The most efficacious means of preserving in lasting vigor musical works of art is undoubtedly the public execution of them before a numerous audience: by these means a number of great works always has been, and still continues to be, extensively circulated. The public hears them first with pleasure in the concert room, the church, or the theater, remembers the pleasing impression, and purchases them on publication, perhaps without being able to make any use of them. But where, through whom, shall the public hear Bach's works, as the number of persons capable of performing them in a proper manner has always been so extremely limited? The case would have been different if Bach could have publicly executed them himself in several places; but for this he had neither the time nor inclination. Whenever one of his scholars did it, though none of them executed them in the same perfection as their master, the astonishment and admoration of the auditors never failed to be excited by such extraordinary effusions of an art so great and yet so easily to be comprehended. Whoever was at all able then played at least one or some of the pieces over which the scholar of Bach had the most command and which consequently gave the most pleasure. Nobody found these pieces difficult, because they had heard before how they ought to sound.

     Before a true relish of great musical compositions can become more general, we must, above all things, have better music masters. The want of good teachers is properly the source of all musical evil. In order to maintain his own credit, the unskillful and himself ill-informed teacher must necessarily give his pupils a bad opinion of good works, because he might otherwise run the risk of being asked by his scholar to play them to him. Thus the pupil is obliged to spend his time, labor, and money on useless jingle and in half a dozen years is perhaps not a step farther advanced in real musical knowledge than he was at the beginning. With better instruction, he would not have wanted half the time, trouble, and money to be put into a way in which he might have safely advanced progressively to greater perfection all his life. Time will show us how much this evil may be checked by the exposing of the works of Bach to sale in all music shops, at least, and by the connoisseurs and the admirers of real musical genius joining to extol their merit and to recommend the study of them.

     It is certain that if the art is to remain an art and not to be degraded into a mere idle amusement, more use must be made of classical works than has been done for some time past. Bach, as the first classic that ever was, or perhaps ever will be, can incontestably perform the most important services in this respect. A person who has for some time studied his works will readily distinguish mere jingle from real music and will show himself a good and well-informed artist in whatever style he may choose in the sequel. The study of classics who, like Bach, have exhausted the whole extent of the art is besides eminantly calculated to preserve us from that partial knowledge to which the prevailing taste of the day so easily leads. In a word, it would be no less injurious to musical science to throw aside the classics in our art than it would be prejudicial to good taste in literature to banish the study of the Greeks and Romans from our schools. The spirit of the times, which is directed rather to triffles capable of affording immediate though fleeting enjoyment than to what is great and cannot be attained without some pains and even efforts, has, in some places, really led to a proposal, at least, to banish the Greeks and Romans from our schools, and there can be no doubt but it would be glad to get rid of our musical classics also; for, if we view the matter in its true light, this frivolous spirit must be heartily ashamed of its great poverty, compared with them, and most of all with our Bach, who is rich to almost excess. ( Johann Nicolaus Forkel; "On Johann Sebastian Bach's Life, Genius, and Works" trans. by A. C. F. Kollmann)
Bach reminds us that Chaos is not the final master of the universe, nor its creator.
Paul Farseth 65



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