Christof Wolff. 2020. Bach’s Musical Universe. The composer and his work New York: W.W. Norton. xvii & 410 pp.

Johann Sebastian Bach here shown to be a projects guy besides a musical genius. Perhaps Christoff Wolff, previously himself also a director of the Bach Archive in Leipzig perhaps is also a taxonomist guy but there is nevertheless so much evidence we must accept that J.S. knew that his works were not only individually great works but that, assembled and presen ted as multi-volume works, were much more. Wolff is not sure how much was pre-meditated, initially not much maybe. However his need for a curriculum vitae for the cantor position in Leipzig was the initial impetus to present what he saw as his major contributions. Other applicants (Telemann et al) having academic backgrounds, Bach needed a pseudo-thesis. And this mindset seems to have continued. Thus (in part):

  • The Little Organ Book, Well-Tempered Klavier and Inventions and Sinfonias (written pre-Leipzig);
  • the year of choral cantatas;
  • the Clavier-Übung series (six Partitas, Italian Concerto, Goldberg Variations etc);
  • the passions and oratorios;
  • the Art of Fugue and the Mass in B Minor

Among so much to be learned here, I didn’t realise how few of Bach’s works survive from before ~1710.

A listening companion henceforth.