Thursday, 19 June 2008

112. Johann Sebastian Bach - Musical Offering (1747)


Title: Musikalisches Opfer
Performer: Musica Antiqua Koln
Director: Reinhard Goebel
Year: 1979
Length: 50 minutes


This is an interesting late piece by Bach, the story goes that he was given a musical theme by Frederick the Great and told to make it in a 6 voice fugue. Bach was obviously being mocked, but instead of flipping Freddy the bird, he came back with this.

And this is a pretty interesting set of variations on the little theme provided by the Emperor. So I think he came out of it pretty well. As always Bach isn't a great innovator and the piece is quite backward looking, there is no inkling of the classical period here, but he does Baroque very well indeed.

Taken out of its historical content this piece would be more impressive than it ends up being, Bach is looking back, not forward, but in the process he manages to make some pretty lovely music, and a very imaginative set of variations.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

Some of the canons of the Musical Offering are represented in the original score by not more than a short monodic melody of a few measures, with a more or less enigmatic inscription in Latin above the melody. These compositions are called the riddle fugues (or sometimes, more appropriately, the riddle canons). The performer(s) is/are supposed to interpret the music as a multi-part piece (a piece with several intertwining melodies), while solving the "riddle". Some of these riddles have been explained to have more than one possible "solution", although nowadays most printed editions of the score give a single, more or less "standard" solution of the riddle, so that interpreters can just play, without having to worry about the Latin, or the riddle.

One of these riddle canons, "in augmentationem" (i.e. augmentation, the length of the notes gets longer), is inscribed "Notulis crescentibus crescat Fortuna Regis" (may the fortunes of the king increase like the length of the notes), while a modulating canon which ends a tone higher than it starts is inscribed "Ascendenteque Modulationis ascendat Gloria Regis" (as the modulation rises, so may the King's glory).

Ricercar a 6:

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