Tag Archive | J.S. Bach

Wedding Music: The Bach Air on the G String

The Bach Air on The G String

The Bach Air on the G String has nothing to do with either breathing or ladies undergarments.

Here is a performance of J.S. Bach’s original orchestral version played on 18th Century-style instruments. There is not a thong in sight:

J.S. Bach and The Air on the G String

Wedding Music Bach Air on the G String

J.S. Bach (1685-1750) possibly the greatest composer of all time

J.S. Bach (1685-1750) was probably the greatest composer who ever lived. He wrote over a thousand pieces that we know of and a very high percentage of these — like The Air on the G String — are true masterpieces. It is interesting to note that, even with over a thousand compositions of Bach’s that have survived, many more have been lost over time.

It is not unusual for famous compositions like The Air on the G String to acquire fanciful new names never intended by their composer. J.S.Bach never called this piece “Air on the G String”. He wrote it about 1720 as the second movement, Aria, from the third of his four Orchestral Suites which is how it is performed in the above video.

In J.S. Bach’s day, the terms aria and air were simply used to denote a melodic, song-like piece in contrast to the many dances and marches that were written at the time.

 

An New Arrangement and a New Name

Wedding Music Bach Air onthe G String

August Wilhelmj (1845-1908)

All through the 19th century there was a movement begun by Felix Mendelssohn to popularize the music of J.S. Bach with the general public. Composers and academic musicians had long appreciated J.S. Bach but Mendelssohn and others wanted to bring this great music to a wider audience.

Among these fans of J.S. Bach was the German violinist August Emil Daniel Ferdinand Wilhelmj (1845-1908) who arranged the Bach Aria from the Orchestral Suite for solo violin and piano (the Air starts after interview at 3:32):

In arranging the Aria for solo violin, Wilhelmj changed the key from D to C so that the exquisite melody could be played on one string. Hence the new name Air on the G String.

Wihlemj arrangement of the Bach Air on the G String became very popular. In fact, this was the very first piece by J.S. Bach to be recorded during the early years of sound recording. It was recorded in 1902 by the Russian cellist Aleksandr Verzhbilovich and an unknown pianist as the Air from the Overture No. 3 in D major.

The Bach Air on the G String and Your Wedding Music

Such a beautiful melody should be on any list of Wedding Music.

Because of its slow, thoughtful pace it should be used as one of the Preludes before the Ceremony. If there is a Unity Ceremony during the Wedding service, and you need quiet music for a minute or two, the J.S. Bach Air on the G String is a perfect choice.

It can be played on either piano

…or organ:

Patrick Byrne, Piano

I would love to work with you to help make your own Wedding or special event a truly beautiful experience for your family and friends.

For more information please go to my main Wedding Music page.

 

Wedding Music: The Bach Prelude in C

The Bach Prelude in C Major from Book One of the Well Tempered Clavier

J.S. Bach’s famous Prelude in C is another great choice for use in a Wedding from the Baroque Era.

Here Bach’s Prelude in C played on a harpsichord which is likely the instrument for which Bach intended it:

J.S. Bach and His Prelude in C

J.S. Bach in 1720's

J.S. Bach in 1720’s

Johann Sebastien Bach (1685-1750) is very likely the greatest composer to ever have lived. He wrote the Prelude in C as the opening piece of his monumental work: The Well-Tempered Clavier (or Das Wohltemperierte Klavier). There are two volumes of the The Well-Tempered Clavier. The Prelude in C is from the first volume which was published in 1722. The second volume appeared in 1742.

As an indication of their importance in the history of music,  the 48 Preludes and Fugues that make up the two volumes of the Well-Tempered Clavier are often referred to by musicians as our musical “Old Testament”. Caring this analogy a little further, Ludwig van Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas, published nearly a century later between 1795 and 1822, are consider to be our musical “New Testament.”

In the nearly four centuries since Book One of the Well-Tempered Clavier was written countless piano players have at the same time enjoyed and struggled to master these difficult keyboard pieces.

Since the piano was not invented until near the end of his life, the Clavier that Bach had in mind was either the harpsichord or a clavichord (a smaller, private version of the harpsichord).

“Modern” Interpretations of the the Bach Prelude in C

With the development of the piano after Bach’s death during the second half of the 18th Century, the harpsichord quickly came to be considered “old fashioned.” With the piano becoming the primary keyboard instrument, Bach’s music was naturally adapted for it.

Here is a performance of the Bach Prelude in C played on a modern piano:

The Bach-Gounod Ave Maria

In 1853 the French operatic composer Charles Gounod (1818-1893) created a vocal adaptation of the Bach Prelude in C. For over a century the Bach-Gounod “Ave Maria” was very popular and was used for many Weddings:

The Bach Prelude in C and Your Wedding

The Bach Prelude in C is an excellent choice when you are looking for a quiet, meditative piece. It works well as part of the Prelude selections played before your Wedding Ceremony or to accompany a unity ceremony during the Wedding Ceremony.

Patrick Byrne, Piano

I would love to work with you to help make your own Wedding or special event a truly beautiful experience for your family and friends.

For more information please go to my main Wedding Music page.

Wedding Music: J.S. Bach Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

J.S. Bach: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring is an unforgettable choral piece with one of the best know melodies of all time:

J.S. Bach and his Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

J.S. Bach in 1720's

J.S. Bach in 1720’s

Johann Sebastien Bach (1685-1750) was very likely the greatest composer of all time. He wrote an amazing number of works and almost every one of them is a masterpiece of the highest order. I recently read a biography of Bach that pointed out that, even though Bach is known for producing a great number of compositions, the majority of what he composed was discarded or otherwise lost during his lifetime.

J.S. Bach came from one of the major musical families in what is now Germany. That is why we need the “J.S.” to distinguish him from his many uncles, brothers and sons who were all, themselves, very talented composers.

J.S. Bach’s music was a culmination of the Baroque Era which stretched back to about 1600. Shortly after his death, and that of George Frederick Handel in 1758, composers like Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ushered in a the new Classical Era of music. No matter what style composers wrote in during the centuries after Bach’s death they have all praised him as being their musical Master.

Even though J.S. Bach has had a tremendous influence on the history of music, he lived a rather provincial life never straying very far from the small towns and cities of central Germany and never visiting the major musical capitals of his day: Paris, London, Rome, etc.

For convenience, J.S. Bach’s many works are referred to by their BWV numbers (Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis or Bach Works Catalogue). Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring is just one section (at 16:29 and again at 26:09 in the video below) of one of Bach’s many church Cantatas: Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben (“Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life”) BWV 147.

This Cantata was originally written in 1716 for one of the Sunday’s of Advent but remained unperformed at that time. Bach recycled and expanded the Cantata in 1723 for the feast of the Visitation. It was first performed on July 2, 1723.

Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring is “rediscovered”

Dame Myra Hess Recital during The Blitz

Dame Myra Hess Recital during The Blitz

As I mentioned above, Bach’s music has always been studied and admired by professional musicians. He is sometimes referred to as a “musician’s musician.” Despite that “insider” admiration, Bach’s music has sometimes lacked a greater appreciation by the general public who are often more interested in the “latest and greatest.”

space

In 1926 the English pianist Dame Myra Hess (1890–1965) published her arrangement of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring for piano solo.

 

Londoners lined up to hear Dame Myra Hess during The Blitz

Londoners lined up to hear Dame Myra Hess during The Blitz

Dame Myra Hess was a  very good pianist but she is most remembered today for two things: popularizing  Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and heroically continuing a recital series during the London Blitz of World War II. Between September 7, 1940 and May 21, 1941 40,000 Londoners were killed by the German air raids. Dame Myra Hess forever endeared herself to the British people by “keeping calm and carrying on” by playing beautiful music in the midst of such death and destruction.

In Chicago, since 1977, the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series has been presented every Wednesday just after Noon at no charge in the Preston Bradley Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center by the International Music Foundation.

Adding some “Joy” to Your Wedding

Because of its quiet nature and slow pace, J.S. Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring is suitable as a Processional for the Bride or as part of the Prelude music selections.

Patrick Byrne, Piano

I would love to work with you to help make your own Wedding or special event a truly beautiful experience for your family and friends.

For more information please go to my main Wedding Music page.