Meet the Composer - Johann Sebastian Bach
Bach: Come in, come in!
Anke: Mr. Bach, we are two students from Vienna; may we visit for a few moments and ask you some questions?
Bach: Why, certainly. But I must ask you to sit down and keep still for just a little while, please, until I can finish this fugue. [three-minute pause] Now then, what can I do for you, young ones?
Ernst: Gosh, did you write that whole page of fugue in just a couple of minutes?
Bach: Well, I've been writing fugues for a long time now; it gets much quicker after many years at it. What did you wish to ask me?
Anke: But, Sir, you weren't even at the harpsichord! How can you tell what it's going to sound like?
Bach: Oh, I can hear it quite clearly in my head. And you will be able to do that, too, when you've listened and studied long enough; it's one of the best ways to practice!
Ernst: I've been practicing a Minuet of yours--the one in G Major.
Bach: I'm not sure which one you mean. Play it for me!
Bach: Oh, that! Yes, that's a nice little piece, but I didn't really write it.
Ernst: You didn't?
Bach: No, that came from a notebook of various short pieces I collected for my wife, Anna Magdalena, to study. I wrote some of the chorales and things in there, but most of those minuets and marches and musettes came from somewhere else; we don't even know who wrote them.
Anke: But you did write the Two-Part Inventions?
Bach: Yes, they were for my son, Carl Phillip Emmanuel--or was it Johann Christian? [pause] Actually, I think it was for Wilhelm Friedmann--yes, I'm sure of it. I've had twenty children to keep track of, you know!
Ernst: And you taught them all to play the harpsichord?
Bach: Not only harpsichord, but clavichord and organ, plus theory and composition as well!
Anke: You must stay terribly busy, Master.
Bach: Oh, yes, this church is a busy place. I write a brand new cantata every single week for the Sunday worship service.
Ernst: Was the fugue you just finished part of next Sunday's cantata?
Bach: No, that was an organ solo which I wrote to play for a postlude. But you can write fugues to be sung, as well..
Anke: I don't know what a postlude or a cantata is--I mean are.
Bach: [laughs] A postlude is a solo played after the service is over--the opposite of a prelude, which is played before.
Ernst: Oh, I've played preludes! But what's a cantata?
Bach: A cantata is a work for choir, and it's usually in several movements; it's composed to words which are especially chosen to suit the theme of a particular Sunday or season, like Christmas or Easter.
Anke: You must be writing a lot of Christmas music right now.
Bach: Actually, Christmas will be a little easier for me this time: I wrote a large work for chorus and orchestra about six years ago called "Christmas Oratorio", and I've been asked to perform it again this year.
Anke: I'm afraid I don't know what an oratorio is, either.
Bach: Think of this one as a choir piece about the size of six cantatas. But you two still haven't said what it was you wanted to ask me!
Ernst: Mr. Bach, I think you've already answered just about every question we could ever think of; so I think we'll be going now; and thank you very much--we learned a lot!
Anke: And we wish you a Merry Christmas, Sir!
Bach: And a very Merry Christmas to you, too, my young friends. Come again!
I made this on: 11/30/98
Newest stuff added: 01/30/15