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40 votes
Accepted

Why does Brahms stand next to Bach and Beethoven?

First, a history lesson: Peter Cornelius originally claimed that these "Three Bs" were Bach, Beethoven, and Berlioz. It was Hans von Bülow that then replaced Berlioz with Brahms, and Bülow did it ...
Richard's user avatar
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36 votes

Why didn't Bach sign his manuscripts?

While the point expressed in user77817's answer is an important part of the story, it isn't the whole story. Furthermore, the premise of the question is oversimplified, if not simply incorrect, but ...
phoog's user avatar
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27 votes
Accepted

Why does Bach sometimes end with flat 7ths?

Well spotted! This is very common. Bach often uses a brief modulation to the subdominant key near the end of his fugues, preludes and inventions (presumably other pieces, too). Sometimes this is so ...
Bob Broadley's user avatar
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26 votes

Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor breaks the "no parallel octaves" rule?

The counterpoint rules for parallel octaves (and fifths) apply in cases where two or more voices are meant to be heard as independent. Similarly for covered fifths and octaves. (Also for long strings ...
ttw's user avatar
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18 votes

Who was listening to Bach's compositions in his lifetime?

According to Wikipedia: From 1703 he was back in Thuringia, working as a musician for Protestant churches in Arnstadt and Mühlhausen and, for longer stretches of time, at courts in Weimar, where he ...
Brian Towers's user avatar
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17 votes
Accepted

Why does Bach not resolve this chordal seventh down by step?

The D on the fourth beat in the alto is an error. It should be an E. You can compare editions at IMSLP. Both the original edition of the 1780s and the second engraving of 1831 have the E; the D was ...
phoog's user avatar
  • 23.3k
15 votes

A♭ major 9th chord in Bach is unexpectedly dissonant/jazzy

It's actually a suspension, which is to say that the actual chord is F Minor (F, A-flat, C, in first inversion) but the G and B-flat are held over from the previous chord before moving to F and A-flat....
Mark Lutton's user avatar
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12 votes

Why does Bach sometimes end with flat 7ths?

In addition to what's been mentioned above, the motion to the subdominant also has a plagal sound. What's more final than a big "aaaa-men" plagal cadence at the end of a hymn? Sometimes Bach's flat-7s ...
Caroline's user avatar
  • 121
12 votes
Accepted

Obscure markings in BWV 814 I. Allemande, Bach, Henle edition

Small ornaments The smaller ornaments indicate an editorial addition. These additions are typically based on alternative sources or common practice, but which cannot be conclusively determined by the ...
Aaron's user avatar
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11 votes

How does one maintain voice integrity when longer and shorter notes of the same pitch occur in two voices

One of the things my first piano teacher taught me when looking at Bach was to isolate the voices and play the parts by themselves to get to know how the individual lines sounded like, not just their ...
Andrew the Programmer's user avatar
11 votes

In JS Bach's lifetime who listened to any of his organ preludes and fugues and when?

Bach was employed by churches for his entire working life, and a vast portion of his compositions were for the purpose of church services. He composed new material essentially every week, including ...
Aaron's user avatar
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10 votes
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Why did Anna Magdalena Bach write funny accidentals sometimes?

Yes, this seems to have been Bach's (and his family's) practice in the early part of his career. Schweitzer mentions it in his book 'Bach' (1911). I don't think anyone's come up with a plausible ...
Laurence's user avatar
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10 votes

Who was listening to Bach's compositions in his lifetime?

Bach was also director of the Leipzig Collegium Musicum which gave weekly concerts at Café Zimmermann (in Leipzig, of course.) He also had big family reunions which were described as big parties. Lots ...
ttw's user avatar
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9 votes

Did Bach ever use melodic minor keys in chorales?

Yes and no. "Yes" because there are certainly moments where he uses the raised sixth and seventh scale degrees of a minor scale. In fact, a recent question discussed such an example: Functional ...
Richard's user avatar
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9 votes

Enharmonic key signatures in Bach's Well Tempered Clavier

Why didn't he just name both E♭ or both D♯? Why not both in D# major seems clear to me as D# major would need 9 sharps. Eb minor has 6 flats like D# minor has 6 sharps. As usual Bach’s pieces are ...
Albrecht Hügli's user avatar
9 votes

What, if anything, is known about Bach's interpretation of, or emphasis on, meter?

This is a very interesting question, and I wish I had the time I would need to incorporate more source material into this answer. Some thoughts: in a passage such as the example, in 4/4 meter with ...
phoog's user avatar
  • 23.3k
8 votes

On Bach' fourteen canons

These pieces are really very short This link explains it all very nicely in my view, although the video is rather long, but keep at it, from 1:36 onwards he has done a brilliant job
JimM's user avatar
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8 votes
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Having significant difficulty with Bach's two part inventions for piano

Make sure you are ABSOLUTELY fluent hands separately before attempting to put them together. Then try it VERY slowly. Slowly enough to not make mistakes. If you do make a mistake, go even slower. ...
Laurence's user avatar
  • 94k
8 votes
Accepted

Bwv 639 Bach/Busoni note length and symbols

It is music original written for organ where you have more than one manual plus pedals. Busoni made piano editions of many of Bach's organ pieces and your image shows Busoni's piano version. Maybe it ...
Lars Peter Schultz's user avatar
8 votes
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How to "fix" Toccata and fugue?

There is no "one fits all" procedure. What you want to do is arranging: cutting out parts, changing where notes are to fit the instrument or your hand. Arranging was and is very commonly ...
Soleil's user avatar
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8 votes

How does one maintain voice integrity when longer and shorter notes of the same pitch occur in two voices

The short, general answer All things (all voices) being equal, solution #1 is the correct technical approach. The shorter note should interrupt the longer one, but then continue to be held (allowing ...
Aaron's user avatar
  • 90.3k
8 votes

Bach BWV 812 Allemande: Fingering for this semiquaver passage over held note

Yes, that's definitely the idea. (You know, I've played this edition for 30 years and never noticed that the suggested fingering is technically impossible. But no one is going to miss the last beat of ...
Kilian Foth's user avatar
  • 7,763
8 votes
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Opening of Bach's mass in b minor: why does it make sense?

Structurally, the second chord is not a C♯ half-diminished seventh but an A♯ diminished seventh in first inversion. The B in the second soprano is a suspension. The harmonic rhythm is in half notes ...
phoog's user avatar
  • 23.3k
7 votes
Accepted

What does a mordent written to the left of a note mean?

When the Mordent sign is used in front of the note it actually indicates a slide. If you can excuse the poor photo of the source material I think it can still be of some worth to you. It says the ...
Neil Meyer's user avatar
7 votes

Was Bach the first to use thumbs on a keyboard?

Having played both piano and harpsichord, let me throw another idea out there on top of all the excellent academic sources people have quoted: In harpsichord it does not matter how hard or soft you ...
TangledUpInBlue's user avatar
7 votes
Accepted

Where did JSBach study composing? Was he an autodidact?

A few things to note regarding the other answer and C.P.E. Bach's obituary: First, CPE Bach and a number of Bach's students and admirers (including Forkel, Kirnberger, etc.) basically had an agenda ...
Athanasius's user avatar
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