Music for Wilhelm Friedemann Bach

(Johann Sebastian Bach composes music for Wilhelm Friedemann, as told by his first wife, Maria Barbara.)

When Johann Sebastian is not traveling to test organs or playing in the Duke’s traveling orchestra, he is busy at the court working with his tremendous choir. Why they sing like professionals and JS gets so much pleasure from hearing his cantatas performed so beautifully.

My husband strives for perfection in all his works whether they are sacred or secular. He regularly inscribes his scores with the letters J.J. (Jesu, Juva: “Jesus, help”) at the beginning and S.D.G. (Soli Deo Gloria: “to God alone the glory”) at the end.

Why, even in a little volume of pieces Johann Sebastian wrote for teaching Wilhelm Friedemann, our oldest son, how to play the clavier, the “Clavierbuchlein”, he wrote the letters I.N.J. (In Nomine Jesu: “in the Name of Jesus”) on the first page of music. My Bach never sheds his religion when he composes for instruction or other secular purposes. He knows that his secular and sacred music are used with different texts and in different surroundings, but he simply does not recognize a difference in principle between the two.

(The story above is one of many vignettes from the multi-media and organ program, Bach and Sons, presented by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with David Jordan, media artist.)

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