39 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 ...
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  • 78.8k
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 ...
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  • 13.9k
26 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 ...
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  • 20.9k
23 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 ...
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  • 23.1k
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 ...
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  • 5,115
17 votes
Accepted

What does "super" in title of organ pieces mean?

Super here means "on/based on" someone else's tune, as in the (English) title of Mozart's Twelve Variations on "Ah vous dirai-je, Maman" (known as "Twinkle, Twinkle" in ...
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  • 796
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....
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  • 8,347
12 votes

Learning the musical concepts in the book "Gödel, Escher, Bach"

Tough question about an amazing book. "Hearing" the fact that that particular canon continues rising in key is more difficult, and I think it's more interesting just to know that fact. Hearing the ...
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12 votes
Accepted

Is it orthodox to use the pedal when playing Bach on the piano?

orthodox: adherence to accepted norms Is playing Bach like Glenn Gould orthodox or not? Some will swear by what he does with Bach and probably say yes, while others will cry out loud "Nooooooo"! I ...
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  • 1,903
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 ...
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  • 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 ...
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  • 57.1k
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 ...
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10 votes

Switching from piano to harpsichord

I hope someone with actual harpsichord experience chimes in, since most of what I'm writing here is hear-say. As you no-doubt already know, the two main things that you lack on a harpsichord, ...
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  • 20.2k
10 votes
Accepted

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 ...
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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 ...
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  • 23.1k
9 votes
Accepted

Authorship of Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565

Generally speaking, a minority of Bach scholars question the piece's attribution. Christoph Wolf, who is for many the top Bach authority does not question the piece's attribution at all. For what it'...
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9 votes
Accepted

Why are the Goldberg Variations considered a demanding work?

The Goldberg Variations are considered infamous / demanding for a few reasons, which I will outline briefly below. Firstly, the reasons why the work is infamous: The work is a theme and variations, ...
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  • 25.1k
9 votes
Accepted

Chord in the Bach d-minor prelude

It is actually misleading to think about this music in terms of chords as we know them, as the system we use to identify and speak about vertical harmonies was still under development during Bach's ...
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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 ...
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  • 78.8k
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 ...
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8 votes
Accepted

Harmonizing Bourrée in E minor

First of all, I think it's important to keep in mind that harmony is written for something. I'm going to follow the sort of academic rules of part-writing in my answer, but if this were for "real life"...
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8 votes
Accepted

Learning the musical concepts in the book "Gödel, Escher, Bach"

As someone who has no formal training in music whatsoever but who fell in love with Beethoven and Bach upon hearing them, I discovered that my visual senses are much better at picking out patterns ...
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8 votes

Switching from piano to harpsichord

I played piano for 10 years before starting harpsichord. I largely play harpsichord now, although I do a lot of pinch-hitting on piano for church services, etc. Learning to play harpsichord well ...
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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
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