01 August 2005
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He enriched established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach's compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg Variations, the Mass in B minor, two Passions, and hundreds of cantatas. His music is revered for its technical command, artistic beauty, and intellectual depth.
Bach's abilities as an organist were highly respected during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest in and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.
Like Wagner has his Tristan-chord and Landini a self-titled cadence, Pachelbel has his canon in D, for which he will always be remembered. Unfortunately, this work is far from representative of his body of works: it's the only canon he ever wrote, and chamber music in general was only a marginal part of his complete works. Pachelbel was the son of wine salesman, who should have been known for his organ music today if it wasn't for his famous canon. In his own time, he was a celebrated organist, composing over 200 works for organ. Almost half of these are chorale settings, which thanks to their soberness and clarity form benchmarks of the genre. Another important part of his influence were his fugues. His Magnificat fugues are particularly noteworthy. A third genre in which Pachelbel excelled was the variation on a theme. A famous example is Hexachordum Apollinis, which is a serie of variations with keyboard arias. Finally, his vocal music is absolutely worth listening to, even though it has been in obscurity for a long time.
Among the general public, Dieterich Buxtehude is mostly known due to the admiration Johann Sebastian Bach had for his organ and composing skills, for which Bach traveled to the North German city of Lübeck to stay with him for four months, no less. This says quite something about the quality of Buxtehude's performance, but even more so about the influence it had on Bach and all composers after him. Yet, nowadays Buxtehude's music does not need Bach to survive, as a matter of fact it is extraordinarily beautiful just by itself! Buxtehude was originally Danish, but he spent most of him life in Lübeck. His so-called 'Abendmusik', which was a series of evening concerts outside of the liturgy, grew famous. In the works he wrote for these occasions, his enormous fantasy and creative freedom truly shows. As an organ player, Buxtehude was widely famous. If you would listen to his Organ Preludes, you would quickly know why. Buxtehude manages to combine an unprecedented virtuosity with a large variety of styles and techniques. No wonder Bach traveled all that way to see him!