Monday, 27 January 2014

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan, born in 1941, American musician and songwriter, one of the most important figures in contemporary folk music and rock music. Dylan’s songs of social protest, such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” (1962) and “The Times They Are A-Changin'” (1964), became indelibly associated with the civil rights movement in the United States. Later Dylan was recognized as a rock icon and a gifted, prolific songwriter.
Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota. He grew up in the mining community of Hibbing, Minnesota, learning to play the guitar and harmonica in his teens. The aspiring musician attended the University of Minnesota and began his performing career in campus coffeehouses, taking his stage name from Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Dylan left college in late 1960 without graduating and moved to New York City.
In New York Dylan began playing the folk clubs and coffeehouses in and around Greenwich Village. He also became friends with one of his musical heroes, folk singer-composer Woody Guthrie. Dylan’s debut album, Bob Dylan (1962), followed in the tradition of folk singers such as Guthrie with its guitar- and harmonica-based songs about the poor and downtrodden. Although the album was only moderately successful, Dylan became a major figure with The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963) and The Times They Are A-Changin' (1964). These albums are notable for their songs of political protest, such as “Masters of War,” “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” and “With God on Our Side.” Some of his folk songs also became hits for other artists, such as Peter, Paul and Mary; Joan Baez; and the Byrds.
During the mid-1960s Dylan shocked his folk music fans by turning to the electric guitar for a louder, more rock-oriented sound. Despite resistance from many fans and critics, this period produced many of Dylan’s most enduring recordings, including the albums Highway 61 Revisited (1965), Bringing It All Back Home (1965), and Blonde on Blonde (1966). Traces of the folk and blues origins of his style remained in the harsh nasal quality of his voice, which was much imitated by other singers. Dylan’s introspective lyrics, on the other hand, were inspired more by poets and Beat Generation writers.
After his recovery from a motorcycle accident in 1966, Dylan's style turned toward country music with the albums John Wesley Harding (1967) and Nashville Skyline (1969). During the 1960s Dylan profoundly influenced, and was in turn influenced by, many other musical artists, especially the Beatles.
In the 1970s Dylan’s recordings continued to show a wide variety of musical styles. His recordings later in the decade—such as Slow Train Coming (1979)—strongly reflected his conversion to evangelical Christianity. Other albums by Dylan during the decade included New Morning (1970), Planet Waves (1974), Blood on the Tracks (1975), The Basement Tapes (1975), Desire (1976), and Street Legal (1978). Dylan also worked in film during this period, recording the soundtrack and playing a small acting part in Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973) and directing and writing the 1978 movie Renaldo and Clara.
Dylan’s work gradually became less popular and influential during the 1980s and into the early 1990s, with occasional flashes of his earlier brilliance. His albums during this time included Saved (1980), Infidels (1983), Empire Burlesque (1985), Oh Mercy (1989), and Good As I Been To You (1992).
Dylan was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and won a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 1991. But despite these career-spanning honors, he continued to produce new material. In 1994 he won the Grammy Award for best traditional folk album for World Gone Wrong (1993). In 1995 Dylan released the album MTV Unplugged, in what essentially marked a return to the folk style of his early years. In a notable triumph, Dylan’s 1997 album Time Out of Mind captured the Grammy Award for album of the year. Two more successful studio albums followed: Love and Theft (2001) and Modern Times (2006).
In early 2001 Dylan won an Academy Award for his song “Things Have Changed” from the soundtrack to the film Wonder Boys (2000). The following year he received the Grammy for best contemporary folk album for Love and Theft. 2004 saw the publication of Chronicles: Volume One, the first installment of Dylan’s memoirs, which surprised critics with its insights, candor, and thoughtfulness.

Miles Davis

Miles Davis (1926-1991), American trumpet player and bandleader, one of the most innovative, influential, and respected figures in the history of jazz . Davis was a leading figure in the bebop style of jazz and in combining styles of jazz and rock music. As a player, he was a master improviser (one who invents melodies while playing; see Improvisation) who played seemingly simple melodies with great subtlety and expressiveness. As a combo (small ensemble) leader, he assembled classic groups and allowed them the freedom to experiment and develop. The recordings of Davis and his groups have been imitated by musicians around the world.
Born Miles Dewey Davis III in Alton, Illinois, he grew up in East Saint Louis, Illinois. Davis began music lessons after receiving a trumpet on his 13th birthday from his father. Two years later he joined the musicians' union and began playing with a local band on weekends. About this time he met trumpeter Clark Terry, who helped and encouraged him. In 1944, after graduating from high school, he went to New York City to study classical music at the Juilliard School of Music. While there, he also began playing with alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, and other pioneers of the new jazz style known as bebop. In 1945, at the age of 19, he began playing in a combo led by Parker. The recordings he made with Parker that year demonstrate that Davis had excellent tone but an immature style of improvising. However, he refined and improved his style of improvising during the next few years with Parker.
In 1949 and 1950, Davis made a series of recordings with a nine-person group that appeared on the album The Birth of the Cool (1950). The terms cool and cool jazz referred to a slower, more subdued style of bebop. By the mid-1950s Davis had developed one of the most distinctive styles in all of jazz. Unlike Gillespie, the first great bebop trumpeter, Davis preferred simple, lyrical melodies to speedy, flashy ones. Using delicate pitch-bending (a slight lowering or raising of a note) and a light vibrato (a gentle and regular wavering of pitch), he created a beautiful and expressive style. Often he used the harmon mute (a metal mute) to get a pinched, quiet sound. In the 1960s he began playing louder and used high notes and quick phrases more frequently. Still, he maintained most of his uniquely beautiful playing style to the end of his life.
Beginning in 1955 Davis led some five- and six-person groups that were among the finest in jazz. Between 1955 and 1970, his various groups included saxophonists John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, and Wayne Shorter; drummers Jimmy Cobb, Philly Joe Jones, and Tony Williams; bassists Paul Chambers and Ron Carter; and pianists Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock. The albums recorded by these groups, such as 'Round about Midnight (1956), Milestones (1958), Kind of Blue (1959), E.S.P. (1965), Miles Smiles (1966), and Nefertiti (1967), represented major landmarks in the evolution of bebop. In particular, Kind of Blue is considered by many to be one of the finest jazz albums ever made. His other important albums of this period include Miles Ahead (1957) and Sketches of Spain (1960), which he recorded with big bands led by arranger and composer Gil Evans.
At the end of the 1960s Davis began to make use of the electronic instruments, rhythms, and song structures of rock music. His manner of playing the trumpet did not change much, but his musical surroundings were dramatically different. The album Bitches Brew (1969) is one of Davis's first significant fusions of the jazz and rock music styles. Although many jazz fans disliked his move into fusion jazz, many bebop musicians followed his lead and took up the new style in the 1970s. His accompanists of the late 1960s and early 1970s included guitarist John McLaughlin, keyboardists Chick Corea and Joe Zawinul, and drummers Jack DeJohnette and Billy Cobham.
Beginning in 1975 Davis experienced a period of inactivity and reclusiveness because of injuries suffered in an automobile accident and the subsequent onset of several illnesses. He returned to performing fusion jazz in 1980, playing with musicians such as guitarist John Scofield, bassists Darryl Jones and Marcus Miller, and saxophonists Bill Evans (not the pianist of the same name) and Branford Marsalis. Albums from this final period include The Man with the Horn (1981); Decoy (1983); and You're Under Arrest (1985), which contains recordings of the popular songs “Human Nature” by singer Michael Jackson and “Time After Time” by singer Cyndi Lauper. In 1990 Davis performed a leading role as a jazz musician in the Australian motion picture Dingo (1991). His album Doo-Bop, released the year after his death, was one of the first to fuse jazz with the hip-hop and rap music styles.
Since 1960 the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) has honored Davis with eight Grammy Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and three Grammy Hall of Fame Awards. In 1986 the New England Conservatory awarded him an honorary doctorate of music.

John Coltrane

John Coltrane (1926-1967), American saxophone player, composer, and combo (small group) leader, a major figure in the evolution of the jazz styles known as bebop and free jazz. Along with American saxophonist Charlie Parker, Coltrane is considered one of the most influential saxophonists in the history of jazz music. Many tenor saxophonists have adopted his habit of playing long notes without vibrato (a gently wavering pitch). Others have borrowed the piercing, near-scream quality of his high notes; his extended, rapid runs up and down the range of the instrument; or his favorite melodic phrases. Numerous musicians have practiced and imitated entire solos of Coltrane’s, such as his improvisation (music composed at the moment of performance) in “Giant Steps” (1959). Coltrane inspired many to play the soprano saxophone, an instrument rarely used in jazz until he began playing it.
Coltrane was born in Hamlet, North Carolina, and grew up in nearby High Point. He began playing the clarinet in a community band at the age of 13 and switched to the alto saxophone during his final year of high school. After graduating from high school in 1943, he and some friends moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Coltrane found a job in a sugar refinery and began studying the saxophone at a private music school. In 1945 he was drafted into the United States Navy, eventually serving most of his two-year term with a Navy band stationed in Hawaii. After his return to Philadelphia, Coltrane began playing professionally in local bands. In 1947 he switched to the tenor saxophone and toured with alto saxophonist Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. When he worked for trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie from 1949 to 1951, Coltrane played both alto and tenor saxophones. In 1953 he joined the band of saxophonist Johnny Hodges. He joined the group of trumpeter Miles Davis in 1955, beginning an important phase of his career; during the two periods he spent with Davis (1955 to 1957 and 1958 to 1960) Coltrane gained an international reputation as a tenor saxophonist.
When Coltrane began playing the alto saxophone in the 1940s, he imitated much of Charlie Parker’s bebop style, in which rapid melodic patterns are continuously improvised over chord progressions. However, by the time of his first important recordings with Miles Davis, Coltrane had developed his own style on the tenor saxophone. His high notes had an intense, emotional quality, and his melodies were extremely ornate and usually played without vibrato. Examples of his work with Davis can be heard on the albums Steamin’ (1956) and Kind of Blue (1959). During the late 1950s Coltrane also led his own recording groups on such albums as Lush Life (1958) and Giant Steps (1959). Several of his compositions on these albums have become part of the standard repertoire for jazz musicians, including “Mr. P.C.” and “Naima” (both from Giant Steps). After leaving Davis’s quintet, Coltrane formed his own quartet and began playing both the soprano and the tenor saxophone.
During the early 1960s, Coltrane and drummer Elvin Jones developed a highly energetic and interactive way of playing jazz, a style that can be heard in the piece “My Favorite Things” (1960). While improvising in one key, Coltrane would often introduce notes from another key (see Tonality). Soon he moved into free jazz, a style in which musicians often ignore the constraints of key signatures, bar lines, or musical form and sometimes create very unusual sounds with their instruments. Some of Coltrane’s music in the 1960s was so dense and complex that it seemed almost chaotic. At other times it was simple and direct, as in “Alabama” (1963), his emotional tribute to four African American children who were killed in a church bombing. Coltrane also configured his recording groups in a variety of ways, sometimes using two bassists or two drummers; once he recorded an album of duets with just himself and a drummer (Interstellar Space, 1967). He was famous for playing very long solos-—up to 20 minutes or more—with an intensity that few others could match. A deeply religious man, Coltrane recorded several albums of his religious compositions, the most famous being A Love Supreme (1964).
In the 1960s Coltrane won several polls conducted by Down Beat magazine in the United States and by Swing Journal in Japan. After his death, the National Academy of the Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) honored Coltrane’s memory with a 1981 Grammy Award and a lifetime achievement award (1992).

Patsy Cline

Patsy Cline (1932-63), American country music singer, who died in an airplane crash in 1963 at the height of her fame. She was born Virginia Hensley in Winchester, Virginia. Cline began performing at the age of 11, primarily as a singer, but she also played the piano and tap-danced. Her first recording was in 1956 and, with her slick, sentimental sound, she was an immediate success; the demand for her appearances and records continued until the early 1960s. The movie Sweet Dreams (1985) with Jessica Lange memorialized her life and career. Among her more popular songs were “She's Got You,” “Crazy,” “Cry Not for Me,” “Walkin' After Midnight,” “Sweet Dreams of You,” and “I Fall to Pieces.”

Ray Charles

Ray Charles (1930-2004), American pianist and singer, one of the most influential figures in the history of popular music. In the 1950s Charles—often called simply The Genius—fused gospel music with rhythm and blues (R&B) to pioneer a distinctive style that came to be known as soul music. He also recorded in and helped shape a wide variety of other musical genres, including blues, jazz, country, and rock.
Ray Charles Robinson was born in Albany, Georgia. He lost his sight by age seven as a result of what was believed to be glaucoma. Charles received his first musical training at the Saint Augustine (Florida) School for the Deaf and Blind. At age 15, with both his parents dead, Charles left school, formed his own trio, and began touring the South (shortening his name to avoid confusion with boxer Sugar Ray Robinson). A few years later he moved to Seattle, Washington, where he continued to learn and experiment with various musical styles. Two of Charles’s biggest influences during this time were the smooth R&B sounds of Nat “King” Cole and the piano blues of Charles Brown.
In the early 1950s Charles moved to Los Angeles, California, and began recording. His first national success came with the 1951 song “Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand.” His style further developed after he signed with Atlantic Records and recorded the hit song “I Got a Woman” (1954). Over the next few years Charles continued to grow in popularity and recognition with singles such as “Drown in My Own Tears” (1955), “Leave My Woman Alone” (1956), “Lonely Avenue” (1956), and “The Right Time” (1958). His first recording that became widely popular with both white and black audiences was “What'd I Say” (1959), which prominently featured his backup singers, the Raeletts.
Charles’s popularity peaked in the early and mid-1960s. In 1960 he recorded the classic “Georgia on My Mind,” which became that state’s official song in 1979. In 1961 he had a hit with a version of Percy Mayfield’s song “Hit the Road, Jack.” Throughout this time Charles continued to perform and record various different kinds of music. An example was the single “I Can’t Stop Loving You” from the album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (1962). The recording sold more than 2.5 million copies and established Charles as the first black musician to become a star in country music.
Beginning in the late 1960s, Charles mostly recorded versions of traditionally popular songs (as opposed to original material). He developed his own record label and performed with other artists. A recognized celebrity, Charles appeared in television commercials and films as well as continuing to record and tour widely into the early 2000s.
The artist published his autobiography, Brother Charles, in 1978. In the book he described his nearly two-decade addiction to heroin, which he overcame after being arrested in the mid-1960s.
During his life Charles received 12 Grammy Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1987), a Kennedy Center Honor (1986), and a National Medal of Arts (1993). Genius Loves Company, an album of duets released several months after his death, won eight Grammys in 2005. The awards included album of the year, pop album of the year, and record of the year for a duet with Norah Jones, “Here We Go Again.”

Maria Callas

Maria Callas (1923-1977), American-born Greek operatic soprano, the preeminent prima donna (lead female opera singer) of her day, and the first modern soprano to revive forgotten operas of the 19th-century bel canto repertoire. Callas revolutionized opera performances through her vocal and dramatic intensity, transforming what had traditionally been empty display pieces into serious drama. She drew praise for the distinctive color of her voice, her dramatic presence, and her careful musicianship.
Born Maria Anna Sofia Cecilia Kalogeropoulos in New York City to Greek American parents, Callas moved to Athens, Greece, at age 13 with her family. (Her father had changed the family name to Callas while they were in the United States.) In Athens she studied voice and learned the bel canto (Italian for “beautiful song”) style. Though she was still in her teens, the sheer size of her voice and its three-octave range qualified her for roles normally sung by mature sopranos whose voices have grown deeper and heavier with age. These included dramatic roles in Italian opera and even the powerful roles in the operas of German composer Richard Wagner.
Callas made her first major appearance in Athens in 1941 in Tosca by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini. Her early career included such roles as Isolde (in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde), Brünnhilde (in Wagner’s Die Walküre), and Aïda (in the opera by Giuseppe Verdi). She achieved fame in 1949 when she sang Brünnhilde and Elvira in Vincenzo Bellini’s I Puritani in the same week—a remarkable feat (because of the two works’ total difference in style and vocal demands), one not equaled in the previous half century.
Callas joined La Scala in Milan, Italy, in 1951, becoming the prima donna of that opera house, where she sang most of the 37 roles of her repertory. Encouraged by her mentor, Italian conductor Tullio Serafin, she turned toward coloratura bel canto roles, including the title roles in Bellini’s Norma and Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti. Coloratura bel canto singing, with its trills, runs, and other vocal ornaments, requires a flexible voice, clear articulation, a beautiful tone, and a high range. Callas’s voice in addition was able to encompass the conflicting emotions of Norma; the pert and funny humanity of Rosina in The Barber of Seville by Gioacchino Rossini; the sad, demented character of Lucia; and the proud, dramatic heroines of Verdi. Some of these operas, especially those of Bellini, had seldom been performed.
In 1953 and 1954 Callas lost her excess weight. Svelte, elegant, and more confident, she was able to bring greater dramatic realism and credibility to her roles. Also in 1954 she achieved her first American success, at Chicago’s Lyric Opera, and two years later she opened the 1956-1957 season of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City as Norma. In the late 1950s she developed vocal problems. By 1962 she had withdrawn from the stage. However, she returned in 1965 for performances of Tosca in Paris, London, and New York City. Despite her vocal defects, these performances confirmed her reputation as the most credible and poignant singer of any in that role.
Callas had a tempestuous personal life. In 1949 she married Italian businessman Giovanni Meneghini, who was 28 years older than she. Meneghini served as her manager and is credited with helping her career. However, the marriage seemed to lack romance, and in the late 1950s Callas began a long-standing and stormy romantic relationship with Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Callas gave up her United States citizenship in 1966, in part to annul her marriage to Meneghini. She was said to have been devastated after Onassis married former United States first lady Jacqueline Kennedy in 1968, and was further depressed when Onassis died in 1975. In her final years, Callas lived reclusively in Paris, where she died of a heart attack at age 53. In keeping with her wishes, her ashes were later scattered over the Aegean Sea.

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), German composer, considered one of the greatest musicians of all time. Having begun his career as an outstanding improviser at the piano and composer of piano music, Beethoven went on to compose string quartets and other kinds of chamber music, songs, two masses, an opera, and nine symphonies. His Symphony No. 9 in D minor op. 125 (Choral, completed 1824), perhaps the most famous work of classical music in existence, culminates in a choral finale based on the poem “Ode to Joy” by German writer Friedrich von Schiller. Like his opera Fidelio, op. 72 (1805; revised 1806, 1814) and many other works, the Ninth Symphony depicts an initial struggle with adversity and concludes with an uplifting vision of freedom and social harmony.
Beethoven was born in Bonn. His father’s harsh discipline and alcoholism made his childhood and adolescence difficult. At the age of 18, after his mother’s death, Beethoven placed himself at the head of the family, taking responsibility for his two younger brothers, both of whom followed him when he later moved to Vienna, Austria.
In Bonn, Beethoven’s most important composition teacher was German composer Christian Gottlob Neefe, with whom he studied during the 1780s. Neefe used the music of German composer Johann Sebastian Bach as a cornerstone of instruction, and he later encouraged his student to study with Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whom Beethoven met briefly in Vienna in 1787. In 1792 Beethoven made another journey to Vienna to study with Austrian composer Joseph Haydn, and he stayed there the rest of his life.
The combination of forceful, dramatic power with dreamy introspection in Beethoven’s music made a strong impression in Viennese aristocratic circles and helped win him generous patrons. Yet just as his success seemed assured, he was confronted with the loss of that sense on which he so depended, his hearing. Beethoven expressed his despair over his increasing hearing loss in his moving “Heiligenstadt Testament,” a document written to his brothers in 1802. This impairment gradually put an end to his performing career. However, Beethoven’s compositional achievements did not suffer from his hearing loss but instead gained in richness and power over the years. His artistic growth was reflected in a series of masterpieces, including the Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major op. 55 (the Eroica, completed 1804), Fidelio, and the Symphony No. 5 in C minor op. 67 (1808). These works embody his second period, which is called his heroic style.
Around 1810 Beethoven was especially drawn to the poetry and drama of German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, whom he met in 1812 through the initiative of Goethe’s young literary friend Bettina Brentano. Bettina’s sister-in-law Antonia Brentano was probably the intended recipient of Beethoven’s famous letter to the “Immortal Beloved.” The letter dates from July 1812 and apparently marks the collapse of Beethoven’s hopes to seek happiness through marriage. Following this disappointment, Beethoven’s output declined significantly, and during 1813 he was generally depressed and unproductive.
Beethoven’s fame during his lifetime reached its peak in 1814. The enthusiastic response of the public to his music at this time was focused on showy works, such as Wellington’s Victory op. 91 (1813; also known as the Battle Symphony), and a series of patriotic crowd-pleasers, including the cantata The Glorious Moment op. 136 (1814), but his enhanced popularity also made possible the successful revival of Fidelio.
During the last decade of his life Beethoven had almost completely lost his hearing, and he was increasingly socially isolated. He had assumed the guardianship of his nephew Karl after a lengthy legal struggle, and despite Beethoven’s affection for Karl, there was enormous friction between the two. Notwithstanding these difficulties, between 1818 and 1826 Beethoven embarked upon a series of ambitious large-scale compositions, including the Sonata in B-flat major op. 106 (Hammerklavier, 1818), the Missa Solemnis in D major op. 123 (1823), the Thirty-Three Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli in C major op. 120 (1823), the Symphony No. 9 in D minor op. 125 (1824), and his last string quartets. Plagued at times by serious illness, Beethoven nevertheless maintained his sense of humor and often amused himself with jokes and puns. He continued to work at a high level of creativity until he contracted pneumonia in December 1826. He died in Vienna in March 1827.
Beethoven’s music is generally divided into three main creative periods. The first, or early, period extends to about 1802, when the composer made reference to a “new manner” or “new way” in connection with his art. The second, or middle, period extends to about 1812, after the completion of his Seventh and Eighth symphonies. The third, or late, period emerged gradually; Beethoven composed its pivotal work, the Hammerklavier Sonata, in 1818. Beethoven’s late style is especially innovative, and his last five quartets, written between 1824 and 1826, can be regarded as marking the onset of a fourth creative period.
Although Beethoven’s music of the early period is sometimes described as imitative of Mozart and Haydn, much of it is startlingly original, especially the works for piano. His early piano sonatas often have a forceful, bold quality, which is set into relief by the searching inwardness of the slow movements. The Sonata in C minor op. 13 (Pathétique, 1798), the most famous of these sonatas, transfers Haydn’s practice of employing slow introductions to his symphonies to the genre of the sonata. The title refers to a quality of pathos or suffering, which is felt especially in the brooding slow introduction and is twice recalled in later stages of the first movement. The main body of this swift, brilliant movement seems to convey willful resistance to the sense of suffering that dominates the slow introduction.
At the threshold of his middle period Beethoven sought a variety of new approaches to musical form. In the Sonata in C-sharp minor (Moonlight, 1801), he begins with a slow movement, while typical sonatas of that time began with a fast movement. The movement’s placid motif (repeated phrase) of broken chords is reinterpreted in the final movement as forceful figuration reaching across the entire keyboard. The sonatas of op. 31, from 1802, each open in an original fashion. The G major, op. 31 no. 1, begins with striking shifts in key, in contrast to the usual practice of remaining in the same key to “ground” the listener. The D minor, op. 31 no. 2 (Tempest), on the other hand, breaks up the opening theme into contrasting segments in different tempi, whereas customary practice called for stating the theme in its entirety at the beginning of a movement.
In the first movement of the Eroica Symphony, one of the major works from Beethoven’s middle period, he again sought ways to expand upon the prevailing musical forms. At that time, composers usually organized movements in three major parts. First, the exposition introduces the musical themes of the piece. Next, the development takes these themes into other keys, often modifying or fragmenting them. Finally, the recapitulation restates the themes, grounded in the original key. Prefaced by two massive, emphatic chords, the opening theme of the Eroica lingers on a mysterious dark moment of harmony—a gesture that is not reinterpreted until much later, at the outset of the recapitulation. After the rhythmic climax of the enormous development section—it is twice as long as the development section in any other symphony of the time—Beethoven reshapes classical norms by introducing extensive new material, which is resolved in a sort of recapitulation in the coda (concluding passage), which follows the movement’s recapitulation.
The four movements of the Eroica bear the following expressive associations: struggle, death (a funeral march), rebirth (a scherzo, or rapid dancelike movement, that begins quietly), and glorification. In its narrative design, the Eroica is connected to the ballet music of Beethoven’s Prometheus, op. 43 (1801), from which he borrowed the theme for the symphony’s finale. This movement of the symphony expresses the exaltation of the Greek mythological figure Prometheus in a series of variations on the ballet’s theme. Beethoven had originally intended to dedicate the work to French general Napoleon Bonaparte, whom he idolized, but he angrily withdrew the dedication after learning that Napoleon had taken the title of emperor.
Beethoven’s other instrumental works from the period of the Eroica also tend to expand the formal framework that he inherited from Haydn and Mozart. The Piano Sonata in C major op. 53 (Waldstein) and the Piano Sonata in F minor op. 57 (Appassionata), completed in 1804 and 1805 respectively, each employ bold contrasts in harmony, and they use a broadened formal plan, in which the meditative slow movements flow directly into the final movements. The symbolism of the keys used for these sonatas shares in the expressive world of Beethoven’s opera, entitled Leonore in its original version from 1805. The grim F-minor character of the Appassionata recalls the dungeon scenes in this key from the opera, whereas the jubilant close of the Waldstein in C major recalls the stirring C-major conclusion of the opera to the words “Hail to the day! Hail to the hour!”
The celebrated Symphony No. 5 in C minor op. 67 from 1808 is the most thematically concentrated of Beethoven’s works. Variants of the four-note motif that begins this symphony drive all four movements. The dramatic turning point in the symphony—where a sense of foreboding, struggle, or mystery yields to a triumphant breakthrough—comes at the transition to the final movement, where the music is reinforced by the entrance of the trombones. Beethoven uses here a large-scale polarity between the darker sound of C minor and the brighter, more radiant effect of C major, which is held largely in reserve until the finale.
The series of gigantic masterpieces of Beethoven’s third period include the technically demanding Hammerklavier Sonata, completed in 1818, about which he correctly predicted on account of its challenges that “it will be played fifty years hence,” and the Diabelli Variations. The latter work for piano transforms a trivial waltz by Viennese publisher Anton Diabelli into an astonishing, seemingly endless series of pieces, each with a unique character; some are humorous or even parodies. These and other late works incorporate fugues—melodies played in succession and interwoven—that reflect Beethoven’s lifelong interest in the music of J. S. Bach (known for his keyboard work Art of the Fugue). Beethoven’s second mass, the Missa Solemnis in D major op. 123 (1823), also poses formidable technical challenges, as do his fascinating and sometimes enigmatic last quartets and the Ninth Symphony, whose most readily accessible movement is the choral finale.
Beethoven combined the dramatic classical style of lively contrasts and symmetrical forms, which was brought to its highest development by Mozart, with the older tradition of unified musical character that he found in the music of J. S. Bach. In some early works and especially in his middle or heroic period, Beethoven gave voice through his music to the new current of subjectivity and individualism that emerged in the wake of the French Revolution (1789-1799) and the rise of middle classes. Beethoven disdained injustice and tyranny, and used his art to sing the praises of the Enlightenment, an 18th-century movement that promoted the ideals of freedom and equality, even as hopes faded for progress through political change. (His angry cancellation of the dedication of the Eroica Symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte reveals Beethoven’s refusal to compromise his principles.)
The fact that Beethoven realized his artistic ambitions in spite of his hearing impairment added to the fascination and inspiration of his life for posterity, and the extraordinary richness and complexity of his later works insured that no later generation would fail to find challenge in his music. Beethoven’s artistic achievement cast a long shadow over the 19th century and beyond, having set a standard against which later composers would measure their work. Subsequent composers have had to respond to the challenge of Beethoven’s Ninth, which appeared to have taken the symphony to its ultimate development.

The Beatles

The Beatles, British rock music group, which revolutionized popular music around the world in the 1960s with their stimulating songwriting and vibrant performances. Although they played together barely ten years, the Beatles have been recognized by many critics and social historians as the most popular and influential music group of the 20th century.
More than just the leaders of a movement in rock music known as the British Invasion (see Rock Music: The 1960s), the Beatles were the main force behind changing the concept of popular music stars from simple entertainers to social and spiritual gurus. While the group remained hugely popular throughout the decade, the Beatles gradually transformed from fresh-faced boys singing songs about love into complex young men writing about a world full of political and social upheaval. For many critics and music fans the group reflected the turmoil and change that gripped society during the 1960s.
All the members of the band were born in Liverpool, England, in the early 1940s. The core songwriting pair, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, met in 1957 while Lennon was performing with his skiffle band, the Quarry Men. The two teenagers discovered they shared a love of American rhythm-and-blues and rock music. McCartney joined the group later in 1957 and the following year guitarist George Harrison became a member. In January 1960 an art-school acquaintance of Lennon, Stuart Sutcliffe, joined as bass player, and the band changed its name, after several variations, to the Beatles.
Drummer Pete Best accompanied the group to Hamburg, Germany, in August 1960, where for more than three months they played an arduous schedule of club dates. The group returned to Hamburg four more times in the following three years, and in this demanding environment the Beatles forged many of their dynamic traits: rousing three-part harmonies, a witty on-stage repartee, and a large repertoire of American rock-and-roll songs, supplemented by original material.
Sutcliffe left the band in early 1961, causing McCartney to change from rhythm guitar to bass. Later that year a local businessman, Brian Epstein, became the Beatles’ manager. After a number of rejections, he secured the group a record deal with Parlophone, a subsidiary of EMI Records, in June 1962. Ringo Starr (born Richard Starkey) replaced Best as the group's permanent drummer in August 1962, completing the Beatles’ famous lineup. The band released their debut hit single, “Love Me Do,” in England in October, and followed that with “Please Please Me” in early 1963. Other early hits included “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (1963), “She Loves You” (1963), and “I Saw Her Standing There” (1963).
The Beatles’ first public appearance in the United States came on television’s Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964, and was watched by an estimated 73 million people. By the end of March they held the top five positions in the Billboard magazine U.S. singles charts, an unprecedented feat. Most of the band's releases from this date onward sold in phenomenal numbers.
In addition to writing, recording, and performing, the Beatles made two feature films in the mid-1960s, A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help (1965). Both were critically and commercially successful. On the Help soundtrack album (1965) the songwriting became more mature and diverse, incorporating folk music influences and using more sophisticated lyrical ideas. The group’s next album, Rubber Soul (1965), is regarded as a creative breakthrough. It featured instruments innovative to Western pop/rock music, such as the Indian sitar, and experimental sounds. The Revolver album (1966) was another important advance in songwriting and musical craftsmanship for the band.
The pressures caused by the group’s extreme popularity—known as Beatlemania—resulted in safety problems for the group, especially when performing live. On August 29, 1966, the band played a show in San Francisco, California, which turned out to be their last public concert. Retreating to the studio, the Beatles produced a string of increasingly complex compositions, such as the single “Penny Lane”/”Strawberry Fields Forever” (1967). The 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was a creative milestone hailed for its lyrical and musical brilliance. The album was a result of more than 700 hours of studio time and featured a brass band, an orchestra, Indian instruments, and psychedelic textures in songs such as “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “A Day in the Life.” A television film, Magical Mystery Tour (1967), extended the surreal and experimental vein with songs such as “I Am the Walrus.” Yellow Submarine (1968), an animated film featuring the Beatles’ songs and likenesses, was also released during this time.
Worn down by the demands of their fame and by personal disagreements, the group began to splinter around the time of the release of The Beatles (1968), usually known as The White Album because of its plain white cover. These growing divisions within the band were displayed in the recording sessions that were filmed in 1969 for Let It Be, a documentary film about the album of the same name, which was released in 1970. The final Beatles studio album was Abbey Road (1969). Despite increasingly separate musical activity through this period, the group's members continued to produce popular, high-quality songs, from “Revolution” and “Hey Jude” (both 1968) to the optimistic “Here Comes the Sun” (1969) and the poignant “The Long and Winding Road” (1970). McCartney formally announced the group’s breakup on April 10, 1970. The Beatles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
After the break each member of the group pursued another musical career, either as a solo artist or as bandleader. Despite individual successes, members were often approached with requests to reunite, fueling wide speculation. This talk ended when Lennon was murdered by an obsessed fan in 1980. In 2001 Harrison died of cancer.
In 1995 the first volume of a three-album retrospective of the Beatles, Anthology, was released, accompanied by a television miniseries of the same name. The Anthology album included “Free as a Bird,” a song for which Lennon recorded a rough demo before he died, and to which the surviving Beatles added their own voices in 1994 and 1995 to create a “new” song by the group. It became one of the fastest-selling albums in the history of popular music, and the second and third albums of the series were released in 1996. The group’s enduring appeal was evident when a compilation of their biggest hits, Beatles 1, became one of the most popular albums of 2000. A collection of edited and restructured Beatles’ songs, created for the Canadian circus company Cirque du Soleil, was released as the album Love in 2006.

Count Basie

Count Basie (1904-1984), American jazz pianist and bandleader, a leading musician of the swing era (1930s and early 1940s). Basie led one of the foremost jazz big bands, which featured a number of outstanding soloists and arrangers and became an enduring musical institution. The Basie band was famous for its rhythm section, composed of guitarist Freddie Green, bass player Walter Page, drummer Jo Jones, and pianist Basie. Together, the foursome produced a light but relentlessly forward-moving rhythmic propulsion, or “swing,” that influenced the sound of jazz and jazz accompaniment. Basie’s rhythm section inspired other rhythm members to play with more flexibility and more responsiveness to the horn players.
Born William Basie in Red Bank, New Jersey, he played drums as a child before taking up piano. In 1924 Basie moved to New York City. There he was influenced by the ragtime-derived style of Harlem jazz pianists James P. Johnson and Fats Waller and began touring on the vaudeville circuit as pianist and accompanist. When a tour collapsed in 1927, stranding him in Kansas City, Missouri, Basie secured work there playing theater organ for silent movies. He soon joined the Blue Devils, a band led by bassist Walter Page. In 1929 Basie joined the Kansas City Orchestra of pianist Bennie Moten, the leading jazz band in the region at that time. After the death of Moten in 1935, Basie formed a new band called Count Basie and His Barons of Rhythm with several members of Moten’s band. In 1936 the band moved to New York City, and a year later began recording as Count Basie and His Orchestra. By 1939 the band was made up of 15 instrumentalists and 2 singers, Helen Humes and Jimmy Rushing. Humes replaced the great jazz singer Billie Holiday in the band.
Basie’s band of the late 1930s was dominated by great soloists: tenor saxophonists Lester Young and Herschel Evans; trumpeters Buck Clayton and Harry “Sweets” Edison; trombonist Dicky Wells; and Basie himself. At first Basie performed in a two-handed ragtime style; but in the mid-1930s, he switched to a relaxed, spare style—imbued with subtlety and wit—that led beautifully into the solos of his instrumentalists.
Musical arrangements of the early Basie band, by guitarist Eddie Durham, trumpeter Buck Clayton, and others, were written in a relatively straightforward manner compared to the more intricate scores of bandleaders Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson. Some of the Basie band pieces, such as “One O’Clock Jump” (1937), are so-called head arrangements—they were made up in rehearsal and memorized, rather than written out. The band often made up riffs—short, repeated phrases—that were usually played as a background for soloists. Another musical hallmark of the Basie style is its reliance on the blues, both blues chord progressions and blue notes, certain flatted notes in a musical scale.
After World War II ended in 1945, changes in the economy and in Americans’ musical tastes sent most of the big bands into commercial decline. Eventually, the changed economic realities of touring with a band affected Basie, and in 1950 he was forced to dissolve his large ensemble. For a time he toured with a small group of six to nine players, but by 1952, he had reassembled his big band. This time, written arrangements were the norm, and the band had a different sound and style than it had in the 1930s and 1940s. His arrangers now included Neil Hefti, Ernie Wilkins, Benny Carter, Thad Jones, and Quincy Jones. Hefti’s “Lil’ Darlin’” (1957) became a jazz classic, demonstrating how well the Basie band could swing at a very slow tempo. Wild Bill Davis’s arrangement of “April in Paris” (1955) became a perennial favorite among audiences, as did “Shiny Stockings” (1956), written by Basie’s tenor saxophonist Frank Foster.
In the 1950s the band featured new soloists, including trumpeters Thad Jones, Joe Newman, and Clark Terry; tenor saxophonists Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Foster, and Frank Wess; and alto saxophonist Marshall Royal. Whereas the earlier band emphasized the sound of the soloists over that of the ensemble, the later band favored the ensemble sound of a well-rehearsed, tightly controlled group. From 1954 to 1961 singer Joe Williams performed with the band. Among his best-known recordings with Basie are “Every Day I Have the Blues” and “In the Evening (When the Sun Goes Down)” (both 1955).
Basie continued to lead his band in the 1970s and 1980s, although he sometimes did so from a wheelchair in his later years. Basie and his orchestra won numerous Grammy Awards. In 1981 Basie won a Grammy Trustees Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). In 1983 the National Endowment for the Arts named Basie a recipient of an American Jazz Masters award. After his death, the band continued to tour, first under the leadership of Thad Jones, then from 1986 to 1995 under Foster. In 1995 trombonist Grover Mitchell became the leader of the orchestra.

Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), German composer and one of the world’s greatest musical geniuses. His work marks the culmination of the baroque style. A man of inexhaustible energy and imagination, Bach composed in every form known in the baroque era, except the opera. His enormous output includes works for the organ, violin, clavichord and harpsichord (predecessors of the piano), chamber orchestra, and voice.
Johann Sebastian Bach was born on March 21, 1685, in Eisenach, a small city in the German region of Thüringen, into a family that over seven generations produced more than 50 prominent musicians. During his life Bach worked at a number of German courts, as organist or music director, and spent his last 27 years in Leipzig teaching and composing. Bach was married twice and had 20 children, 10 of whom survived into adulthood. A number of his children became prominent musicians.
A Early Life
Bach’s father, Johann Ambrosius Bach, was town music director and court trumpeter in Eisenach, and his father’s cousin, Johann Christoph, served as court organist. In all likelihood the young Bach received instruction in string playing from his father and sang in the choir of Saint George’s, the court church, under Johann Christoph Bach. At age seven he entered the Latin School, which German theologian Martin Luther had attended two centuries earlier. There Bach made good progress in his studies.
Life changed drastically for Bach with the death of his mother in 1694, followed one year later by the death of his father. The ten-year-old boy was taken in by his oldest brother, 23-year-old Johann Christoph, who worked as an organist in nearby Ohrdruf. There Bach continued his studies at the Lyceum, and was given thorough keyboard instruction by his brother. Together, the two Bachs often made manuscript copies of contemporary works. Under his brother’s guidance, young Bach became acquainted with a wide variety of German keyboard music.
As Johann Christoph’s family expanded, it became increasingly difficult to house his younger brother, and consequently at age 15 Bach sought and attained a scholarship to the Saint Michael’s School in Lüneburg in northern Germany. Here, in return for singing in the choir, he received room, board, tuition, and a small spending allowance. In Lüneburg he probably continued his organ studies with Georg Böhm, a master of hymn-tune variations and harpsichord dance suites. In addition, he made several trips to Hamburg to hear the virtuosic improvisations of organist Johann Adam Reincken.
In 1702 the 17-year-old Bach successfully competed for an organist position in the village of Sangerhausen but seems to have been disqualified at the last minute because of his youth. The following year he worked for a brief time as a “lackey and violinist” at the court in Weimar. Soon thereafter he was paid to test and inaugurate the recently installed organ in the New Church in Arnstadt. The church officials were so impressed with his playing that they immediately hired him to replace the existing organist, for whom they found other work.
B Arnstadt: 1703-1707
It was in Arnstadt that Bach showed “the first fruits of his application to the art of organ playing,” as his obituary later put it. It was also here that he first demonstrated his willful personality, drawing his sword on a mediocre musician after calling him “a nanny-goat bassoonist” and getting into arguments with the church council over the length of hymn preludes. In November 1705 he traveled by foot to Lübeck in northern Germany to hear the special Advent concerts presented by the renowned organist and composer Dietrich Buxtehude. So enchanted was he by the elegant music-making that he stayed four months rather than the agreed-upon leave of four weeks. Bach once again incurred the disfavor of the church council and within a year began to search for another position.
C Mühlhausen: 1707-1708
In 1707 Bach accepted a call to serve as organist of the Saint Blasius Church in Mühlhausen. Mühlhausen was a prosperous city, governed by a council of wealthy businessmen who backed music activities with strong financial support. It was here that Bach composed his first cantatas, which were large, ambitious, multisectional works written in the style of Buxtehude. Two of the pieces were published in lavish editions by the town council. Bach also gave the council important advice on the repair and enlargement of the organ in Saint Blasius.
In the fall of 1707, Bach married his orphaned distant cousin Maria Barbara Bach. Over the next 12 years, Maria Barbara gave birth to seven children, three of whom became professional musicians: Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and Johann Gottfried Bernhard Bach. Despite the favorable conditions in Mühlhausen, Bach resigned from his position after one year to accept a still better post at the ducal court in Weimar.
D Weimar: 1708-1717
Bach served nine years at the Weimar court, first as organist and then, from 1714, as concertmaster as well. His employer, Wilhelm Ernst, duke of Weimar, was a great admirer of the organ, and spurred by the duke’s enthusiasm Bach proceeded to compose a vast number of unprecedented works for the instrument: the Orgelbüchlein (“Little Organ Book”), a collection of small chorale preludes for the church year; the so-called Great Eighteen Chorales of larger size; and a series of dramatic preludes and fugues.
In Weimar, Bach also became acquainted with a wide range of French and Italian music. Around 1712 he encountered the instrumental concertos of Antonio Vivaldi, in particular, and the experience had a far-reaching impact on his style. Bach made keyboard arrangements of works by Vivaldi and other great Italian composers, and from this labor he gained a feel for expressive melodies, forceful harmonies, driving rhythms, and well-defined forms. Bach now climbed to the peak of mastery as an organ virtuoso and composer, and the demand for his services as an organ expert and teacher grew significantly.
In 1713 Bach was offered a new and higher-paying position as cathedral organist in Halle. Duke Wilhelm Ernst, anxious to keep Bach in Weimar, awarded him the additional position of concertmaster, which carried with it the opportunity to compose church cantatas. Bach proceeded to write a cantata each month, and the pieces reflect his new orientation toward the Italian style. The individual movements are lengthier and clearly separated from each other, and the music now includes operatic recitative.
While still in Weimar, Bach’s growing reputation was enhanced further by his victory in a playing contest held in Dresden with the famous French organist Louis Marchand. On the morning of the contest Marchand secretly departed from town, leaving Bach to perform alone, in triumph, in front of an audience of esteemed listeners. In the fall of 1717 Bach was invited to become chapel master to the court of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen. Wilhelm Ernst at first refused to release Bach from his duties, and even tossed him into jail for “too obstinately requesting his dismissal.” But after several weeks the duke saw it was of no use and let him go.
E Köthen: 1717-1723
Bach’s new employer, Leopold, loved and understood music and could play the violin, viola da gamba, and harpsichord as well as sing bass. The prince held Bach in high regard and stood as godfather for his seventh child. Bach, in turn, named the child Leopold August in his employer’s honor. Bach later said that the years in Köthen were among the happiest of his life. Since the court was Calvinist, rather than Lutheran, Bach was not required to compose church cantatas. He concentrated instead on writing secular cantatas and instrumental music for Leopold’s talented chamber ensemble, producing masterpieces such as the Brandenburg Concertos (named for their dedication to the Margrave of Brandenburg), the works for unaccompanied violin and for unaccompanied cello, and a host of solo concertos and orchestral suites. Bach also began to assemble keyboard collections for the instruction of his young sons and his growing coterie of private students. The collections included the Inventions and Sinfonias, the French and English Suites, and the first volume of The Well-Tempered Clavier.
In the summer of 1720, Bach’s wife died while he was away on a trip with the prince, and the following year the 36-year-old composer married the 20-year-old Anna Magdalena Wilcken, a court singer descended like himself from a long line of musicians. The marriage proved to be a perfect musical match: Magdalena assisted her husband by painstakingly copying a great deal of his music; he, in turn, assembled two volumes of house music in her honor (the Notebooks for Anna Magdalena Bach of 1722 and 1725). Magdalena Bach gave birth to 13 children, six of whom survived infancy. Of these, two became famous musicians: Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach and Johann Christian Bach.
In 1722 the important post of cantor (music teacher) at the Saint Thomas School in Leipzig fell vacant. Bach applied for the position, but his candidacy was not viewed with great enthusiasm by the town council. Only after Georg Philipp Telemann and Christoph Graupner (a then well-known chapel master in Darmstadt) declined the post did the council settle on Bach, with one member complaining, “Since the best men can’t be obtained, mediocre ones will have to be taken.” Bach nevertheless accepted the offer and left Köthen with his family in the spring of 1723.
F Leipzig: 1723-1750
In Leipzig Bach stepped into one of the oldest and most prestigious music positions in Germany. He held the position of cantor for more than 25 years, until the end of his life. He was answerable to a stable, self-perpetuating town council, he had the opportunity to compose both sacred and secular music, and his sons could attend the university—an educational opportunity he himself had not been able to enjoy. As cantor and director of town music, Bach was responsible first and foremost for overseeing the music in the town’s five largest Lutheran churches, including Saint Thomas and Saint Nicholas, which offered the most elaborate programs. He also served as a teacher at the respected Saint Thomas School (founded in 1212), where he was required to teach Latin and give singing and instrumental lessons to the boys.
Although Bach was less than enthusiastic about his teaching duties, he approached his obligations as a church composer with great industry. During the first six years in Leipzig he appears to have assembled five annual cycles of cantatas. Each cycle contained approximately 60 works—one for each Sunday and festival day of the church year—as well as a passion for Good Friday. For most of this period Bach composed cantatas at a rate of better than one per week.
As time went on, however, Bach became disillusioned with the mediocre quality of the performers at his disposal, and he increasingly entered into disagreements with the town council over his rights as cantor. “The authorities are odd and very little interested in music, and I must live amid almost continual vexation, envy, and persecution,” he wrote to a friend. Perhaps for this reason, Bach stopped composing church cantatas almost altogether in 1729 and took over the directorship of the collegium musicum, a group of university students that gathered weekly to present public concerts in Zimmermann’s Coffee House. For the collegium he composed or arranged a host of instrumental pieces: viola da gamba and flute sonatas, trio sonatas, orchestral suites, and concertos for one, two, three, and even four harpsichords, written for himself and his talented sons and students. The second volume of The Well-Tempered Clavier may have been assembled for the purpose of collegium performances as well. It was for Zimmermann’s customers that Bach wrote the humorous Coffee Cantata, an early “singing commercial” that satirizes the coffee craze of the time.
Bach stepped down from the collegium directorship in 1737, and from that time until the end of his life he increasingly withdrew from his official duties and turned instead to private projects, such as the publication of the Goldberg Variations, Schübler Chorales, and other keyboard works; the study of Catholic church music in Latin; and the composition of large composite pieces such as the Art of Fugue and, in his final years, the B-Minor Mass. During his last decade, Bach also traveled frequently to Dresden and Berlin, where his sons worked as professional musicians.
In 1747 Bach enjoyed his most significant personal triumph when he visited the Berlin court of Frederick II (Frederick the Great), where his son Carl Philipp Emanuel served as harpsichordist. Bach tried out Frederick’s fine harpsichords and fortepianos (an early type of piano), displaying his incredible mastery of improvisation. Without preparation he improvised a fugue on a subject provided by the king, and on his return to Leipzig he used the royal theme for a set of polyphonic compositions dedicated to the monarch and published with the title Musical Offering.
Two years later Bach’s eyesight, which had been poor for many years, began to fail seriously. In June 1749 the town council auditioned a potential successor for his job, and by October, Bach was so disabled that his 14-year-old son Johann Christian had to sign pay receipts on his behalf. In the spring of 1750, Bach entrusted himself to the care of a visiting eye surgeon who boasted of having performed successful operations elsewhere. In Bach’s case the two subsequent operations proved to be failures, and the drugs that were administered broke his health, which had been robust up to this point. On July 18 he suddenly recovered his sight, but a few hours later he suffered a stroke, and on July 28, 1750, he died.
As a creative artist, Bach cultivated all the major forms of the late Baroque era except for opera (and even here a number of cantatas written for the Leipzig collegium musicum approach the progressive comic operas of Italian composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi and others). Bach composed over 1,000 works. His output includes pieces for voices and instruments, organ, clavier (harpsichord or clavichord), solo instruments, and instrumental ensemble. His inexhaustible imagination and inventiveness resulted in an immense variety of forms. No two of his fugues follow precisely the same procedure; no two of his cantatas show exactly the same structure. Yet all his works share certain characteristics: convincing formal design, polyphonic texture in which each voice is given its due (see Polyphony), forceful harmonies, appealing melodies, compelling rhythms, and a high level of refinement.
Today Bach’s works are normally identified by numbers beginning with BWV or S, which stand for their listing in the German catalogue of Bach’s music first assembled in 1950 by Wolfgang Schmieder, the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (“Catalogue of Bach’s Works”).
A Cantatas
The church cantatas represent the bulk of Bach’s vocal music. The five annual sets that he assembled in Leipzig contained a total of about 300 works; of these, approximately 200 survive. The cantatas written in Mühlhausen follow the 17th-century pattern championed by Buxtehude and others. The text is drawn from the Bible or from chorales (Lutheran hymns); the music consists of numerous short sections that usually contrast with one another in melody, key, tempo, and forces (the instruments and singers involved). In addition, the meaning of significant words is often highlighted by musical means: the phrase “Christ’s pain,” for instance, might be accompanied by jarring dissonances. Excellent examples of this early style are offered by the funeral cantata Gottes Zeit ist die allerbest Zeit (“God’s time is the very best time”), BWV 106, or the Easter cantata Christ lag in Todesbanden (“Christ lay in the bonds of death”), BWV 4. In the second work the seven stanzas of Martin Luther’s hymn are presented as a series of variations.
In Weimar Bach adopted the new type of cantata introduced by the Lutheran pastor Erdmann Neumeister. In the Neumeister cantata the text consists entirely of poetry in the form of madrigals, paraphrasing stories told in the Bible and hymns, and the music consists of recitative (free, speech-like sections for solo voice) and aria. The result was “a piece out of the opera,” as Neumeister himself expressed it. Bach generally modified this plan by blending recitative and aria with choruses and chorales based on the quotations from the Bible and hymn texts in the traditional manner. With the Weimar cantatas Bach’s compositional style shifts from North German to Italian, though he retained for some time the French practice of using a five-part string band (two violins, two violas, and bass). Himmelskönig, sei willkommen (“King of heaven, welcome”), BWV 182, is an outstanding example of Bach’s Weimar writing.
In Leipzig Bach continued to use the modified Neumeister scheme. The works sometimes fall into two sections, one presented before the minister’s sermon, the other after; they commonly feature a large opening chorus followed by a series of recitative-aria pairs and a closing chorale. For the first annual cycle (1723 and 1724), Bach drew heavily on preexisting works from Weimar. For the second annual cycle (1724 and 1725), he composed a series of “chorale cantatas,” pieces whose texts and music are based on hymns from the Sunday worship service. For the third cycle (1725 to 1727), he experimented with cantatas for solo voice. These works often begin with a lengthy instrumental movement featuring organ solo. The nature of the fourth and fifth cycles is unclear, since most of the pieces are lost.
Particularly well-known of the surviving Leipzig cantatas are Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen ('From Sheba shall they all come'), BWV 65; the Reformation cantata Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott (“A mighty fortress is our God”), BWV 80; and Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (“Sleepers awake, a voice is calling”), BWV 140. Excellent illustrations of his solo writing are the exquisitely beautiful Ich habe genug (“I have now enough”), BWV 82, for bass voice, and the virtuosic Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen (“Praise God in every land”), BWV 51, possibly written for a Dresden opera castrato (a castrated male singing in the soprano range).
Bach’s secular cantatas were written for weddings, birthdays, and name days of important persons, for building inaugurations, and for other festive occasions. Less than two dozen examples have survived, most probably because Bach often rearranged the music for another use once the event for which the piece was written had passed. Tönet, ihr Pauken! Erschallet, Trompeten! (“Sound, you drums! Ring out, you trumpets!”), BWV 214, composed for the birthday of Saxon Electress Maria Josepha, was recycled with a new text in the Christmas Oratorio. The “Peasant Cantata,” Mer hahn en neue Oberkeet, (“I've got me a new overlord”), BWV 212, written for a local housewarming party, approaches the style of the contemporary comic opera.
B Motets
Seven of Bach’s German motets survive. Five were composed for two choirs, in the polychoral tradition, and two were written for a single choir of four or five parts. Based on biblical and chorale texts, the motets contain chorus movements only. They are commonly performed a cappella—that is, by voices alone without instrumental accompaniment. In Bach’s day, however, instruments often doubled the singers. The motets were composed for general use (that is, they were not oriented toward a specific Sunday), and as a consequence they remained popular after Bach’s death. For a long time they were virtually the only vocal works of his to be heard. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was much moved by the two-choir Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied (“Sing unto the Lord a new song”), BWV 225, when he heard it performed in the Saint Thomas Church during a visit to Leipzig in 1789. Also popular is the beautiful Jesu, meine Freude (“Jesus, my joy”), BWV 227.
C Oratorios and Passions
Bach composed narrative oratorios—large-scale works for voices and instruments—for Easter, Ascension Day, and Christmas. The Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248, written during the winter of 1734-1735, is a series of six cantatas intended for the first three days of Christmas, New Year’s Day, the Sunday after New Year’s, and Epiphany. The text, taken mostly from the Bible and Lutheran hymns, relates the Christmas story. The story itself is told by a tenor, the evangelist, while other soloists and the chorus add commentary. The strategically placed chorales served to enlighten the congregation.
Bach is reported to have composed five passions—oratorios in which the story of the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus Christ is sung. However, only two have survived: the St. John Passion, BWV 245, dating from 1724, and the St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244, dating from 1727. Both works were performed several times over the years and show numerous revisions. (Of the St. Mark Passion, written in 1731, only the text remains; the St. Luke Passion, once credited to Bach, is now believed to be the work of another composer.)
The two authentic surviving passions each consist of two sections, one to be performed before and one after the sermon. An evangelist (tenor) narrates the story of Christ’s arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Individual characters, including Christ, are sung by soloists, while the crowd is represented by the chorus. The congregation’s reaction to the unfolding drama is expressed in various recitatives, arias, and chorales.
The two works are very different in character. The St. John Passion contains impassioned crowd scenes; Christ, on the other hand, is portrayed as a sublimely calm, almost remote figure. The St. Matthew Passion radiates tenderness and love. Christ approaches mankind in his suffering, and mankind, in turn, suffers with him. In the recitative passages, Christ’s words are supported by a “halo” of accompanying strings.
The St. Matthew Passion was Bach’s most ambitious work for the Lutheran Church. It contains 68 musical numbers (or 78, depending how one counts) and calls for two choruses, a host of soloists, two large orchestras, and a special group of boy singers for the hymn tune appearing in the immense opening chorus. It lasts approximately two-and-one-half hours in performance, and its deeply emotional music is a supreme testament to Bach’s interpretive skills. In the mid-1730s the composer lovingly wrote out a clean copy of the full score, notating the biblical text as well as the hymn tune in the first movement in red ink.
D Magnificat and B-Minor Mass
Bach wrote a number of pieces with Latin texts. The Magnificat (written in 1723 and revised around 1733), an imposing Sanctus (“Holy, holy, holy”) in six parts, four short Masses, and several other pieces were composed for performance in the Lutheran worship service in Leipzig. There the Latin language of the Roman Catholic Church was retained for certain portions of the liturgy. The four Masses contain only the sections beginning with the words Kyrie eleison (“Lord have mercy”) and Gloria in excelsis Deo (“Glory to God in the highest”).
The radiant Magnificat, BWV 243, for five-part chorus, soloists, and orchestra, is taken from Mary’s hymn of praise to her cousin Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist (Luke 1:46-55). Its compact movements, consisting of choruses and arias only, are highly refined; each has its own clearly defined emotional character. (see Mass, Musical Settings of.)
The B-Minor Mass, BWV 232, is a composite work, assembled by Bach during the final years of his life. It consists of a Kyrie and Gloria, written in 1733 for the Saxon Elector in Dresden, a Credo (“I believe”) composed in 1748 and 1749, a Sanctus from 1724 (with additional movements from 1748 and 1749), and an Agnus Dei (“Lamb of God”) composed in 1748 and 1749. The B-Minor Mass is a creation of lofty grandeur, abounding in settings of intricate technical mastery and widely diverse styles, such as the “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” a lively, dancelike, concerto-derived movement; the “Credo in unum Deum,” an eight-part fugue on a Gregorian chant subject; and the poignant “Crucifixus,” a set of 13 variations on a passacaglia bass theme.
Although the work was known as The Great Catholic Mass within the Bach family, its purpose remains unclear. Bach had close ties with the Catholic court in Dresden, yet the colossal dimensions of the B-Minor Mass would have rendered it impractical for the worship service there or elsewhere. The piece may have been a private project on Bach’s part, written for personal pleasure and, possibly, for posterity as well.
E Organ Works
Bach wrote organ music throughout his life. During his years as a church or court organist in Arnstadt, Mühlhausen, and Weimar, he created a dazzling array of free works (pieces not based on a chorale tune) and chorale preludes. The free pieces include the famous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565, probably written in Arnstadt when Bach was no older than 19; the grandiose Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, BWV 582, a set of 20 variations on a bass melody borrowed from French composer André Raison; and the dramatic Fantasy and Fugue in G Minor, BWV 542, containing “the very best pedal fugue by this composer” according to an old manuscript copy. The earliest chorale settings include several chorale partitas (see suites), or variations, for organ, probably written under the influence of Böhm, and the Neumeister Chorales. Both may date from Bach’s student years in Lüneburg.
The 46 settings of the Orgelbüchlein, assembled in Weimar, show Bach putting forth the idea of a concise chorale prelude with four fully self-sufficient parts, including one for the feet played on the pedalboard. The clear part-writing in these pieces paved the way for Bach’s mature compositional style, in which every voice plays an important melodic role. In the Orgelbüchlein chorales we also see Bach as a master of expressive interpretation, since in many pieces the music directly reflects the meaning of the text. In Durch Adams Fall (“Through Adam’s Fall”), BWV 637, for instance, the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden is portrayed through a falling dissonant motive that recurs in the pedal.
In Leipzig, Bach wrote the Six Trio Sonatas (BWV 525-530) for the instruction of his son Wilhelm Friedemann (see Sonata). Here he takes the Italian instrumental trio for two violins and bass and transfers it to the organ, giving one treble part to the right hand, the other treble part to the left hand, and the bass part to the feet. Hands and feet function as equal parts in the Trio Sonatas, so much so that at times the player is required to perform trills and other ornaments with the feet.
In 1739, Bach published the Third Part of the Clavierübung, which contains a large assortment of chorale preludes on the Lutheran Catechism and Kyrie and Gloria, as well as four duets and the famous St. Anne Prelude and Fugue. The collection includes straightforward manual pieces for “music lovers” as well as extremely challenging manual and pedal works for “connoisseurs.” In the late 1740s, Bach also published the Schübler Chorales, a collection of six cantata arias transcribed for organ. The melodic beauty of these arrangements, in which popular hymn tunes of the day sound out above a rich tapestry of counterpoint, make them favorites of listeners and players alike.
F Clavier Works
Bach’s clavier works—that is, pieces for keyboard without pedal—were written mainly for the harpsichord. They were also played on the clavichord, which in Bach’s day was used chiefly as a practice instrument because of its tiny sound. Bach wrote a number of clavier pieces in his youth, including the charming Capriccio on the Departure of a Dearly Beloved Brother, BWV 992, intended as a farewell tribute to his brother Jacob as he joined the Swedish Army. Bach began to assemble clavier works in earnest in Köthen, where both the purchase of a large harpsichord by Prince Leopold and the need for instructional material seem to have spurred his interest. The well-known Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 903, undoubtedly designed for his own use, stems from this time.
For his sons and students Bach assembled the Two-Part Inventions and Three-Part Sinfonias, miniature gems of counterpoint technique in various manners and moods; the French and English Suites, two sets of dance music; and the first volume of Das Wohltemperirte Clavier (The Well-Tempered Clavier), completed in 1722. The last consists of 24 preludes and fugues, one prelude and fugue in the major and one in the minor key on each degree of the scale. The expression “well-tempered” refers to a method of tuning, new at the time, that allowed players to use all major and minor keys rather than just those with up to two or three accidentals (sharps or flats noted within the body of the work).
In Leipzig Bach composed another set of dance suites—the six partitas published in 1731 under the title Clavierübung, or “Keyboard Exercise.” The Italian Concerto and French Overture, brilliant keyboard examples of popular national forms, followed as Clavierübung II. As the fourth and final part of the series, Bach published the superb Goldberg Variations, an aria with 30 variations composed for his admirer Count Hermann von Keyserlingk, the Russian ambassador in Dresden. The story is told that the count suffered from an illness that often kept him sleepless, and to soothe his nerves at night he had his harpsichordist, the Bach student Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, play the variations in an adjoining room. Around 1742, Bach also compiled a second set of 24 preludes and fugues to produce volume two of The Well-Tempered Clavier.
G Works for Solo Instruments
During his years in Köthen and his years as collegium musicum director in Leipzig, Bach composed a large number of works for solo instruments. These include sonatas for flute, for violin, and for viola da gamba, most of which include, for the first time in Western music, a written-out line for the right hand of the harpsichord accompaniment. These pieces point to the chamber sonatas of the classical and romantic eras.
In the sonatas and partitas for unaccompanied violin, completed in 1720, Bach achieved the seemingly impossible task of writing imitative textures—including four-part fugues—for a solo stringed instrument. He reached a peak of sublime inspiration in the Chaconne from the D-Minor Partita, an immense set of variations that later captured the imagination of romantic-era composers such as Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, and Johannes Brahms. Over ten minutes long, the Chaconne is the supreme test of a violinist’s skill. The six suites for unaccompanied violoncello, also written in Köthen, are no less extraordinary.
H Works for Instrumental Ensemble
Bach’s works for instrumental ensemble include the famous six Brandenburg Concertos of 1721 (BWV 1046-1051), which summarize the art of the Italian and German concerto. They are perhaps the most famous group of chamber pieces ever written. Concertos 1, 3, and 6 are ensemble concertos of the type much favored in Germany at the time: contrasting, but evenly balanced, choirs of instruments play together and alternately, spinning forth the melodic material in marvelously varied combinations. Concertos 2, 4, and 5 are solo concertos, in which three or four solo instruments alternate with the tutti, or full band. Of these more progressive, Vivaldi-oriented works, No. 5 deserves special mention since Bach uses the harpsichord as one of the solo instruments, giving it a fiendishly difficult part that includes a long solo cadenza toward the end of the first movement. This work constitutes the first keyboard concerto ever written.
Although the Brandenburg Concertos are rich in polyphonic devices, they are enjoyed by listeners unaware of the intricacy of Bach’s counterpoint. The concertos exude a spirit of exuberance and optimism that delights as much today as it must have in Bach’s time. In these masterpieces melodic inspiration, coloristic subtlety, and technical craftsmanship match each other in a way that is rare even in Bach’s output.
A similar affirmative sparkle emanates from the four orchestral suites (BWV 1066-1069), each consisting of an overture in the French style (made up of a majestic slow introduction followed by a spirited fugue) and a series of enchanting dance movements. The Suite in C Major and the two Suites in D Major are products of Bach’s Köthen years. The stylish Suite in B Minor, BWV 1067, for flute and strings, seems to be a Leipzig collegium piece, written perhaps for a visiting virtuoso flute player from Dresden.
The concertos for one, two, three, and even four harpsichords are among the most forward-looking pieces Bach wrote. Composed for himself (the first harpsichord part in the multiple concertos is always more difficult than the others) and his gifted sons and students, the works are mostly derived from earlier concertos for violin or oboe or both. Nevertheless, Bach’s inventive handling of the harpsichord and orchestra parts points to the drama and fanciful play of the later piano concertos of Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven.
I Musical Offering, Canonic Variations, Art of Fugue
In the last decade of his life Bach demonstrated his consummate achievements as a master of counterpoint in three works devoted to the craft of strict fugue and canon. The Musical Offering, BWV 1079, based on a theme proposed by Frederick the Great during Bach’s 1747 visit to Berlin, contains two large ricercares (old-fashioned fugues in Renaissance vocal style), a trio sonata, and a sequence of puzzle canons (canons that need to be solved). In 1747 Bach also composed the Canonic Variations on Vom Himmel Hoch, BWV 769, to mark his entry into the Society of Musical Sciences, whose select membership of 20 composers and theorists included George Frideric Handel and Georg Philipp Telemann. Based on the Christmas chorale “From heaven above to earth I come,” the variations present a sequence of five elaborate canons for an organ with two manuals and pedal.
Die Kunst der Fuge (“The Art of Fugue”), BWV 1080, once thought to date from Bach’s final year, is now known to have been compiled over a period of a decade or more. Around 1740 Bach assembled the core of the collection: a series of fugues and canons of increasing complexity, all based on the same principal theme. In the first version of the collection, the fugues include pieces for one, two, and three subjects. At the very end of his life Bach picked up the collection once again, this time with an eye to publishing it, perhaps as yet another part of the Clavierübung series. He revised and expanded the music, and added a climactic concluding fugue for four subjects, the last of which spelled in music his own name: B A C H (with B as B-flat and H as B-natural in the German scale). Bach died before bringing the gigantic quadruple fugue to an end, however, and the music breaks off, unfinished, in the 239th measure. The incomplete collection was printed after his death by members the family. Although The Art of Fugue is commonly performed on various combinations of instruments—strings, brass, woodwinds, full orchestra, or even saxophone quartet—it is clear that Bach intended the piece for keyboard (harpsichord or possibly organ).
J Method of Composing
As a composer living in an age when new music was required on a weekly—if not daily—basis, Bach was accustomed to writing works with great speed. On good days he appears to have been able to compose highly refined masterpieces without the aid of sketches or drafts—almost as one would write a letter. Because Bach was under pressure to produce vast quantities of music, he often pulled a previously written piece off the shelf and revised it for a new occasion. Thus violin concertos from Köthen reappear in Leipzig as harpsichord concertos, or secular birthday cantatas resurface, with new words, as Sunday church music. The B-Minor Mass, for instance, appears to consist almost wholly of revised cantata movements from earlier periods. This procedure, which might be viewed as plagiarism in modern times, was accepted as a practical recycling process in the Baroque era, and Bach frequently used it to update early works and bring the music they contained to an even higher state of beauty.
As astonishing as it might seem today, Bach’s music quickly fell out of favor after his death and remained largely unknown for the next 50 years. Only a small group of admirers, consisting mostly of his sons and pupils, performed any of the works, and then only the virtuoso clavier and organ pieces. Bach’s feats of counterpoint were occasionally mentioned in textbooks, but apart from his four-part chorales, which were guided into print in the 1780s by his son Carl Philipp Emanuel and his student Johann Philipp Kirnberger, none of his works were published.
Beethoven made his mark as a young virtuoso by performing preludes and fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier; he played from a handwritten copy of the music, however, since no printed edition was available. Joseph Haydn and Mozart, too, learned of Bach’s works largely through manuscript copies circulated in Vienna by the Bach and Handel champion Baron Gottfried van Swieten. The vocal music, in particular, owned by family members and the Saint Thomas School, fell from view almost completely—hence Mozart’s enormous surprise when he heard Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied (“Sing to God a new song”). According to an eyewitness:

Scarcely had the choir sung a few bars when Mozart sat up, startled. A few measures more and he cried out: “What is this?!” ... When the singing was finished he called out, full of joy: “Now, there is something from which we can learn!” He was told that the school ... possessed the complete collection of Bach’s motets. As there were no scores of these works, he got them to bring him the separate parts; and then it was a joy for the silent observer to see how eagerly Mozart distributed the parts all around him—in both hands, on his knees, on the nearest chairs—and forgetting everything else, did not rise again until he had looked through everything of Sebastian Bach’s that was there. He requested a copy for himself, which he valued very highly.

The situation began to change around 1800 when, under the impact of romanticism, people began to delve into the musical monuments of the past. In 1802 Johann Nikolaus Forkel published the first Bach biography, which he assembled from information provided by Bach’s sons. Forkel’s portrait of Bach as a virtuoso keyboard player, teacher, and composer gave music lovers an idea of the significance and extent of the neglected master’s genius. In Germany and Switzerland musicians began to study Bach’s works. A similar revival started in England under the leadership of the organist Samuel Wesley, a nephew of the religious leader John Wesley.
At first Bach’s keyboard works were considered most important. Between 1801 and 1810 complete editions of The Well-Tempered Clavier appeared in Bonn, Leipzig, Zürich, and London. Schumann advised students to “industriously practice the fugues of good masters, above all, those of J. S. Bach. Let The Well-Tempered Clavier be your daily bread.” Germany’s greatest poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, hearing Bach’s keyboard music for the first time, expressed the deep admiration felt by many romantic artists: “It is as if the eternal harmony were conversing within itself, as it may have done in the bosom of God just before the creation of the world.” Soon Bach was hailed as the “father of harmony.”
Appreciation of the vocal works was slower to come. Two epoch-making performances in Berlin—Gasparo Spontini’s of the Credo portion of the B-Minor Mass in 1828 and Mendelssohn’s of the St. Matthew Passion in 1829—attracted widespread attention and led to the exploration of the cantatas, oratorios, and other vocal pieces. These works were gradually taken up by middle-class chorale societies, at first with apprehension (because of the music’s difficulty) but then with unbridled enthusiasm.
In 1850 the Bach Society was established in Leipzig with the goal of publishing the composer’s entire surviving output. This was achieved within 50 years, whereupon the New Bach Society was founded with the purpose of making the works accessible to the general public through practical editions and first-rate performances in annual festivals.
The promotion of Bach’s music was not confined to his native land. In England William Sterndale Bennett founded a Bach Society as early as 1849. In the United States Frederick Wolle established in 1900 an annual Bach Festival in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, that has thrived to the present day. Similar festivals were set up in Carmel, California; Eugene, Oregon; and other locations. The American Bach Society was established in 1972.
At the same time, Bach research made great strides through the publication of Philipp Spitta’s monumental three-volume biography, Johann Sebastian Bach, issued in Germany in 1873-1879 and available today in an English-language reprint (Dover, 1992). Although Spitta was incorrect about the chronology of many works (especially the cantatas), his broad survey of musical culture in Germany and his insights into Bach’s creative genius remain unsurpassed. Spitta’s study was followed in 1905 by Albert Schweitzer’s J.S. Bach, The Musician-Poet (Peter Smith, 1992), which emphasized the role of pictorialism and symbolism in Bach’s music, and by Charles Sanford Terry’s Bach: A Biography (1928; Reprint Services, 1988) and Bachs Orchestra (1932; Reprint Services, 1988), which presented a great deal of new information on Bach’s life and instruments. Hans T. David and Arthur Mendel assembled Bach’s writings and other documents and translated them into English in The Bach Reader (Norton, 1966). It was published in a revised edition edited by Christoph Wolff as The New Bach Reader (Norton, 1999). Malcolm Boyd’s Bach (Oxford University Press, 1994) gives a succinct overview that is quite useful. Christoph Wolff’s scholarly biography, Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician (Norton, 2000), was published to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death.
The venerable Bach-Gesamtausgabe, or complete edition of Bach’s works, was assembled in the 19th century by the Bach Society. Commonly known as the BG, it remains available today in the form of reprints, in full-size and miniature formats. In 1950 the New Bach Society launched a revised complete edition, the Neue Bach-Ausgabe, to correct the errors and spurious entries found in the old edition. It appeared in more than 100 volumes, scheduled for completion in 2006.