Author: RemeÅ¡, Derek K.
Title: Thoroughbass, Chorale, and Fugue: Teaching the Craft of Composition in J. S. Bach's Circle
Institution: Hochschule fÃ¼r Musik Freiburg (Germany)
Begun: September 2016
Completed: July 2020
The present work investigates the compositional pedagogy of J. S. Bach and his circle. According to Bach, the Fundamental-Regeln (fundamental principles) of composition are derived from thoroughbass and the keyboard. I have discovered that, in an autograph manuscript likely used in his lessons, Bach used the words licentia and fundamental to rationalize a contrapuntal phenomenon known as anticipationes transitus in precisely the same manner as J. D. Heinichen did in his treatise, Der General-Bass in der Composition (1728). Given that Bach knew Heinichenâ€™s treatise and that both men associate thoroughbass with composition, this study posits that Bachâ€™s Fundamental-Regeln are related to Heinichenâ€™s rationalization of modern contrapuntal licenses in relation to a â€œfundamental,â€ stile antico background. Additional support for linking Bach and Heinichen comes from my discovery that the anonymous â€œVorschriften und GrundsÃ¤tzeâ€ (1738), which originates from Bachâ€™s circle, includes the same table of â€œfundamentalâ€ thoroughbass figures as Heinichenâ€™s earlier 1711 treatise. For these reasons, Heinichenâ€™s conception of thoroughbass, which differs significantly from late-eighteenth-century thoroughbass theory, plays a foundational role in this reconstruction of compositional pedagogy in Bachâ€™s circle.
Based on an account by C. P. E. Bach, his fatherâ€™s teaching involved three topic areas: thoroughbass, chorale, and fugue, each of which receives a chapter in this study. Chapter One argues that the primary reason thoroughbass emerged in Germany c.1700 as the dominant pedagogical and compositional method is that thoroughbass promotes an understanding of compositional relationships in a manner that tablature does not. Bach may have attributed such significance to thoroughbass because it enables a single player to control a polyphonic texture in real time through the simplification, synthesis, and embodiment of traditional contrapuntal teachings. Chapter one also explores the two most significant aspects of Heinichenâ€™s thoroughbass theory: what I call â€œcontrapuntal functionâ€ and â€œscale-degree function,â€ which are combined in Heinichenâ€™s method of improvising a prelude. Next, Chapter Two explores the implications of the recent attribution of the Sibley Chorale Book to Bachâ€™s circle and calls for a greater awareness of a generic distinction between chorale harmonization in the ornate, four-part, vocal Choralgesang style and the simpler, thoroughbass- and keyboard-centered Choralgesang style, which is in essence only two-voice (soprano and bass). A growing body of sources from Bachâ€™s circle containing multiple basslines under each chorale supports the hypothesis that Bachâ€™s teaching also included this technique. Finally, Chapter Three begins by examining the relationship between chorale and fugue and by suggesting a possible pedagogical method of transitioning between the two. Next, thoroughbass fugues from Bachâ€™s circle are explored, including two such works that Bach apparently used in lessons. Chapter Three closes with an investigation of the techniques of invertible counterpoint and canon as they relate to Bachâ€™s teaching and presents some of their underlying principles in mathematical form.
Keywords: J. S. Bach, thoroughbass, chorale, fugue, baroque music, historical music theory pedagogy, counterpoint
Introduction: New Images of Bachian Pedagogy
Chapter One: Thoroughbass
-Part One: Thoroughbass and Composition in Seventeenth-Century Germany
-Part Two: Thoroughbass in J. S. Bachâ€™s Day as Presented by J. D. Heinichen
-Part Three: Analyzing J. S. Bachâ€™s Teaching Materials and Music
Chapter Two: Chorale
-Part One: A New Image of the â€œBach Choraleâ€: Choralbuch Realizations with Multiple Basses
-Part Two: A Historical Survey of Chorale Composition Pedagogy
Chapter Three: Fugue
-Part One: From Chorale to Fugue
-Part Two: A Survey of Thoroughbass Fugues in Eighteenth-Century Germany
-Part Three: Invertible Counterpoint and Canon
Epilogue: FleiÃŸ or Genie?