Do you remember the story about the young Johann Sebastian Bach in Arnstadt who didn't get along with the church authorities at least on 4 occasions:
1. When he traveled on foot to Lubeck to learn from Dieterich Buxtehude in 1705 (Bach was 20 years old at the time). He originally planned to be away for 4 weeks but returned only after about 3 months. Of course church officials were not at all happy to have been left without the main organist during the entire Christmas season.
2. When Bach came back, his congregation was somewhat frustrated that his playing style changed which made the hymn singing confusing. Initially he inserted improvisatory flourishes and runs of all kinds between the chorale lines and made the harmonies quite dissonant. When asked to simplify things, Bach reportedly started playing too plainly.
3. After returning home from church, one evening Bach was confronted by one of his church musicians, a certain Geyersbach, who tried to make Bach apologize to him for calling him a Zippel Fagottist ("a nanny-goat bassoonist”) which he refused to do and even draw his dagger. A fight might have ended ill if it were not for his cousin, Maria Barbara, who was walking together with him and separated them. This incident was reported to the town officials and Consistory and they were not pleased.
4. When in the words of Consistory, Bach allowed "an unfamiliar maiden" to the organ loft to sing. Apparently this was the same Maria Barbara, his future wife.
After these events it was almost certain that Bach couldn't work in Arnstadt for much longer and in 1707 he found an organist position in Muhlhausen.
So the young Bach appears to have had quite a temper as a young man. He clearly wouldn't take mediocrity of his fellow musicians lightly. He knew his worth and above all he valued his independence and the ability for continuous study and improvement.
Question: Should Bach have behaved more politely, obeyed the rules, and didn't bring too much attention on himself? And more importantly, when we think about it today, is it wise for a very talented young organist to follow directions to the letter, not to overestimate one's skills, not to cause any trouble even if this would mean compromising one's artistic integrity? What's your opinion?
What I'm working on:
Writing "That's the music one can learn from". Editing SOP Podcast No. 2 with George Ritchie. Continue writing fingering and pedaling for the Toccata by Charles-Marie Widor. Editing Sonata No. 4 by Teisutis Makačinas. Transposing hymn setting "He Leadeth Me". Practicing "Virtuoso Pianist" by Hanon in C Locrian mode (from C with 5 flats). Practicing Clavierubung by Johann Ludwig Krebs for tomorrow's recital. Improvising in Locrian mode. Composing "A Storm". Reading "The Accidental Creative".
DON'T MISS A THING! FREE UPDATES BY EMAIL.
Would you like to say "Thank You" to us?
Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
Don't have an organ at home?
Download paper manuals and pedals, print them out, cut the white spaces, tape the sheets together and you'll be ready to practice anywhere where is a desk and floor. Make sure you have a higher chair.