Special Sub-Topic: A Musical Offering
|This may be a trick question: Was Bach's "Musical Offering" a commissioned work?|
n. Hence the term "offering". Bach wrote the pieces out of the goodness of his heart. This was after he'd been invited to the court of King Frederick the Great and was impressed by the king's large collection of pianos.
|For whom did Bach write the "Musical Offering"?|
King Frederick the Great. By the time Bach wrote the piece in 1747, Duke Georg had already assumed the English throne as King George I.
|What was the reason for Bach's writing the pieces of the "Musical Offering"?|
All of these (He wrote the canons as a set of puzzles for the dedicatee to work out in his spare time., He wrote the "ricercare" - the fugues - having not been satisfied with the way he'd improvized them on the piano for the dedicatee., He wrote the trio-sonata especially for the dedicatee to play in his spare time.). In addition to the trio-sonata and the puzzling canons, Bach also wrote a "perpetual" canon for King Frederick to play with his musicians.
|It is known that the dedicatee introduced Bach to a rather large collection of pianos. But what was this nobleman's instrument?|
Flute. In those days, the violin and the organ were considered by far the leading instruments, the most important, and the most popular. Most composers also played the harpsichord and sang. The piano had not yet gained the importance and popularity it has today (it had only been invented 40 years before). King Frederick's father never approved of his son's interest in music, but when Frederick assumed the throne, he not only took up the flute again (that having been his instrument), but he also hired an orchestra of musicians, headed by one of Bach's sons.
|Bach himself composed the main theme of the "Musical Offering".|
f. In fact, the theme was made up by King Frederick, as a challenge for Bach. The king intended Bach to improvize a six-part fugue on that theme. Bach did, but then felt he could write a better one (not all themes are fit for fugues, and this one was particularly chromatic). So Bach wrote the Offering, all of whose pieces have some form of development of the king's theme.
|The music proper: what is the first piece in the set?|
Three-part Ricercar. The one thing Bach did not write for King Frederick was a concerto for his instrument. The first thing he offered in the Musical Offering was a three-part fugue or "ricercar" that he'd improvized on one of the king's pianos.
|The puzzles: how many are there?|
5 & Five. These five were really the important part of the work. There are four more canons in the set, but those were not meant as musical puzzles for the king.
|Two of Bach's puzzles have a Latin inscription accompanying them, the first is number 4 in the manuscript: "Notulis crescentibus crescat Fortuna Regis." What does this enigmatic phrase mean?|
May the fortune of the King grow as does the length of the notes.. Bach had a lot of respect for the nobility.
|The last of Bach's puzzles in the Musical Offering is inscribed: "Ascendenteque Modulatione ascendat Gloria Regis." What does this mean?|
May the King's glory rise as the modulations [of this music] rise.. In a nice tribute to King Frederick, Bach wrote one of his puzzles as a perpetual modulation of key, always rising in pitch.
|The word "Ricercar" litterally means "to research" or "to study." It was this word which Bach used as a title to his fugues, rather than "fuga" which means to fly. But Bach also made the word "Ricercar" into an acrostic pun for the dedicatee. What was Bach's first inscription on the 6-part Ricercar of the Musical Offering?|
"Regis Iussu Cantio Et Reliqua Canonica Arta Resoluta" - According to the order of the King, the tune and remainder are resolved with canonic art.. All of the "wrong" answers are inscribed on the other canons in the Musical Offering. I hope you enjoyed this quiz.
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