Notes on Bach

Monthly conversations with scholars about the life, times, legacy, and music of J.S. Bach. Sponsored by Bach Society Houston.
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Now displaying: 2019
Dec 6, 2019

People often hear the pipe organ more in December than in other months, thanks to the profusion of Christmas-centered church services and concerts. Here to give us a "crash course" on this mighty instrument--its anatomy and its history in various geographical regions--is noted U.S. organ consultant, restorer, and builder John Bishop, owner of John Bishop Organ Consultation. He is also the Executive Director of the Organ Clearing House, whose mission is to "rehome" unused or unwanted organs. Additionally, John writes a monthly column for the organ journal The Diapason 

Other organ resources, including videos of historic organs that John selected for us: 

Gwendolyn Toth plays Scheidemann on the 1457 organ at Rysum
Visit to the oldest organ in Holland, Oosthuizen, 1521
Considered the oldest organ in the world, Sion Switzerland, 1390. This one is especially charming because Guy Bovet playing the music of Haydn (1730-1809). The organ is nearly 400 years older than the music.

Vox Humana, a web magazine of current organ research/trends



Nov 13, 2019

This month, we hear from Dr. Tanya Kevorkian, Associate Professor of History at Millersville University. She joins us to discuss her research into sacred and secular musical life in Baroque Germany and helps us understand Bach's place in the complex social hierarchies that ordered early modern Germany. Our wide-ranging conversation covers two of Dr. Kevorkian's books: Baroque Piety: Religion, Society, and Music in Leipzig, 1650-1750 and Weddings, Rumbles, and Tower Guards: Music and Urban Life in Baroque Germanyforthcoming in 2021 from the University of Virginia Press


Sep 30, 2019

Book cover, J.S. Bach in Australia

To kick off our 2019-2020 Notes on Bach season, we hear from Dr. Samantha Owens, Professor of Musicology at Victoria University Wellington. She joins us to discuss a recent collection of essays that she co-edited, J.S. Bach in Australia: Studies in Reception and Performance, available from Lyrebird Press/University of Melbourne in paperback or as an e-book

In the episode, we talk about how European colonists and immigrants spread Bach's music to Australia. We hear about some of the people and institutions who helped create a uniquely Australian Bach culture, along with challenges they faced in mounting performances of Bach's St. Matthew Passion and B Minor Mass in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Dr. Owens also tells us about the current robust early music scene in Australia, including organizations such as the Australian Bach Society and the Orchestra of the Antipodes. If you've never thought much about Bach performance and reception outside of a European geographical context, this episode is for you!

May 1, 2019

In our final episode for Spring 2019, we have a wide-ranging conversation with Dr. Daniel R. Melamed, Professor of Musicology at Indiana University, about his latest book, Listening to Bach: The Mass in B Minor and the Christmas Oratorio

Click here to hear a previous Notes on Bach interview with Dr. Melamed about his book Hearing Bach’s Passions.


Mar 11, 2019

This month we’ll be hearing about Bach’s so-called Calov Bible, a rare surviving example of the composer’s once-robust theological library and, for many scholars, a window into Bach’s life and work. Joining us to discuss the Calov Bible is Dr. Robin Leaver, one of the first scholars to extensively explore Bach’s copy of what is really a three-volume German theological commentary built largely on Martin Luther’s writings. Dr. Leaver is author of numerous books and articles about Bach, theology, and Lutheranism. He is Emeritus Professor at Westminster Choir College and, until recently, Visiting Professor at Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

More Resources:

Click here to read about, or order, the Calov Bible Commentary facsimile published last year.

Read more about Dr. Leaver’s book J.S. Bach and Scripture: Glosses from the Calov Bible Commentary.

For an accessible and recent example of how one noted Bach scholar has used the Calov Bible to interpret aspects of Bach’s biography, read this New York Times article by Michael Marissen.

For more about Dr. Leaver’s background and academic career, check out this 2017 interview.

For more images from the original volumes, visit the webpage of Concordia Seminary, where the Calov Bible has resided since the 1930s. (Image of title page of Bach's Calov Bible Commentary, below, courtesy of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.)

Feb 27, 2019

On this month’s episode, we hear from Dr. Mary Oleskiewicz, Professor of Music at the University of Massachussetts-Boston and prize-winning scholar and flute performer of eighteenth-century music. She joins us to talk about Bach’s musical sons and recent research on them that appears in the new volume of essays she edited, J.S. Bach and His Sons. We also hear about her own essay in the book, a research project that reconstructs data about the keyboard instruments and music rooms in the palaces of Frederick the Great, yielding new perspectives on the Prussian king’s musical relationships with members of the Bach family.

Resources mentioned in the show include the web companion to Dr. Oleskiewicz’s research in the essay collection and her recording of 18th-century flute music at Frederick’s summer palace, Sanssouci. For more about Mary’s recordings and research, visit her website.