SEON - Philips
1 LP - 6575 042 - (p) 1974
1 LP - RL 30420 - (p) 1981
1 CD - SBK 63189 - (c) 1997


Johann Sebastian BACH (1985-1750) Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079

Ricercar a 3 voci (Harpsichord)
5' 52" A1

Canon perpetuus super thema regium (Flute, Violin, Continuo)
1' 01" A2

Canones diversi
6' 49" A3

a) Canon a 2 (Harpsichord) 1' 10"

b) Canon a 2 (Two Violins, Continuo) 0' 48"

c) Canon a 2, per motum contrarium (Flute, Harpsichord) 0' 50"

d) Canon a 2, per augmentationem, contrario motu (Two Violins, Bass Viol) 1' 18"

e) Canon a 2, per tonos (Violin, Harpsichord) 2' 53"

Fuga canonica in epidiapiente (Violin, Harpsichord)
2' 03" A4

Ricercar a 6 (Harpsichord)
9' 14" A5

Canon a 2, Quaerendo invenietis (Harpsichord)
1' 10" B1

Canon a 4, (Two Harpsichords)
1' 55" B2

Sonata a flauto traverso, violino e basso continuo (Flute, Violin, Basso Continuo)

16' 49" B3

- Largo 4' 15"

- Allegro 5' 41"

- Andante 3' 43"

- Allegro 2' 52"

Canon perpetuus, contrario motu (Flute, Violin, Continuo)

2' 04" B4

Barthold Kuijken, Transverse flute (Gerard A. Rottenburgh, Bruxelles, mid- 18th century)
Sigiswald Kuijken, Baroque Violin I (Maggini School, Brescia, mid- 17th century)
Marie Leonhardt, Baroque Violin II (Jacobus Stainer, Absam, 1676)
Wieland Kuijken, Bass Viol (Tyrol, 18th century)
Robert Kohnen, Harpsichord Nr. A2, A3b, B2, B3, B4 (David Rubio, Oxford, 1973)
Gustav Leonhardt, Harpsichord solo and Musical Director (Johannes D. Dulcken, Antwerp, 1755)

Luogo e data di registrazione
Doopsgezinde Kerk, Amsterdam (Holland) - Marzo 1974

Registrazione: live / studio

Producer / Recording Supervisor
Wolf Erichson

Recording Engineer

Dieter Thomsen

Prima Edizione LP
Seon (Philips) | 6575 042 | 1 LP - durata 48' 04" | (p) 1974 | ANA
Seon (RCA Red Seal) | RL 30420 | 1 LPs - durata 48' 04" | (p) 1981 | ANA

Edizione CD
Sony | SBK 63189 | 1 CD - durata 48' 04" | (c) 1997 | ADD

Original Cover

Antoine Pesne (18. Jh.) - Friedrich der Große als Kronprinz, Gemälde


Bach's later years were spent very much in retirement and were chiefly devoted to ordering and completing his musical life's work. Only a few pupils and friends were aware of the significance of what he had created. He must have been all the more delighted with the invitation from Friedrick the Great, transmitted to him through his son Carl Philip Emmanuel, then in the king's service, to perform on the organ in Potsdam. At this memorable meeting on May 7, 1747 Bach's improvisations on a theme set by the king met with the utmost approval. On his return, handsomely rewarded, to Leipzig he immediately started to work out a series of compositions based on this royal theme. As early as July 7 he released the first movements, collected under the title of the "Musical Offering," engraved with much care and bearing a dedication to King Friedrick. Further works followed at intervals until the collection was complete in its present form.
The "Musical Offering" is not only a work of art sui generis of the highest quality; it also pays homage to the king with genuine Baroque exuberance. Bach's marginal notes to the fourth and fifth canons are to be interpreted as decoratively allegorical - in the fourth at the augmentation "Notulis crescentibus crescat fortuna Regis" (May the king's fortunes increase with the increasing note-values) and in the fifth "Ascendente modulatione ascendat gloria Regis" (May the king's fame rise as these modulations rise). The trio-sonata with its obbligato flute part also makes a bow in the direction of the flute-playing king. However, it is the royal theme which refers most closely to the monarch. It lies at the root of all the movements of the "Musical Offering" in variants of all kinds, though we can say with virtual certainty that it is not in the original form as set by Frederick the Great, but edited by Bach's hand with a view to subsequent arrangement. However, it is not difficult to reconstitute the structural elements used by the king. Two conventional models of fugal subject are involved - a rising interval of a sixth with a falling minor seventh and a chromatic descent within the compass of a fifth. They would have been familiar to every composer around 1700 as typical thematic formulas. Bach altered them carefully and sharpened them rhythmically without, however, touching them in essentials; any interpolation would have amounted to rejecting the king's theme.
The movements of the "Musical Offering" are classic examples of the late style of Bach which was to lead a few years later to his last great work - "The Art of Fugue." It is characterised by an austere, extremely strict and unusually dense polyphony whose ultimate issue is the canon and which renoances euphory and an attractive melodic line in favour of the spiritual depths od counterpoint. A further characteristic of this style is that it is no longer primarily conceived in terms of a specific instrument and its technique (apart from the flute trio-sonata specially composed for the king), but that its realisation in sound is permissible to any instrument having the appropriate range. In no other of his creative periods was the Cantor of St. Thomas's so uncompromisingly disposed to retrospection and so inclined to place the spiritual depth of a work above its sensuous aspect as he was in his late period.
Bach called two of his poliphonic movements not fugues but ricercares knowing full well that this forerunner of the fugue from about 1600 would allow him on the one hand greater freedom of form and on the other the utmost possible contrapuntal concentration. The version we have of the introductory ricercare in three parts may have developed directly from the improvisation which occured in the King's presence.
It is characterized by the freedom of expression and unrestraint which are associated with any extempore performance. The great ricercare in six parts, however, was composed at Bach's desk in Leipzig. Bach refused to improvise a six-part fugue on the royal theme in front of Frederick the Great, using a theme of his own at that meeting with the excuse that not every sunject lent itsekf to treatement in six parts. Later, however, he worked out in the silence of his room the splendid movement which represents the ne plus ultra of all his fugues in terms of contrapuntal concentration and artistic skill in order to prove the serviceability of the royal theme.
The canons on the royal theme, 10 in all including the "Fuga canonica in epidiapente" (canon at the fifth), also express the ultimate compression of form, in these Bach strove constantly to wrest fresh and deeply significant possible combinations from the theme, using every refinement. Moreover the cast the two canons preceding the sonata in the form of "puzzle canons" (much in favour in the later Middle Ages), in which any indication of the entry of the voices is deliberately omitted. While the canon in four voices is straightforward, that in two voices, to which Bach added the note "Quaerendo invenietis" (Seek and ye shall find), admits to various solutions with which many generations of musicians deeply versed in counterpoint have occupied themselves. The trio-sonata is no less brilliantly worked out: the theme is more or less obviously present in all its four movements - used partly as a strict cantus firmus in the Allegro, partly as a mere thematic reference in the Largo. Certain overlapping associations lead one to deduce that the three-part ricercare supplied musical material for the Andante of the sonata. In this trio  too, the art of shaping a movement and the logic of the development approach the very limit of musical possibilities. The collected "Musical Offering" represents the absolute apex of "ara combinatoria" and "Ars inveniendi" - that is of that spiritualizing process of music to which the West owes so much.
Lothar Hoffmann-Erbrecht