jan 07, 2010 5:51 pm

Marc wrote:BWV 565:
Johann Sebastian Bach?
Johann Heinrich Buttstett?
Johann Peter Kellner?

Some parts of the Fugue seem to be inspired by a theme of the Fantasia in a minor P 125, of Johann Pachelbel.

J.S. Bach was scholed by his eldest brother Johann Christoph Bach, who was a pupil of Pachelbel and probably used lots of copies of Pachelbel's music in his teaching. This Fantasia was not yet published, not even during J.S. Bach's entire life. That's why many believe that a young J.S. Bach might well have been the composer, because of the close relationship between Pachelbel and the Bach family.

Because of the both North and South German influences in BWV 565, J.H. Buttstett, who was also a pupil of Pachelbel, also comes to mind. He was an important keyboard composer in his time, like J.S. Bach he was slightly 'old-fashioned', and he is known for combining those northern and southern styles.

Of the Bach pupils, J.P. Kellner is known for adapting much of the Grandmaster's style. I once read that some scholars are almost certain that he's the composer. :!:
Then it wouldn't be a Stylus Phantasticus, but a Sturm und Drang piece! :wink:

Cast yer votes, ladies & gentlemen. :?

Oh, btw: I like to listen to BWV 565 very much, but it's my least favourite Toccata by Bach.
It's a great introduction to free baroque organ music though, who ever the composer might be.
But the only surviving (late 18th century) copies of the piece mentioned Sebastian as the composer. It wouldn't surprise me if those sources proved to be more reliable than all those searching and digging 20th and 21st century closet scholars. :mrgreen:
This is speculation, but I take the piece to be a written-down improvisation, possibly enhanced. As such, it is a wonder. As great as his reputation as an improviser was, it is not to be expected that improvised Bach would be at the same level as carefully composed Bach, as a comparison of the two fugues on the royal theme from the Musical Offering makes clear.

Incidentally, the chief feature that calls into question the authenticity of the piece is not the manner in which it begins and ends with similar quasi-improvisatory flourishes (which are, BTW, much easier to execute than they sound), but the much more remarkable fact that it has the only plagal ending in all of Bach.
Last edited by jbuck919 on Thu Jan 07, 2010 6:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

James

Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by James » Thu Jan 07, 2010 6:10 pm

Ultimately, doesn't matter who wrote it...can't stand it. It's not representative.
Marc wrote: J.S. Bach [...] slightly 'old-fashioned'...
People are often well-read, but not well listened (see it a lot with the Mozart & others). Sure, like the genius that he was he reached further back, but this no doubt is one of the reasons why the stuff is so deep, and deeply inventive & groundbreaking - hardly old-fashioned. The music of the classical era to me sounds more like a grand de-evolution musically & aesthetically - because the stuff is so simplified & trite in comparison. It's aims a lot more trivial & earthbound. Some Bach sounds like Wagner or even, early Schoenberg - but still it's way more advanced than either of those in it's inner workings and overall power, but any serious composer-musician (historic or otherwise), attest to this - the great mystery & power of Bach. Timeless perfection.

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Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by Marc » Thu Jan 07, 2010 6:31 pm

jbuck919 wrote: This is speculation, but I take the piece to be a written-down improvisation, possibly enhanced. As such, it is a wonder. As great as his reputation as an improviser was, it is not to be expected that improvised Bach would be at the same level as carefully composed Bach, as a comparison of the two fugues on the royal theme from the Musical Offering makes clear.

Incidentally, the chief feature that calls into question the authenticity of the piece is not the manner in which it begins and ends with similar quasi-improvisatory flourishes (which are, BTW, much easier to execute than they sound), but the much more remarkable fact that it has the only modal ending in all of Bach.
Thanks for your reaction. Yes, the ending of BWV 565 seems to puzzle both scholars and musicians (AND listeners!), also about the question minor ending: isn't that a bit strange?.

I have a recording by Leo van Doeselaar (Hinsz organ, Leens, NL) in which he ends the piece in major .... but not because he's convinced that the minor ending is a mistake or a misprint. He suggests a.o. that Bach maybe wanted to shock the audience by avoiding the major ending, or even that the copiist deliberately changed the (originally?) major ending for that same reason. But nowadays we are used to the minor ending in this piece. For that reason Van Doeselaar decided to 'shock' us again, by ending this famous piece in .... major. 8)

Well, jbuck, you began you reaction with the words this is speculation .... a striking remark! ;)

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Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by Marc » Thu Jan 07, 2010 6:39 pm

James wrote: People are often well-read, but not well listened (see it a lot with the Mozart & others). Sure, like the genius that he was he reached further back, but this no doubt is one of the reasons why the stuff is so deep, and deeply inventive & groundbreaking - hardly old-fashioned. The music of the classical era to me sounds more like a grand de-evolution musically & aesthetically - because the stuff is so simplified & trite in comparison. It's aims a lot more trivial & earthbound. Some Bach sounds like Wagner or even, early Schoenberg - but still it's way more advanced than either of those in it's inner workings and overall power, but any serious composer-musician (historic or otherwise), attest to this - the great mystery & power of Bach. Timeless perfection.
James, let's get a slight misunderstanding out of the way: I should have written something like Bach as well as Buttstett were considered old-fashioned in their own time. I never meant to say that I personally experienced Bach's music as old-fashioned. On the contrary: like you, I think his music is timeless.

James

Re: The 10 Bach pieces you would teach a beginner...?

Post by James » Thu Jan 07, 2010 7:31 pm

Marc wrote: James, let's get a slight misunderstanding out of the way: I should have written something like Bach as well as Buttstett were considered old-fashioned in their own time. I never meant to say that I personally experienced Bach's music as old-fashioned. On the contrary: like you, I think his music is timeless.
8)

...and thanks for your specialized knowledge on 565, enjoyed reading it. Fascinating.

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