Talk:Johann Sebastian Bach

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Former good articleJohann Sebastian Bach was one of the Music good articles, but it has been removed from the list. There are suggestions below for improving the article to meet the good article criteria. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
Article milestones
April 23, 2005Featured article candidateNot promoted
May 9, 2006Good article nomineeNot listed
May 28, 2006Good article nomineeListed
May 30, 2006Peer reviewReviewed
December 29, 2006Good article reassessmentDelisted
May 25, 2010Good article nomineeNot listed
March 16, 2012Peer reviewReviewed
Current status: Delisted good article

"Bach and opera"[edit]

Why is this considered worth a whole subsection? Tony (talk) 11:54, 8 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I am unsure, but I will try to add something here in the very unlikely event that I have anything useful to contribute. In the meantime, I wonder if its author, The Eternal Wayfarer, is watching this page and would like to pop in and talk it over, please? Best to all DBaK (talk) 13:06, 8 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think the new subsection is WP:UNDUE, especially with its title and essay-like speculative tone. In the article, the previous content on Forkel and Scheibe is well-written and is fine for the section on "Reception" (cf similar material on Clavier-Übung III). The sources used for the new subsection are in Italian, French and German (I have no idea why the word "querelle" was used). Certainly C. P. E. Bach and J. C. Bach were involved in opera; obviously Handel was, but he did not write cantatas (only English oratorios). At the moment it seems a bit like forked content. Is it even clear it deserves a footnote in this general article on the life and works of Bach? There are no substantial WP:RSs on this particular topic, only a few cherry-picked quotations. No corresponding wikipedia articles. There have been a few tangential discussions on in the distant past, mostly remarks. The new section does not seem to be encyclopedic (cf Grove online). Mathsci (talk) 15:52, 8 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Agree that it is undue. Maybe in a stand alone article on Bach's music it could have a place, but trying to fit in a subject that Bach didn't write on into the main article is not worth the space or time. Aza24 (talk) 20:46, 8 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Opera is not a "subject" but a genre, and the most prestigous in the period. That a composer whose main output is sung, with instruments, never attempted it is worth explaining. Johnbod (talk) 16:22, 21 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I tagged the subsection. Meanwhile I downloaded Melamed's 2011 book "J.S. Bach and the Oratorio Tradition" with articles by Chr. Wolff ("Under the spell of Opera? Bach's Oratorio Trilogy") and Kerala Snyder ("Oratorio on Five Afternoons: From the Lübeck Abendmusiken to Bach’s Christmas Oratorio"). Snyder mentions Hamburg opera and operatic style in solo arias (and duets). There are other sources (see JSTOR). Not at all sure about a standalone article ... Mathsci (talk) 22:31, 8 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well that's not really what I said (unless I misunderstand you)—in a stand alone article that was about Bach's music (e.g. an article like "Music of Johann Sebastian Bach") the section might have a place. Aza24 (talk) 22:36, 8 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
"Music of Johann Sebastian Bach" is a little vague: do you mean "Bach reception"? It's known that Bach made detailed copies of Handel's works, e.g. the Brockes Passion and Tamerlano, so was aware of Handel's musical output. There is a volume "About Bach" for Wolff's 65th Festschrift. One of the contributors, George Stauffer at Rutgers University, writes about "Music for “Cavaliers et Dames”: Bach and the Repertoire of His Collegium Musicum" on which Wolff researched. Stauffer discusses Handel Italian cantatas and operatic arias, including two arias from the 1735 opera AlcinaDi, cor mio, quanto t’amai (Alcina) and Mi lusinga il dolce affetto (Rugierro). The original Leipzig manuscript shows that these were performed by Bach's Collegium Musicum c. 1735; as Stauffer writes, the two arias "represented the very latest in fashionable opera music from the London stage." Mathsci (talk) 12:55, 9 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Lots of music was written in "the very latest fashionable opera style" without being opera (Buxtehude's Abendmusiken were described as such, for example). I've restored some of the text as the fact he wrote no opera (the only contemporary genre which he did not contribute to) is noteworthy. The long Forkel quote might have been more of an issue than having a section about, IMHO. RandomCanadian (talk / contribs) 14:39, 21 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • This is a reasonable question, & worth considering here. I wouldn't have objected to the section that's now been removed, & I think the slight bit put back is fine, but probably too short.
@RandomCanadian and Johnbod: The arias from Alcina have been mentioned above in connection with the Collegium Musicum and George Stauffer. The two books by Winton Dean and J. Merrill Knapp on the Operas of Handel mention explicitly mention that arias or duets by Handel were comparable to some from the sacred cantatas of Bach. The third volume of Dean, "Handel's Dramatic Oratorios and Masques", also has a lot of references to Bach. Although Handel never fell out of favour, the re-evaluation of Bach did change in the English Awakening; two pages in Dean III with quotations give details, that might be appropriate. As I wrote above, Melamed's 2011 book "J.S. Bach and the Oratorio Tradition" has articles by Christoph Wolff ("Under the spell of Opera? Bach's Oratorio Trilogy") and Kerala Snyder ("Oratorio on Five Afternoons: From the Lübeck Abendmusiken to Bach’s Christmas Oratorio") that are relevant (Hamburg opera and Bach's sometimes operatic style in solo arias and duets).
More space was given to speculation on "Bach and opera" than to the sections on Bach's Organ works or Church cantatas.
Perhaps a brief subsection with header "Oratorio tradition" might be good, given Melamed's multi-author book, the volume "About Bach" dedicated to Wolff, Dean & Knapp's books, Snyder's book and other references on JSTOR. Mathsci (talk) 17:31, 21 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
"More space was given to speculation on "Bach and opera" than to the sections on Bach's Organ works or Church cantatas." - removing the excessive quote from Forkel might have solved that without needing to remove the whole section. There's certainly something that can and should be said about Bach and opera (Wolff's Bach: The Learned Musician has a few mentions - notably, he talks of the Leipzig Collegium Musicum in the same breath as the failed opera there (p. 240 in my edition; also see the index) - and the lack thereof (the fact that opera is the only major contemporary genre Bach did not compose is a good exam question for music history classes...). RandomCanadian (talk / contribs) 17:56, 21 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
"The Obituary makes no mention of the Hamburg opera or its conductor, Reinhard Keiser, suggesting that Bach at the time had no particular interest in opera" (page 65). "Not everything went according to plan: the Leipzig opera had failed in 1720, and its building served as a penitentiary facility until the second half of the eighteenth century, there being no interest in rescuing a bankrupt operation" (page 240). Nothing to do with Bach. On the other hand, "Leipzig audiences, deprived since 1720 of their own opera house, could experience in Bach's drammi per musica something of what was offered by the royal opera in Dresden. At the same time, Bach's pieces were by no means poor or makeshift substitutes for real opera. His compositions demonstrate, at every step, full mastery of the dramatic genre and the proper pacing of the dialogues" (page 363). And that's it. (Wolff's "J S Bach: The Learned Musician" is OCR searchable.) On the other hand Wolff already wrote a whole article entitled "Under the spell of Opera?" Please see the other WP:RSs mentioned above. Thanks, Mathsci (talk) 21:14, 21 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
So, 1) Bach does not appear to have had much interest in opera; 2) Opera was not a success story in Leipzig shortly before, during, and until after Bach's time; and 3) Bach's music written for local performances, even if it was not "opera", was still written in an operatic style which could have pleased local audiences seeking such "opera"-style music [NB and apparently Bach's style of music also could displease the local church authorities when played during services - or so goes the anecdote - obviously he knew his opera stuff...]. So plenty of stuff with which to write a short paragraph. And if there are sources treating this particular aspect in more depth (and, well, if Forkel bothered to do so, it's likely more recent scholarship also has something to say about it), well, you know what to do :) RandomCanadian (talk / contribs) 02:21, 22 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
There's also a section on p. 95 (in fact, nearly the whole page) which mentions Buxtehude's influence on Bach, notably the Abendmusiken, where [Buxtehude] leaned on both Hamburg opera conventions and the Carissimi oratorio tradition to create, around 1678, the prototype of the large-scale, multisectional German oratorio, whose librettos he regularly published.. So there's also something to be said about the influence of opera, directly or indirectly, on the oratorios. And Snyder, "Oratorio on Five Afternoons", does mention that Buxtehude’s contemporary Heinrich Elmenhorst, preacher at St. Catherine’s church in Hamburg and a librettist for the Hamburg Opera, wrote in 1688 that “Musicians understand the word operas to mean the compositions of poets and composers performed not only in theaters, but also in churches. . . . In this connection I must mention how the world-famousLübeck musician Diedericus Buxtehude has performed more than one such opera in public churches there in the Abendmusik customary at a certain time of year, whose poetry has been published.”16 Two years before Bach composed his Christmas Oratorio, Johann Gottfried Walther defined oratorio as “sacred opera.”17 [p. 75]. The rest of the paper is concerned with organisational similarities and the differences between Buxtehude's music and opera and on the differences between what Buxtehude did and what Bach did - either how it is different from what would have been theatrical practice: These varied attempts to identify voices in the Christmas Oratorio all underline the fact that Bach and his librettist refused to do so. Clearly, their model was not the same as that of the poets of the Lübeck Abendmusiken, who sought to construct the biblical story according to the rules of theatrical poetics., or how both works share some elements (the common and eerily similar texts of the love duets which appear in various works, which don't have much to do with opera, for example; or the symbolic use of the trumpet). Snyder concludes that Both the Lübeck Abendmusiken and the Dresden opera may have inspired Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, just as the Hamburg Opera had spawned Buxtehude’s dramatic Abendmusiken. Although Bach’s Christmas Oratorio lacks the named characters that populate Buxtehude’s Abendmusiken, and its venue lay in the liturgy of the church rather than in public concerts, it nonetheless displays drama in music of the very highest art. [p. 96]. RandomCanadian (talk / contribs) 02:45, 22 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I have the original pdf file for Melamed's book, so don't really need indiscriminate quotes. My problem is that I have the pdf file for the Italian 1979 book "Frau Musika: La vita e le opere di J. S. Bach. Vol. I." by Alberto Basso. On Page 493, there's no correlation between the Italian text and anything you've written in the article (the page is about BWV 565). Volume I (cited in the article) covers only 1685–1723. There is actually no mention of opera anywhere in the Italian text (apart from advertisements for other books). So WP:V fails at the moment. Please explain. Mathsci (talk) 04:08, 22 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The given page is p. 213 (if a bid badly formatted, I'll admit). And I simply restored what was there before. Cheers, RandomCanadian (talk / contribs) 04:54, 22 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That page concerns the period 1685–1708. The content you wrote in English bears no relation to anything on page 213. Just for reference, you wrote, However, Bach never wrote an opera. It may be that the city of Leipzig showed no particular interest for this genre (no operas were produced in Leipzig from 1720 to 1744), but the actual reason remains unknown. The content does not match up with the source. It was written by The Eaternal Wayfarer (talk · contribs · deleted contribs · logs · filter log · block user · block log) as part of one long edit.[1] It seems to be unsourced WP:original research, so has been removed. Mathsci (talk) 14:38, 22 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
How come would it be unsourced original research when you have yourself earlier quoted a (more detailed, more recent, better) source (which I have before my own eyes as well) which, surprise surprise, tells us exactly the same thing? RandomCanadian (talk / contribs) 15:11, 22 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Your editing is borderline disruptive. If there is a problem with part of the text, that is not grounds to remove the whole of it, and it is even less of a good reason to replace it with an overly long quote. RandomCanadian (talk / contribs) 16:34, 22 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
(edit conflict) The sentences "However, Bach never wrote an opera. It may be that the city of Leipzig showed no particular interest for this genre (no operas were produced in Leipzig from 1720 to 1744), but the actual reason remains unknown" cannot be sourced either to Alberto Basso or to Christoph Wolff. On wikipedia, content is created by finding high class reliable sources and then summarising them so that that they can be verified by others. In your case, you've found an editor The Eaternal Wayfarer who's created content that fails WP:V and, as such, seems to be original research. You have wikilawyered that a page by Basso supports that content; but it is manifestly unrelated to that material (1685–1708). Now you have also wiklawyered that the same unsourced passage can still be included, despite the fact that it again fails to meet WP:V; it is completely unrelated to the passage of Wolff. In the article, it is explained several times that Bach did not use opera as genre; the sources are easy to find. Mathsci (talk) 17:28, 22 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If you are able to read the same version of the article as me, you will see it now reads However, Bach never wrote an opera. The exact reason remains unknown (both of these are uncontroversial facts which can easily be verified). And if, as you say, In the article, it is explained several times that Bach did not use opera as genre; the sources are easy to find., then your objection that this fails WP:V is entirely nonsensical. If the sources are also used elsewhere in the article and easy to find, you can just add them (you know how to do so, no need for a tutorial) instead of removing the whole of it. RandomCanadian (talk / contribs) 17:40, 22 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Why is he only one of the greatest composers in the history of Western music? If you include non-Western, does he slip to beta plus? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2A00:23C4:5602:2301:951B:E05:4748:A583 (talk) 20:12, 9 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The musical traditions of different continents are not really comparable, e.g. japanese music has 5 tones (pentatonic) while arab-muslim tradition has 24 and western tradition is based on the octave. Mongolians sing from their throats rather than their mouths. What sounds pleasant is also quite different among the various human races, caucasians, jewish, asian, afro, polynese, etc. peoples, due to anatomic differences in hearing (e.g. japanese Oricon Top40 sounds like meeting the chipmunks to the western ear). When the Habsburg empire established diplomatic relations with Japan circa 1867, they sent a Bosendorfer grand piano as a present for the Mikado. When Beethoven and Mozart was demonstrated on it the japanese court was entirely disinterested, but started playing attention when just the musical scale was played. (Curiously Bosendorfer is now owned by the japanese Yamaha company, which shows that western music has conquered almost the whole world.) (talk) 21:31, 3 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Fugue (talk) 06:48, 30 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I don't think we can know what you mean by the single word Fugue, @ But you did see that it is mentioned at "Counterpoint", under "Musical style", did you? Hope this helps. Do come back here if you need to discuss article content. Cheers DBaK (talk) 10:18, 30 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Global outlook missing from article?[edit]

I wonder if J. S. Bach was aware of non-european musical traditions, like japanese or arab-muslim? This Wikipedia aricle doesn't address that question. The ottoman turkish empire wasn't entirely pushed out of the Habsburg imperial lands until he was 14, for example. He also seems to have had connections to dutch organist Jan Adams Reincken and at that time Netherlands were the only nation able to trade with shogunate Japan. (talk) (talk) 20:55, 3 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

If you can find reliable secondary sources that (somehow) establish a connection (and establish it as a notable connection), by all means present them. It's not really the job of volunteer editors to go out and look for tenuous connections like this upon request. Bach lived deep in Germany his entire life, and I would find it very unlikely that he was at all familiar with non-Western musical traditions. Even composers who used the so-called "Turkish style" were in the later classical period. Aza24 (talk) 21:36, 3 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Eugen Cicero needs to be added to the 20th century Bach/jazz section[edit]

Please someone add this hyperlink after the Jacques Loussier hyperlink:

Cicero is a genius, and equal to Loussier in this Bach/jazz category. 2001:569:5043:9800:8553:75D8:5C53:5F08 (talk) 23:32, 1 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Unlike Loussier's article, which talks about his extensive Bach work, the only mention of Bach in Cicero's article is the bare listing of one work in the Discography section. If Cicero's Bach work was truly as significant as you say, then his article should reflect it and there should be a reliable source for it. Until then, there's no reason to include it in this article. Indyguy (talk) 15:55, 2 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Why is the current image of Bach preferred to the higher resolution one?[edit]

What is the rationale behind using the current image over this much higher resolution one? Dipthong01 (talk) 23:04, 8 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Probably because the "higher resolution one" is a png file instead of a jpeg, and takes up over 3 Mb vs. 130k. Also, the current one appears to have been cleaned up and color-adjusted. Indyguy (talk) 01:22, 9 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thank you!! Learning so much about this website :~) Dipthong01 (talk) 06:00, 10 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]