The history of chocolate began in an area known as Mesoamerica, which is a historical region and cultural area that begins in the southern part of North America and extends to most of Central America, thus comprising the lands of central Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica. Fermented beverages made from chocolate date back to at least 1900 BC to 1500 BC. The Mexica, an indigenous people of the Valley of Mexico who were the rulers of the Aztec Empire, believed that cacao seeds were the gift of Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom, and the seeds once had so much value that they were used as a form of currency. Originally prepared only as a drink, chocolate was served as a bitter liquid, mixed with spices or corn puree. It was believed to be an aphrodisiac and to give the drinker strength. Today, such drinks are also known as ‘Chilate’ and are made by locals in the south of Mexico and the north triangle of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras). After its arrival to Europe in the sixteenth century, sugar was added to it and it became popular throughout society, first among the ruling classes and then among the common people. However, in the twentieth century chocolate was considered essential in the rations of United States soldiers during war. The word ‘chocolate’ comes from the Classical Nahuatl word ‘xocolātl’, which is of uncertain etymology, and entered the English language via the Spanish language. Cultivation, consumption, and cultural use of cacao were extensive in Mesoamerica where the cacao tree is native. When pollinated, the seed of the cacao tree eventually forms a kind of sheath, or ear, averaging some twenty inches long, hanging from the tree trunk itself. Within the sheath are thirty to forty brownish-red almond-shaped beans embedded in a sweet viscous pulp. Whilst the beans themselves are bitter due to the alkaloids within them, the sweet pulp may have been the first element to be consumed by humans. Cacao pods grow in a wide range of colours, from pale yellow to bright green, all the way to dark purple or crimson. The skin can also vary greatly. Some are sculpted with craters or warts, whilst others are completely smooth. This wide range in type of pods is unique to the cacao in that their colour and texture does not necessarily determine the ripeness or taste of the beans inside. Evidence suggests that it may have been fermented and served as an alcoholic beverage as early as 1400 BC. But cultivation of the cacao was not an easy process, and part of this was because cacao trees in their natural environment grow to sixty feet tall or more. When the trees were grown on a plantation however, they grew to around twenty feet tall. Whilst researchers do not agree on which Mesoamerican culture first domesticated the cacao tree, the use of the fermented bean in a drink seems to have arisen in North America, and scientists have been able to confirm its presence in vessels throughout the region by evaluating the chemical footprint detectable in the micro samples of the contents that remain. Ceramic vessels with residues from the preparation of chocolate beverages have been found at archaeological sites dating back to the Early Formative (1900 to 900 BC) period. For example, one such vessel found at an Olmec archaeological site on the Gulf Coast of Veracruz, Mexico dates chocolate’s preparation by pre-Olmec peoples as early as 1750 BC. On the Pacific coast of Chiapas, Mexico, a Mokayanan archaeological site provides evidence of cacao beverages dating even earlier, to 1900 BC. However a study, published online in Nature Ecology and Evolution, suggests that cacao, the plant from which chocolate is made, was domesticated or grown by people for food around 1,500 years earlier than previously thought. In addition, the researchers found cacao was originally domesticated in South America, rather than in Central America. A professor from the department of anthropology in the University of British Columbia wrote that “This new study shows us that people in the upper reaches of the Amazon basin, extending up into the foothills of the Andes in southeastern Ecuador, where harvesting and consuming cacao that appears to be a close relative of the type of cacao later used in Mexico, and they were doing this 1,500 years earlier”. The researchers used three lines of evidence to show that the Mayo-Chinchipe culture used cacao between 5,300 and 2,100 years ago, these being the presence of starch grains specific to the cacao tree inside ceramic vessels and broken pieces of pottery, residues of theobromine, a bitter alkaloid found in the cacao tree but not its wild relatives and fragments of ancient DNA with sequences unique to the cacao tree. In fact, Nature Ecology and Evolution reported what is believed to be the earliest cacao use from approximately 5,300 years ago recovered from the Santa Ana site in southeast Ecuador. Another find of chemically traced cacao was in 1984 when a team of archaeologists in Guatemala explored the Mayan site of Río Azul, where they discovered fifteen vessels surrounding male skeletons in the royal tomb. One of these vessels was beautifully decorated and covered in various Mayan glyphs. One of these glyphs translated to ‘kaka’, also known as cacao. The inside of the vessel was lined with a dark-coloured powder, which was scraped off for further testing. When the archaeologists took this powder to the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition to be tested, it is said they found trace amounts of theobromine in the powder, a major indicator of cacao. This cacao was dated to some time between 460 and 480 AD. Cacao powder was also found in decorated bowls and jars in the city of Puerto Escondido. Once thought to have been a scarce commodity, cacao was found in many more of these jars than once thought. However, since this powder was only found in bowls of higher quality, it led archaeologists to believe that only wealthier people could afford such bowls, and therefore the cacao. These special jars are believed to have been a centrepiece to social gatherings between people of high social status.

‘A Lady Pouring Chocolate’ by Jean-Étienne Liotard (1744).

Until the 16th century, the cacao tree was wholly unknown to Europeans. Christopher Columbus encountered the cacao bean on his fourth mission to the Americas on August 15, 1502, when he and his crew seized a large native canoe that proved to contain, amongst other goods for trade, cacao beans. His son Ferdinand commented that the natives greatly valued the beans, which he termed almonds, “for when they were brought on board ship together with their goods, I observed that when any of these almonds fell, they all stooped to pick it up, as if an eye had fallen.” But whilst Columbus took cacao beans with him back to Spain, it made no impact until Spanish friars introduced chocolate to the Spanish court. The Spanish conquistador, Hernán Cortés, may have been the first European to encounter chocolate when he observed it in the court of Montezuma in 1519. In 1568, Bernal Díaz, who accompanied Cortés in the conquest of the Aztec Empire, wrote of this encounter which he witnessed “From time to time, they served him (Montezuma) in cups of pure gold a certain drink made from cacao. It was said that it gave one power over women, but this I never saw. I did see them bring in more than fifty large pitchers of cacao with froth in it, and he drank some of it, the women serving with great reverence. José de Acosta, a Spanish missionary who lived in Peru and then Mexico in the later sixteenth century, described its use more generally as “Loathsome to such as are not acquainted with it, having a scum or froth that is very unpleasant taste. Yet it is a drink very much esteemed among the Indians, wherewith they feast noble men who pass through their country. The Spaniards, both men and women that are accustomed to the country are very greedy of this chocolate. They say they make diverse sorts of it, some hot, some cold, and some temperate, and put therein much of that ‘chili’; yea, they make paste thereof, the which they say is good for the stomach and against the catarrh”. After the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, chocolate was imported to Europe. In the beginning, Spaniards would use it as a medicine to treat illnesses such as abdominal pain because it had a bitterness to it. Once sweetened, it transformed and quickly became a court favourite. It was still served as a beverage, but the addition of sugar or honey counteracted the natural bitterness. The Spaniards initially intended to recreate the original taste of the Mesoamerican chocolate by adding similar spices, but this habit had faded away by the end of the eighteenth century. At first, chocolate was largely a privilege of the rich whilst the lower class drank coffee, but once the steam engine was invented in the late 1700s, mass production became possible. Within about a hundred years, chocolate had established a foothold throughout Europe.

A 1909 Peter’s milk chocolate advertisement. It seems they were the company who produced the first successful milk chocolate bar.

The desire for chocolate created a thriving slave market, as between the early seventeenth and late nineteenth centuries the laborious and slow processing of the cacao bean was manual. Cacao plantations spread as the English, Dutch, and French colonised and planted. With the depletion of Mesoamerican workers, largely due to disease, cocoa beans production was often the work of poor wage labourers and enslaved Africans. In 1729 the first mechanical cocoa grinder was invented in Bristol, England. Walter Churchman petitioned the king of England for patent and sole use of an invention for the “expeditious, fine and clean making of chocolate by an engine” and the patent was granted by King George II to Walter Churchman for a water engine used to make chocolate. Churchman probably used water-powered edge runners for preparing cacao beans by crushing on a far larger scale than previously. The patent for a chocolate refining process was later bought in 1761 by Joseph Fry, who started the company that was to become J. S. Fry & Sons. Wind-powered and horse-drawn mills were used to speed up production, augmenting human labour. Heating the working areas of the table-mill, an innovation that emerged in France in 1732, also assisted in extraction. The Chocolaterie Lombart, created in 1760, claimed to be the first chocolate company in France. New processes that improved the production of chocolate emerged early in the Industrial Revolution. In 1815 a Dutch chemist introduced alkaline salts to chocolate, which reduced its bitterness and a few years after, in 1828, he created a press to remove about half the natural fat (cacao butter) from chocolate liquor, which made chocolate both cheaper to produce and more consistent in quality. This innovation, known as ‘Dutch cocoa’, introduced the modern era of chocolate and was instrumental in the transformation of chocolate to its solid form. In 1847 J. S. Fry & Sons learned to make chocolate mouldable by adding back melted cacao butter. Milk had sometimes been used as an addition to chocolate beverages since the mid-seventeenth century, but in 1875 Daniel Peter, a Swiss-French chocolatier who founded Peter’s Chocolate and who was also a neighbour of Henri Nestlé, invented milk chocolate by mixing in a powdered milk developed by Henri Nestlé. In 1879 the texture and taste of chocolate was further improved when Rodolphe Lindt invented the ‘conching’ machine which evenly distributes cocoa butter within chocolate. Lindt & Sprüngli AG, a Swiss-based concern with global reach, had its start in 1845 as the Sprüngli family confectionery shop in Zurich that added a solid-chocolate factory the same year the process for making solid chocolate was developed and later bought Lindt’s factory. Besides Nestlé, several chocolate companies had their start in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Cadbury was manufacturing boxed chocolates in England by 1868 and in 1893 Milton S. Hershey purchased chocolate processing equipment at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago and soon began the career of Hershey’s chocolates with chocolate-coated caramels. Due to improvements in their machines, chocolate underwent a transformation from primarily a drink to food, and different types of chocolate began to emerge. At the same time, the price of chocolate began to drop dramatically in the 1890s and 1900s as the production of chocolate began to shift away from the New World to Asia and Africa. Therefore, chocolate could be purchased by the middle class. However, between 1900 and 1907 Cadbury’s fell into a scandal due to their reliance on West African slave plantations. Roughly two-thirds of the world’s cocoa is produced in Western Africa, with Ivory Coast being the largest source, producing a total crop of 1,448,992 tonnes. Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon are other West African countries among the top 5 cocoa-producing countries in the world. Like many food industry producers, individual cocoa farmers are at the mercy of volatile world markets. The price can vary from between £500 ($945) and £3,000 ($5,672) per ton in the space of just a few years. Whilst investors trading in cocoa can dump shares at will, individual cocoa farmers cannot simply ramp up production and abandon trees at anywhere near that pace. Only three to four percent of ‘cocoa futures’ contracts traded in the cocoa markets ever end up in the physical delivery of cocoa and every year, seven to nine times more cocoa is bought and sold on the exchange than exists. But chocolate is something which I think (and hope!) will always be with us.

This week… remember:
Earth without art is just “Eh”…

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J. S. Bach’s Music

I have also found a list of compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach, but they are too numerous to list here so for those interested, this is a link to the Wikipedia page: List of compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach

A handwritten note by Bach in his copy of the Calov Bible.

The above note, written next to 2 Chronicles 5:13 reads: “NB Bey einer andächtigen Musiq ist allezeit Gott mit seiner Gnaden Gegenwart”, meaning ‘(N(ota) B(ene) In a music of worship God is always present with his grace’. From an early age, Bach studied the works of his musical contemporaries of the Baroque period and those of prior generations, and those influences were reflected in his music. Like his contemporaries Handel, Telemann and Vivaldi, Bach composed concertos, suites, recitatives, da capo arias, and four-part choral music. Some works employed a basso continuo which is used in baroque music as an accompanying part that includes a bass line and harmonies, typically played on a keyboard instrument and with other instruments such as cello or lute. The music of Bach was harmonically more innovative than his peer composers, employing surprisingly dissonant chords and progressions, often with extensive exploration of harmonic possibilities within one piece. The hundreds of sacred works Bach created are usually seen as manifesting not just his craft but also a truly devout relationship with God. He had taught Luther’s Small Catechism as the Thomaskantor in Leipzig, and some of his pieces represent it, in fact the Lutheran chorale was the basis of much of his work. In elaborating these hymns into his chorale preludes. He wrote more cogent and tightly integrated works than most, even when they were seen as massive and lengthy by some and the large-scale structure of every major Bach sacred vocal work is evidence of subtle, elaborate planning to create a religiously and musically powerful expression. For example, the St Matthew Passion, like other works of its kind, illustrated the Passion with Bible text reflected in recitatives, arias, choruses, and chorales. But in crafting this work, Bach created an overall experience that has been found over the intervening centuries to be both musically thrilling and spiritually profound, something I wholeheartedly agree with. Bach published or carefully compiled in manuscript many collections of pieces that explored the range of artistic and technical possibilities inherent in almost every genre of his time except opera. For example, The Well-Tempered Clavier comprises two books, each of which presents a prelude and fugue in every major and minor key, displaying a dizzying variety of structural, contrapuntal and fugal techniques.

“O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden”: the four-part chorale setting as included in the St. Matthew Passion.

Four-part harmonies predate Bach, but he lived during a time when modal music in Western tradition was largely supplanted in favour of the tonal system. In this, a piece of music progresses from one chord to the next according to certain rules, each chord being characterised by four notes. The principles of four-part harmony are found not only in Bach’s four-part choral music, as he also prescribes it for instance for the figured bass accompaniment. The new system was at the core of Bach’s style, and his compositions are to a large extent considered as laying down the rules for the evolving scheme that would dominate musical expression in the next centuries. Some examples of this characteristic of Bach’s style and its influence may be seen when, in the 1740s, Bach staged his arrangement of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater where he upgraded the viola part (which in the original composition plays in unison with the bass part) to fill out the harmony, thus adapting the composition to his four-part harmony style. Also, starting in the 19th century in Russia, there was a discussion about the authenticity of four-part court chant settings compared to earlier Russian traditions and Bach’s four-part chorale settings, such as those ending his Chorale cantatas, were considered as foreign-influenced models. Such influence was deemed unavoidable, however. Bach’s insistence on the tonal system and contribution to shaping it did not imply he was less at ease with the older modal system and the genres associated with it, more than his contemporaries (who had ‘moved on’ to the tonal system without much exception). Bach often returned to the then-antiquated modi and genres. In addition modulation, or changing key in the course of a piece, is another style characteristic where Bach goes beyond what was usual in his time. Baroque instruments vastly limited modulation possibilities, as with keyboard instruments, prior to a workable system of temperament, limited the keys that could be modulated to, and wind instruments, especially brass instruments such as trumpets and horns, about a century before they were fitted with valves, were tied to the key of their tuning. Bach pushed the limits, as he added ‘strange tones’ in his organ playing, confusing the singing. The major development taking place in Bach’s time, and to which he contributed in no small way, was a temperament for keyboard instruments that allowed their use in all available keys (12 major and 12 minor) and also modulation without retuning. His Capriccio on the Departure of a Beloved Brother, a very early work, showed a gusto for modulation unlike any contemporary work this composition has been compared to but the full expansion came with the Well-Tempered Clavier, using all keys, which Bach apparently had been developing since around 1720, the Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach being one of its earliest examples.

“Aria” of the Goldberg Variations, showing Bach’s use of ornaments.

The second page of this Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach is an ornament notation and performance guide that Bach wrote for his eldest son, who was nine years old at the time. Bach was generally quite specific on ornamentation in his compositions (where in his time much of the ornamentation was not written out by composers but rather considered a liberty of the performer), and his ornamentation was often quite elaborate. For instance, the Aria of the Goldberg Variations has rich ornamentation in nearly every measure. Bach’s dealing with ornamentation can also be seen in a keyboard arrangement he made of Marcello’s Oboe Concerto, where he added explicit ornamentation, which some centuries later is played by oboists when performing the concerto. Although Bach did not write any operas, he was not averse to the genre or its ornamented vocal style. In church music, Italian composers had imitated the operatic vocal style in genres such as the Neapolitan mass. In Protestant surroundings, there was more reluctance to adopt such a style for liturgical music. For instance Kuhnau, Bach’s predecessor in Leipzig, had notoriously shunned opera and Italian virtuoso vocal music. Bach was less moved. One of the comments after a performance of his St Matthew Passion was that it all sounded much like opera. In concert playing in Bach’s time the basso continuo, along with instruments such as organ, viola da gamba or harpsichord, usually had the role of accompaniment, providing the harmonic and rhythmic foundation of a piece. From the late 1720s, Bach had the organ play ‘concertante’ (i.e. as a soloist) with the orchestra in instrumental cantata movements, a decade before Handel published his first organ concertos. Apart from the 5th Brandenburg Concerto and the Triple Concerto, which already had harpsichord soloists in the 1720s, Bach wrote and arranged his harpsichord concertos in the 1730s, and in his sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord neither instrument plays a continuo part as they are treated as equal soloists, far beyond the figured bass. In this sense, Bach played a key role in the development of genres such as the keyboard concerto. Bach wrote virtuoso music for specific instruments as well as music independent of instrumentation. For instance, the sonatas and partitas for solo violin are considered the pinnacle of what has been written for this instrument, only within reach of accomplished players. The music fits the instrument, pushing it to the full scale of its possibilities and requiring virtuosity of the player but without bravura. Notwithstanding that the music and the instrument seem inseparable, Bach made transcriptions for other instruments of some pieces of this collection. Similarly, for the cello suites, the virtuoso music seems tailored for the instrument, the best of what is offered for it, yet Bach made an arrangement for lute of one of these suites. The same applies to much of his most virtuoso keyboard music. Bach exploited the capabilities of an instrument to the fullest while keeping the core of such music independent of the instrument on which it is performed.
In this sense, it is no surprise that Bach’s music is easily and often performed on instruments it was not necessarily written for, that it is transcribed so often, and that his melodies turn up in unexpected places such as jazz music. Apart from this, Bach left a number of compositions without specified instrumentation. Another characteristic of Bach’s style is his extensive use of counterpoint, as opposed to the homophony used in his four-part Chorale settings, for example. Bach’s canons, and especially his fugues, are most characteristic of this style, which Bach did not invent but contributed to so fundamentally that he defined it to a large extent. Fugues are as characteristic to Bach’s style as, for instance, the Sonata form is characteristic to the composers of the Classical period. These strictly contrapuntal compositions, and most of Bach’s music in general, are characterised by distinct melodic lines for each of the voices, where the chords formed by the notes sounding at a given point follow the rules of four-part harmony. From about 1720, when he was thirty-five, until his death in 1750, Bach’s harmony consists in this melodic interweaving of independent melodies, so perfect in their union that each part seems to constitute the true melody, and here I think Bach excels all the composers in the world. At least, I have found no one to equal him in music known to me. Even in his four-part writing we can, not infrequently, leave out the upper and lower parts and still find the middle parts melodious and agreeable. Bach devoted more attention than his contemporaries to the structure of compositions. This can be seen in minor adjustments he made when adapting someone else’s composition, such as his earliest version of the “Keiser” St Mark Passion, where he enhances scene transitions, and in the architecture of his own compositions such as his Magnificat and Leipzig Passions. In the last years of his life, Bach revised several of his prior compositions, and often the recasting of such previously composed music in an enhanced structure was the most visible change, as in the Mass in B minor. Bach’s known preoccupation with structure led to various numerological analyses of his compositions, although many such over-interpretations were later rejected. The librettos, or lyrics, of his vocal compositions played an important role for Bach. He sought collaboration with various text authors for his cantatas and major vocal compositions, possibly writing or adapting such texts himself to make them fit the structure of the composition he was designing when he could not rely on the talents of other text authors. His collaboration with Picander for the St Matthew Passion libretto is best known, but there was a similar process in achieving a multi-layered structure for his St John Passion libretto a few years earlier.

In 1950, Wolfgang Schmieder published a thematic catalogue of Bach’s compositions called the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (Bach Works Catalogue). Schmieder largely followed the Bach-Gesellschaft-Ausgabe, a comprehensive edition of the composer’s works that was produced between 1850 and 1900. The first edition of the catalogue listed 1,080 surviving compositions indisputably composed by Bach. This BWV range of compositions comprised as BWV 1–224: Cantatas, BWV 225–231: Motets, BWV 232–243: Liturgical compositions in Latin, BWV 244–249: Passions and Oratorios, BWV 250–438: Four-part chorales, BWV 439–524: Small vocal works, BWV 525–771: Organ compositions, BWV 772–994: Other keyboard works, BWV 995–1000: Lute compositions, BWV 1001–1040: Other chamber music, BWV 1041–1071: Orchestral music, BWV 1072–1078: Canons and BWV 1079–1080: Late contrapuntal works. BWV 1081–1126 were added to the catalogue in the second half of the 20th century, whilst BWV 1127 and higher are 21st-century additions.

Bach’s autograph of the recitative with the gospel text of Christ’s death from St Matthew Passion (Matthew 27:45–47a).

Bach composed Passions for Good Friday services and oratorios such as the Christmas Oratorio, which is a set of six cantatas for use in the liturgical season of Christmas, whilst shorter oratorios include the Easter Oratorio and the Ascension Oratorio. With its double choir and orchestra, the St Matthew Passion is one of Bach’s most extended works and the St John Passion was the first passion Bach composed during his tenure as Thomaskantor in Leipzig. According to his obituary, Bach would have composed five year-cycles of sacred cantatas and additional church cantatas, for example weddings and funerals. Approximately 200 of these sacred works are extant, an estimated two thirds of the total number of church cantatas he composed. The Bach Digital website lists 50 known secular cantatas by the composer, about half of which are extant or largely reconstructable. Bach also wrote a range of cantatas, both church and secular. His A cappella music includes motets and chorale harmonisations but he is perhaps best known, certainly during his lifetime, as an organist, organ consultant, and composer of organ works in both the traditional German free genres (such as preludes, fantasias and toccatas as well as stricter forms such as chorale preludes and fugues. At a young age, he established a reputation for creativity and ability to integrate foreign styles into his organ works. A decidedly North German influence was exerted by Georg Böhm, with whom Bach came into contact in Lüneburg, and Dieterich Buxtehude, whom the young organist visited in Lübeck in 1704 on an extended leave of absence from his job in Arnstadt. Around this time, Bach copied the works of numerous French and Italian composers to gain insights into their compositional languages, and later arranged violin concertos by Vivaldi and others for organ and harpsichord. During his most productive period (1708–1714) he composed about a dozen pairs of preludes and fugues, five toccatas and fugues, and the Orgelbüchlein or “Little Organ Book”, an unfinished collection of 46 short chorale preludes that demonstrate compositional techniques in the setting of chorale tunes. After leaving Weimar, Bach wrote less for organ, although some of his best-known works (the six Organ Sonatas, the German Organ Mass in Clavier-Übung III from 1739, and the Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes, revised late in his life, were composed after leaving Weimar. Bach was also extensively engaged later in his life in consulting on organ projects, testing new organs and dedicating organs in afternoon recitals. The Canonic Variations on “Vom Himmel hoch da komm’ ich her” and the Schübler Chorales are organ works Bach published in the last years of his life. Bach wrote many works for harpsichord, some of which may also have been played on the clavichord or lute-harpsichord. Some of his larger works are intended for a harpsichord with two manuals, because performing them on a keyboard instrument with a single manual (like a piano) may present technical difficulties for the crossing of hands. In Books 1 and 2 of The Well-Tempered Clavier, each book consists of a prelude and fugue in each of the 24 major and minor keys, in chromatic order from C major to B minor. As a result, the whole collection is often referred to as ‘the 48’, and the term ‘Well-tempered’ in the title refers to the [temperament, or system of tuning. Many temperaments before Bach’s time were not flexible enough to allow compositions to utilise more than just a few keys. Bach’s best-known orchestral works are the Brandenburg Concertos, so named because he submitted them in the hope of gaining employment from Margrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg-Schwedt in 1721, however his application was unsuccessful. In his early youth, Bach copied pieces by other composers to learn from them. Later, he copied and arranged music for performance or as study material for his pupils.

The church in Arnstadt where Bach had been the organist from 1703 to 1707.

In 1935 the church was renamed “Bachkirche”. Throughout the 18th century, appreciation of Bach’s music was mostly limited to distinguished connoisseurs. Then the 19th century started with publication of the first biography of the composer and ended with the completion of the publication of all of Bach’s known works by the Bach Gesellschaft. A Bach Revival had started from Mendelssohn’s performance of the St Matthew Passion in 1829. Soon after that performance, Bach started to become regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time, if not the greatest, a reputation he has retained ever since. A new extensive Bach biography was published in the second half of the 19th century. Bach was originally buried at Old St. John’s Cemetery in Leipzig. His grave went unmarked for nearly 150 years, but in 1894 his remains were located and moved to a vault in St. John’s Church. This building was then destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II, so in 1950 Bach’s remains were taken to their present grave in St. Thomas Church and it is sad that later research has called into question whether in fact the remains in the grave are actually those of Bach. I like to think they are his.

This week…remember.
A gossip is someone with a great sense of rumour.

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