JS Bach Trounces Harpsichordist

(JS Bach’s competition in Dresden as related by Anna Magdalena Bach, JS Bach’s second wife.)

The Dresden Court

My husband, Sebastian as I call him, is becoming a more and more famous, not only as an organist but also as a composer and harpsichordist as well. In fact, he just got back from Dresden where he was invited to compete in a competition with the most famous harpsichordist of France, Louis Marchand. And, what a story that is!

Johann Sebastian was thrilled with the invitation to compete against this famous Marchand because, after all, Marchand is the harpsichordist to King Louis XIV of France. Louis

Louis Marchand

Marchand also has several volumes of published compositions and we were told that he plays in a most elegant and refined style.

My husband eagerly went to Dresden a few days before the competition to prepare his competition music. I imagine Monsieur Marchand probably heard Johann practicing, because people are just drawn to JS when he plays!

As my husband told me, the appointed time arrived and a large company of persons of high rank and both sexes gathered for the competition. The Count who was sponsoring the competition was there as well as a large group of onlookers. After all this was a huge event in Dresden between two tremendous performers.

My husband was there and ready to play, but Marchand was not. Everyone waited and waited, including my husband who was to play first. Still the famous Frenchman, Louis Marchand did not arrive! After a very long wait, the guests were informed that Marchand had suddenly left Dresden by the early morning fast coach. My Bach won the competition by default!

Johann Sebastian Bach

I just know Monsieur Marchand heard my marvelous Johann Sebastian practicing and improvising and was scared! Really scared! Marchard realized he might play daily for King Louis XIV of France, the “Sun King,” but that he was no match for the great Johann Sebastian Bach, Organist and Kapellmeister of the Court of Saxe-Weimar! So instead of a competition, the Count and his guests heard a grand concert, performed by the best harpsichordist in the world, my Johann!

(This vignette is one of many in the Bach and Sons organ and media event created and presented by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, organist with David Jordan, media artist.)

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