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Bach Perspectives, Volume 10Bach and the Organ$
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Matthew Dirst

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040191

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040191.001.0001

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Music from Heaven

Music from Heaven

An Eighteenth-Century Context for Cantatas with Obbligato Organ

(p.87) Music from Heaven
Bach Perspectives, Volume 10

Matthew Cron

University of Illinois Press

This chapter provides an eighteenth-century context for Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantatas with obbligato organ by showing how their various components engage in a larger discourse about the German Baroque organ: namely, its intimation of Heaven. There are almost 200 surviving church cantatas by Bach, eighteen of which contain movements where the organist transitions from a continuo player to a concertist. Modern scholarship has considered such compositions primarily from two perspectives: a historiographical perspective, which places them in the larger context of the history of the keyboard concerto; and a compositional perspective, which considers them as examples of the arrangement and reworking of previous musical material. This chapters examines how a particular yet widespread way of thinking about the organ gave rise to a fruitful context for the obbligato organ cantata in the early eighteenth century by analyzing Bach’s works from the perspective of an original listener—that is, as a member of the congregation. It argues that Bach’s libretto guided his instrumentation and that he often took advantage of the longstanding identification of the organ with Heaven.

Keywords:   church cantatas, Johann Sebastian Bach, obbligato organ, German Baroque organ, Heaven, congregation

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