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Bach's Death and Funeral

Early death?

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 12, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< And insulin for the diabetes complications from which Wolff suggests was the cause of his early death. >
this is the first time that I hear the JSB died at an early age. Pergolesi maybe.

Mozart maybe. Even at a later period Mahler relatively early.

Compared to Händel somewhat earlier but 65 was not then and really isn't even now considered an early age. I have come to the conclusion that persons will often say anything simply to communicate but I totally fail to understand what early or premature age JSB died. In case I missed something in the thread drift I apologize in advance.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 12, 2007):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< I have come to the conclusion that persons will often say anything simply to communicate but I totally fail to understand what early or premature age JSB died >
I merely wanted to add the medical fact which is not widely known. I'm sorry it was so offensive to you.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 12, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] You certainly were not offensive to me nor are you ever. And, no, I did not know of the diabetes. I do believe that I read somewhere that Bach and Händel had the same eye surgeon. Is that possible or did I confuse something? Again I am not offended but still mystified as to why, Doug, you deem 65 to be an unreasonably early age then or now. I would prefer to think of it as very early myself, being about that age but in actuality it is not an early age. One would think (I always do) that Bach lived a very full life and worked until near the end and that his given years were not as many as those of Abraham and other such figures but not an untimely cut-off life.

My remark about persons saying anything simply to communicate is not an expression of vexation but simply an observation about any high traffic list. It is not really important.

Peter Smaill wrote (February 13, 2007):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] Indeed Händel and Bach were treated by the same oculist, the English surgeon Sir John Taylor. He was a specialist in cataract operations and, contrary to folk myth, "well respected and by no means a medical charlatan" (Wolff, pp447-9).

Wolff also states that diabetes, more specifically intermittent hypoglycemia, accounts for the ebbing and flowing of Bach's writing towards the end. His deterioration is also observable by considering the late portraits which feature on Teri Noel Towe's website , "The Face of Bach". Here the 1750 portrait, the "Volbach Bach", shows the ravages of the composer's illnesses. The site also includes an engraving of Taylor: http://www.npj/thefaceofbach

OT, British doctors in Germany have in another instance a poor track record. Attitudes became very hostile to England after Kaiser Wilhelm 1 was treated by the British surgeon Morell Mackenzie, who bungled the diagnosis of lung cancer (KW1 was a heavy smoker). After a tracheotomy the Kaiser could not speak and died after only 99 days on the throne. Whereas the tragic Emperor Franz Josef of Austria responded to his terrible misfortunes with , "Am I to be spared nothing?", the even more stoical German Kaiser wrote, "Lerne leiden ohne klagen" (Learn to suffer without complaining").

It is notable that the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedaechtniskirche in Berlin, erected in his memory, has for forty years had a tradition of performing Bach Cantatas every fortnight.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 13, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Wolff also states that diabetes, more specifically intermittent hypoglycemia, accounts for the ebbing and flowing of Bach's writing towards the end. His deterioration is also observable by considering the late portraits which feature on Teri Noel Towe's website , "The Face of Bach". Here the 1750 portrait, the "Volbach Bach", shows the ravages of the composer's illnesses. The site also includes an engraving of Taylor. >
Well, thank you, Peter.

Intermittent hypoglycemia. Does that imply intermittent hyperglycemia as well?

 

Bach's Funeral Motet

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 10, 2009):
Bach and college radio (WHRB)

For those who suggest I post too much: relax, the day is almost done.

Coming up, beginning on Sunday, Jan 11 at half past noon EST (1730 UT) and ongoing almost continuously through midnight Jan 14 (0500 UT, Jan 15) -- complete Mendelssohn. I cannot easily access the program guide, but those of you with current Adobe Acrobat should be able to do so at www.whrb.org. I am certain the Orgy(r) will reflect Mendelssohns revival of Bachs music, but I cannot place that within the four-day schedule, at the moment.

Aside to Terejia, and any others who may have misunderstood: this link is not a video, but an audio webcast, and should be accessible around the world to all but the most archaic of cyber dinosaurs (like me). Since I live only eight miles from the small FM station, I listen on traditional radio and communicate interactively by telephone, quite a dynamic environment.

Finished earlier today, the Requiem Orgy, relevant to Bach only in the breach, but still relevant. I wonder if there are specific liturgic or theologic reasons that Bach never set the Requiem texts? I hope Peter Smaill or Doug Cowling (or others) may be able to provide some input.

For any who may find the question impertinent or disrespectful, please express your objections as reasonably and concisely as you are able, in accordance with BCML Guidelines.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 10, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I wonder if there are specific liturgic or theologic reasons that Bach never set the Requiem texts? >
Luther abolished the mass for the dead because of its connection with the indulgence industry and his opposition to expiatory prayer for the dead. Thereafter, bodies were no longer brought to the church. The funeral choir went to the home of the deceased and accompanied it to the grave singing chorales. If the person was a civic or ecclesiastical worthy (or if the family commissioned music), the cantata at the following Sunday's vespers was replaced by a motet (several of Bach's motets were written for these events)

Even in the motets, the deceased was not prayed for as in a Requiem mass but the message of the music was directed as a memento mori to for the living to amend their lives in the face of death. The image presented by many commentators during the 250th anniversary of Bach's death of St. Thomas as the site of "Bach's funeral" was a fiction: Bach's casket was carried directly to his grave.

Wolff speculates that Bach had a motet of one of his relatives copied as the music intended for his commemoration at Vespers. The closest Bach came to setting one of the Catholic funeral texts was the the cantata "Aus Der Tiefe" which is the German 'De Profundis".

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 10, 2009):
Bach's Funeral Motet [was: Bach and college radio (WHRB)]

Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Wolff speculates that Bach had a motet of one of his relatives copied as the music intended for his commemoration at Vespers. >
The relative was Bach's uncle: Johann Christoph Bach (6 December 1642 - 31 March 1703. Wolff has extremely compelling lecture to support his theory, and it's explained in a wonderful video clip located here:
http://tinyurl.com/7blg7z

The music for this motet only was recently recovered from the Berlin Sing-Academy archives that was taken to the Ukraine after World War 2.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 10, 2009):
Bachs Funeral Motet

Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
>The relative was Bach's uncle: Johann Christoph Bach (6 December 1642 – 31 March 1703. Wolff has extremely compelling lecture to support his theory, and it's explained in a wonderful video clip located here<
Thanks to Doug and to kim for input re my original question. I was able to hear enough of the clip at the link for Wolff to enjoy the flavor of his voice, if not yet to abthe content, on my slow, cranky, system. I know that some BCML participnats have had the opportunity to interact with Prof. Wolff in person, I had the opportunity to hear him speak in 2000 (about) for a release event for <JSBach: the Learned Musician>. He was there but unfortunatley, the book was not yet ready. Nevertheless, he is a wonderful speaker (the clip is accurate), with an engaging personality and a keen sense of humor. If you ever have the opportunity, not to be missed. He is scheduled to speak at the Emmanuel Music SMP performances, which I posted the other day. NB, he was forced to cancel a similar engagement a year or so ago.

To close out by tidying up a few details on a topic which I can tie in to the funeral theme:

The exact Bob Marley lyric, related to the text of Exodus 21:33-34 is:
<Whosoever diggeth a pit, shall fall in it, shall bury in it.>
Note the pseudo-Biblical language. The tune is <Small Axe>, first issued on the album <Burnin> (pity it was not <Exodus>); I have it on the 4-CD compilation <Songs of Freedom>.

By the authority of my mother-in-law, from many years ago, the Jamaican is correct as I stated it: <Him who dig a pit shall fall in it>, so Marleys bourgeois correctness is actually a quite clever upgrade.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 10, 2009):
Bachs Funeral Motet [was: WHRB]

I asked:
< I wonder if there are specific liturgic or theologic reasons that Bach never set the Requiem texts? >
Doug responded:
>Luther abolished the mass for the dead because of its connection with the indulgence industry and his opposition to expiatory prayer for the dead.<
EM:
A telling exchange, in many ways. The best things come in small packages?

My question, as I worded it, implies (correctly, I now realize) that I anticipated a more straightforward, spiritual explanation. I had completely overlooked the importance of *cash flow* (the indulgence industry) at the root of the Reformation, and the link between indulgences and expiatory prayer for the dead. Buy a Requiem, to put it bluntly.

My favorite indulgence is is that which would forgive theft from the Church. To clarify with some theoretical numbers, one might steal $10, buy an indulgence for $1, leaving a net gain of $9 from the theft.

The cited exchange is also a fine example of the communication value of the BCW mail lists. Ask a question, and there is likely to be someone around with an answer, perhaps several people with competing answers.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 10, 2009):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] I couldn't open this link. Would you repost the URL please?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 10, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I couldn't open this link. Would you repost the URL please? >
http://athome.harvard.edu/dh/wolff.html

The clip that discusses Bach's funeral motet is no. 7 and is about 11 minutes long.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 10, 2009):
GEORGE B. STAUFFER, "BEYOND BACH THE MONUMENT, WHO WAS BACH THE MAN?" NEW YORK TIMES (APRIL 2, 2000).

Copyright 2000 New York Times
http://www.misterdann.com/eurarwhowasbach.htm

<And at the Leipzig conference, Mr. Wolff presented persuasive evidence from the material recently discovered in Kiev that toward the end, Bach might have been working on an arrangement, perhaps for his own funeral, of the motet ''Lieber Herr Gott, Wecke Uns Auf'' (''Dear Lord God, Awaken Us'') by his forebear Johann Christoph Bach. So what is Bach's last testament? The chorale prelude? The fugue? The violin sonatas? The B minor Mass? The funeral motet arrangement? Here, too, we remain uncertain.>

I saw JCBach called either JSBachs cousin or uncle in various places. I believe he was JSBs fathers cousin, which would make them, precisely, first cousins, once removed, as my picky Polish forebears were wont to point out.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 10, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< My question, as I worded it, implies (correctly, I now realize) that I anticipated a more straightforward, spiritual explanation. >
I skipped over the theology so we didn't get off the Bach track. Luther's theology of justification by faith rather than good works meant that all the prayers and requiems said for the dead were pointless because the judgement on the deceased was fixed by their faith. As a result, requiems were abolished.

The funeral cantata, "Gottes Zeit" (BWV 106) is an excellent example of orthodox Lutheran teaching. There is no reference to the deceased at all. Rather the cantata is directed to the congregation which is exhorted to remember the inevitability of human death, amend their lives, and prepare to die with faith in the Lord.

These attitudes pervade some of Bach's greatest works. Many of the chorales in the SJP have that exhortatory funeral theme, climaxing with the incomparabe "Ach Herr, Lass dein Lieb Engelein" which encapsulates Bach's view of death with music of extraordinary breadth and solemnity.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 10, 2009):
Doug wrote:
>I skipped over the theology so we didn't get off the Bach track. Luther's theology of justification by faith rather than good works meant that all the prayers and requiems said for the dead were pointless because the judgement on the deceased was fixed by their faith.<
Thanks, I find both of your posts provide precisely the information I hoped to add to my <knowledge base>, adding to my enjoyment of the music, and very relevant to Bach. Hence, on topic, indeed!

William Hoffman wrote (January 11, 2009):
Bachs Funeral Motet (BWV 118)

In our recent discussion on Cantata (Motet) BWV 118, "O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht," we examined the possible applications of BWV 118 (Zimmermann, Duke Christian of Weißenfels, and Christian Weiss) including:

Finally, Schulze in his study of Cantata BWV 118 [Bach essays, Scheibe festschrift] wonders:
"We are unfortunately bereft of a similar record (Kuhnau's widow's burial in 1743) showing a dispensation of fees for Johann Sebastian Bach's burial, but we can assume that in July 1750, as in other cases, the St. Thomas singers performed a funeral motet. How dearly one would like to know what work was chosen for the occasion! - but that would be another topic."

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 11, 2009):
Bachs funeral Motet (NOT ? BWV 118)

William Hoffman wrote:
>We are unfortunately bereft of a similar record (Kuhnau's widow's burial in 1743) showing a dispensation of fees for Johann Sebastian Bach's burial, but we can assume that in July 1750, as in other cases, the St. Thomas singers performed a funeral motet. How dearly one would like to know what work was chosen for the occasion! - but that would be another topic.<
(1) Bottom line, if you read the fine print, it is always about the fees, sale of indulgences, etc.

(2) I think there is a disconnect in the thread - Bachs Funeral Motet - was it not about the evidence in favor of music of JCBach (first cousin once removed of JSBach) for JSB funeral? That is not another topic, that IS the topic! Or have I blown a 50 mamp fuse?

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (January 11, 2009):
[To Ed Myskowski] IF you are refering to BWV 15--J.S. Bach the greater did not write this but his grandfather did also known as J.S. Bach the lesser. This is one beautiful work. It is short,sweet to the point and is the only work that calls for Bells in its score or what some people have interpeted as Church Bells..

The controversy about this work, aside from its authorship, has been whay kind of Bells were wanted---Glockenspiel or perhaps symbelstern. The answer is probably a small gl;ockenspiel unless this part was intended for outdoors anrung from the Organ.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 11, 2009):
I believe this thread has conflated two distinctly different works. It was begun by Kim and/or Doug, with respect to:
>Bach might have been working on an arrangement, perhaps for his own funeral, of the motet ''Lieber Herr Gott, Wecke Uns Auf'' (''Dear Lord God, Awaken Us'') by his forebear Johann Christoph Bach.<
which I cited from Christoph Wolff via a year 2000 NYTimes article. I also noted that I believe this JCBach was JSBachs first cousin, once removed (older), variously cited in the literature as his (JSB) uncle or cousin. Confusing? Stuff happens in families that have many children, a significant portion of whom were Johann.

The Bach family tree in <The New Grove Bach Family>, which I did not think to check yesterday, confirms that JCBach (1642-1703) is indeed JSBs fathers cousin.

Somehow this motet became conflated with the Funeral Cantata by JSB, BWV 118, under the same subject heading.

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 12, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
"I also noted that I believe this JCBach was JSBachs first cousin, once removed (older), variously cited in the literature as his (JSB) uncle or cousin. Confusing? Stuff happens in families that have many children, a significant portion of whom were Johann.
The Bach family tree in <The New Grove Bach Family>, which I did not think to check yesterday, confirms that JCBach (1642-1703) is indeed JSBs fathers cousin."
Bach Family tree is presented at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Family-Tree.htm
with links to the bios of all (except J.S. Bach).

 

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Last update: ýJanuary 12, 2009 ý10:32:06