The Passions as a Source of Inspiration? A Hypothesis on the Origin and Musical Aim of Well-Tempered Clavier II

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Among the movements of WTC II there are several that bear a close resemblance to specific movements in both the St Matthew and John Passions in the choice of key, thematic material, harmonic language as well as the general musical Affekt. The most obvious cases are Prelude and Fugue no. 16 in G minor, which compare to movements 'Herr, unser Herrscher' (no. 1) and 21d 'Kreuzige, kreuzige!' (no. 21d) of the St John Passion, and Fugue no.20 in A minor and Prelude no.22 in B-flat minor, which compare to movements 'Laß ihn kreuzigen!' (no. 45b) and 'Eli, Eli, lama asabthani' (no. 61a) of the St Matthew Passion respectively.

It is believed that by the 1730s, when he set out to compile the WTC II, Bach had already delivered two repeat performances of both Passions. The musical ideas explored in the movements mentioned above may have become so firmly embedded in Bach's musical vocabulary that it may have come as a natural response to make use of them when deciding on what to write for a specific key (number) in WTC II.

One of the fundamental questions has to be the musical discourse that makes the movements of WTC II more dramatic and profound than those of WTC I. This article explores the possible causes of such a shift in musical composition by identifying the fugal techniques and procedures that Bach had not previously drawn on. It then attempts to explain how he came to acquire them, and how they might have fed into his aim of compiling the WTC II.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCompositional Choices and Meaning in the Vocal Music of J. S. Bach
EditorsReginald Sanders, Mark Peters
PublisherLexington Books
Chapter13
Pages225-242
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2018

Publication series

NameContextual Bach Studies
PublisherLexington Books

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    Tomita, Y. (2018). The Passions as a Source of Inspiration? A Hypothesis on the Origin and Musical Aim of Well-Tempered Clavier II. In R. Sanders, & M. Peters (Eds.), Compositional Choices and Meaning in the Vocal Music of J. S. Bach (pp. 225-242). (Contextual Bach Studies). Lexington Books.