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"Soli Deo Gloria"

Houssmann portrait of Bach
Portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach
by Elias Gottlob Haussmann
  1. "The immortal god of harmony" --- Ludwig van Beethoven.
  2. "The most stupendous miracle in all music" --- Richard Wagner.
  3. "Study Bach: there you will find everything" --- Johannes Brahms.
  4. "To strip human nature until its divine attributes are made clear, to inform ordinary activities with spiritual fervor, to give wings of eternity to that which is most ephemeral; to make divine things human and human things divine; such is Bach, the greatest and purest moment in music of all time" --- Pablo Casals.
  5. "O you happy sons of the North who have been reared at the bosom of Bach, how I envy you" --- Giuseppe Verdi.
  6. "If one were asked to name one musician who came closest to composing without human flaw, I suppose general consensus would choose Johann Sebastian Bach" --- Aaron Copland.
  7. "If Bach is not in Heaven, I am not going!" --- William F. Buckley.
  8. "I would vote for Bach, all of Bach, streamed out into space. But this would be bragging" --- Biologist Lewis Thomas, on what message to send to an extraterrestrial civilization.
  9. "Bach almost persuades me to be a Christian" --- Roger Fry.
  10. "Bach's music is the only argument proving the creation of the Universe cannot be regarded as a complete failure" --- Emil Cioran.
  11. "Why waste money on psychotherapy when you can listen to the B Minor Mass?" --- Michael Torke.
  12. "There is no greater perfection in music than in Bach!" --- Arnold Schoenberg.
  13. "There's no mathematics without Bach" --- Mathematics Professor at the University of Crete.
  14. "The only human who passed God's exam" --- Same as above.
  15. "Nobody argues with Bach" --- Unknown author in a philosophical discussion on sci.math.

First Principles

There are two kinds of music: The music of Johann Sebastian Bach and everything else. His music will forever be the first and final frontier. It appears tremendously hard for anyone to transcend what Johann Sebastian has created in terms of music nor there seems to be be any higher pleasure than actually listening to and/or playing his music.

Bach's music has a strange property: If you understand it, you automatically understand and can judge all other kinds of music, but the reverse is not true: You may not necessarily understand his music if you understand only a different kind of music. Therefore, one may claim with some certainty that "I understand music" is virtually synonymous to "I understand Bach's music".

The previous implies a sort of transcendent universality which only exists with his music. It is therefore not a coincidence that Bach has been called The Father of All Music and The Immortal God of Harmony.

It appears that Bach was the only human who has ever managed to connect directly to The Source of Everything, whatever this Source was or may be. This man's mind must have been immersed in harmony, 24 hours a day.

The author's love for Bach's music has led him closer to what he considers to be a deep investigation of the Christian faith. This has resulted primarily from the author's desire to interpret correctly Bach's music on the piano.

In the author's opinion one cannot be a true Bach fan, unless one has delved deeply into the internals of the Christian faith.

The author's favorite motto here is Matthew 7:16: "By their fruit ye shall know them" and Matthew 11:29: "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls". Bach's music is rest for weary souls. Joyous soul refreshment. Are you tired? Weary? Disappointed? Feel bad? Feel like nobody cares? Somebody did: The entire musical output of Bach is aimed at helping you. Without fanfares, without boasting, without requiring credit, done in quiet and under severely adverse circumstances, aimed to calm and sooth the weary and tired soul. As such, Bach's fruit directly corresponds to the glorification of Jesus Christ (who in turn, according to Scripture glorified God), so his incredible music certainly conspires tremendously towards not only the validity of Christianity (in an ideal form and (perhaps?) detached from denominations) but also towards the kind of characters it shapes, when applied judiciously. If, for example, this isn't proof for you that Bach was a deeply faithful person, nothing will ever be.

Bach has done so much work in the name of Christ that many people have espoused the Christian faith simply being in awe of his work. It is no accident he has been called "The 14-th disciple". This has a double meaning as with many things Bach: First, the number 14 was a sort of a signature for Bach himself, which he often used encoded in his music: given A = 1, B = 2, C = 3, etc., then B + A + C + H = 14. Second, if one considers him as a true disciple, he is indeed the 14-th one, after the apostles voted and elected a new disciple (the 13-th: Matthias) to replace Judas Iscariot (one of the 12): Acts 1:26: "Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.".

Some Favorite Bach Works

The last five works are in the author's opinion the epitome and apotheosis of all human creation. If this author was in charge of the Arecibo Observatory, he (agreeing with biologist Lewis Thomas) would instruct the astronomers of the observatory to transmit all of Bach's works continuously, in a cycle, into all directions in outer space, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, every year, as long as humanity is alive. Such an act is a virtual guarantee that whoever's out there, will finally recognize us as somewhat civilized and might spare us when hard times come by.

  1. Adagio from Sonata No 5, BWV 1018. (YouTube)
  2. Prelude for (originally) Lute, BWV 999 (subsequently put in the collection of Little Preludes & Fugues).
  3. Prelude #3 (BWV 872) from the WTC book II.
  4. Prelude #10 (BWV 855) from the WTC book I.
  5. Passacaglia in Cm (BWV 582). (YouTube)
  6. Chaconne from Partita No. 2 for Solo Violin in Dm. (YouTube)
  7. Prelude & Fugue in a-moll (BWV 543). (YouTube)
  8. Prelude & Fugue in Bm (BWV 544). (YouTube)
  9. (Little) Fugue in Gm (BWV 578). (YouTube)
  10. Mass in B Minor (BWV 232). (YouTube)
  11. Saint Matthew Passion (BWV 244). (YouTube)
  12. Saint John Passion (BWV 245). (YouTube)
  13. A Musical Offering (BWV 1079). (YouTube)
  14. The Art of Fugue (BWV 1080). (YouTube)

Preferred Performances on the Piano

There were monumental fights in the corresponding Bach news group relating to whether Bach should be played on a piano or on a harpsichord. In the author's opinion the piano allows for greater depth, perhaps such as the depth that the composer himself intended but was unable to witness, until the development of the later pianos. When the author was a teenager in 1982, the author's father told him about Glenn Gould. After listening to Gould for many years, in the author's opinion, Gould essentially proved that Bach can be played on the piano in an extraordinary way and settled the issue of interpreting Bach's music on any keyboard instrument. His recordings of concertos BWV 1052-1056, 1058 and his 1981 recording of the Goldberg variations practically put a lid on the issue of playing Bach on the piano, with most modern pianists who have Bach recordings always being compared to him. The listener will immediately recognize Gould's genius when he listens for example to his perfect rendition of Bach's Fugue 23 in B major BWV 892, from the Well Tempered Clavier, book II. However, the author disagrees with several of his interpretations. Here's the author's opinion on his Well Tempered Clavier Book I and Book II. Note that although this author disagrees with some of Gould's interpretations on the piano as per the above examples of WTC I and WTC II, the author's opinion on Gould remains unaltered as far as Gould being the absolute and final authority on Bach's interpretation on the piano. This opinion is of course not an accident and has been supported universally, since one of Gould's recordings is one of the entries in the Voyager Record.

Preferred Performances on the Harpsichord

The author's favorite performances of Bach's music on harpsichord are by Isolde Ahlgrimm, who used an Ahmer pedal instrument with two claviers. These are on LP's bought by the author's father. The author is not aware if Philips has re-issued her recordings on CD's. If you find any of her Bach recordings online, buy them without hesitation!

Isolde, an Austrian harpsichordist, has been labelled "widow Bach" by many German and Austrian newspapers, prior to her death in 1992. Whenever she gave public performances, the crowd went absolutely nuts.

Her performances have been termed "historic", both with respect to style and with respect to value. The author has recorded some pieces from his LP recordings of her, below, so you can judge yourself (all recordings are 8-bit 22kHz mono, so the quality is low).

  1. Prelude and Fugue #5 from Well-Tempered Clavier, book I (1.3 MB/1.8 MB .mp3).
  2. Prelude and Fugue #2 from Well-Tempered Clavier, book II (3.7 MB .mp3).
  3. Prelude and Fugue #16 from Well-Tempered Clavier, book II (5.3 MB .mp3).
  4. Fugue #22 from Well-Tempered Clavier, book II (4.3 MB .mp3).
  5. Prelude and Presto (excerpt) from English Suite #6 for keyboard (3.8 MB .mp3).
  6. Gavotte I and II from English Suite #6 for keyboard (2.8 MB .mp3).
  7. Gigue from English Suite #6 for keyboard (2 MB .mp3).
  8. Prelude from Partita #1 for keyboard (3.9 MB .mp3).
  9. Allemande from Partita #1 for keyboard (2.5 MB .mp3).
  10. Courante from Partita #1 for keyboard (1.5 MB .mp3).

Preferred Performances on Lute-Harpsichord

The author's favorite performances of Bach's music on the Lute-Harpsichord are by Gergely Sárközy, who uses an instrument of his own making.

Hungarian Gergely Sárközy is a master of several instruments and an amateur instrument maker. His main instruments are harpsichord, organ, cello, viola da gamba, rebec, various types of lute, koboz, classical and flamenco guitar, psaltery, bagpipe, gemshorn, Jew's harp, xylophone and other percussion instruments. The following recordings are taken from his Hungaroton HCD 12461-2 Lute-harpsichord CD recording:

  1. Prelude-Presto from Lute Suite No. 1 (3.66 MB .mp3). (Entire Suite on YouTube).
  2. Bourree from Lute Suite No. 1 (2.51 MB .mp3).

Preferred Performances on Guitar

The author's favorite performances of Bach's music on guitar are by Dakko Petrinjak, John Williams, David Russel, Gergely Sárközy and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet.

  1. Prelude-Presto from Lute Suite No. 3 (Dakko Petrinjak, 9 MB .mp3).
  2. Chaconne from Partita No. 2 (Gergely Sárközy on YouTube, pt.I).
  3. Fugue For Organ in G Minor ("Little"), BWV 578 (Transcription for Four Guitars on YouTube).

Preferred Computer Performances

Lately the machine aided by judicious editing and musical talent has proved to be superior to even Gould. John Lewis Grant using Giga-Studio has rendered Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier in a way which the author finds totally fascinating.

Performances By the Author

Here is the author performing[1]:

  1. The beginning of Beethoven's Waldstein sonata (2.7 MB .mp3).
  2. Bach's little Prelude No. 6, from the collection of Little Preludes & Fugues (805 KB .mp3).
  3. Bach's lute Prelude BWV 999, from the same collection (930 KB .mp3).
  4. Bach's Prelude & Fugue No. II, from the Well-Tempered Clavier, book II (2.5 MB .mp3).
  5. For comparison, here (3.6 MB .mp3) is the above Prelude & Fugue No. II, arranged and sequenced on the author's computer[2].

The Philosophy of the Bachian Fugue

The Bachian fugue is the apotheosis of communication. It communicates perfectly to the listener the existence of perfect order, therefore it is virtual proof that The Supreme Creator exists and has allowed the composer of the Bachian fugue to be a vehicle for His message. Hence, composers who desire to write fugues in the style of Bach have an additional responsibility towards the listener. In the words of Bach himself: "The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.".

In order to create a good Bachian fugue, a composer has to master ideal interval relationships between notes, which is something that depends heavily upon mastering ideal numerical ratios, in addition to mastering correct musical aesthetics. Many modern composers have a fundamental lack of these.

There is no guarantee that intensive studies in musical theory or harmony will make one a good Bachian fugue composer. Fugue Composition and Counterpoint are usually the last university courses prospective student-composers have to take after they master the fundamentals of harmony. Creating a good Bachian fugue is probably the most demanding and difficult task in this world. Accordingly, Bachian fugue composers are likely the best composers in the world. Witness such fugues by the great composers, such as Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Vivaldi, Scarlatti, etc.[4].

Bach-like Compositions

Here are some compositions in the style of Bach by the author:

  1. Fugue BWV 999 (piano/guitar/harpsichord)[2][3] (1.3 MB .mp3).
  2. Fugue BWV 999 (church organ)[2]. Same as above but with all 3 voices set to church organ.
  3. Prelude Opus 1[2] (999 KB .mp3).
  4. Four Voice Fugue Opus 1 (orchestrated)[2] (1.9 MB .mp3). Score pdf link.
  5. Four Voice Fugue Opus 1 (church organ)[2]. Same as above but with all 4 voices set to church organ.
  6. Soli Deo Gloria Fugue Opus 6[2] (2.3 MB .mp3). Score pdf link.
  7. "Joke" Fugue Opus 7[2] (2.7 MB .mp3). Score pdf link

Other Compositions

Here are some compositions not in the style of Bach by the author:

  1. Source Unknown Opus 4[2] (QTMI 4.1.2, MacOS 8, 1.2 MB .mp3).
  2. Source Unknown Opus 4[2] (QTMI 7.6.6, Win, 1.2 MB .mp3).
  3. Echoes from the Deep Opus 5[2] (QTMI 4.1.2, MacOS 8, 1.1 MB .mp3).
  4. Echoes from the Deep Opus 5[2] (QTMI 7.6.6, Win, 1.1 MB .mp3).
  5. Passacaglia I on Source Unknown Opus 8a[2] (QTMI 7.6.6, Win, 11.3 MB .mp3).
  6. Passacaglia II on Source Unknown Opus 8b[2] (QTMI 7.6.6, Win, 11.3 MB .mp3).

Bach's Skull

Here's Bach's skull, superimposed on the famous Kanth sketch which appears on some of Isolde Ahlgrimm's recordings on LPs. Isolde Ahlgrimm had submitted a similar photo at the time of those recordings, which is contained in her WTC II album and from the notes contained therein, the author quotes: "We submitted this photo to prof. J. Weninger, Head of the Institute of Anthropology at the Vienna University, who issued the following expert opinion: 'It must be admitted that in this case the contours of the skull fit so well into the silhouette of the head that a respective relation is absolutely conceivable'."

Bach's skull


  1. Can you name the composer of this fugue? (2.8 MB .mp3)?
  2. Which composition of Bach does it remind you of?


  1. A Mathematical Analysis of Fugue #4 from Well-Tempered Clavier's Book I. For classic analyses of fugues, consult the .pdf scores of Bach-like Compositions, above.
  2. Bach was an avid Tobacco Smoker.
  3. More music executables, at Sound Cloud.


  1. The recordings except the last one from the author's sequencer are low quality 8 bits, at 22kHz and mono, since they had to be ported into the author's computer through a rather small microphone. The Waldstein excerpt sounds a bit better, as it was recorded professionally when the author was an undergraduate at U of I, during his quarter piano exams in 1988, at the music department's auditorium. No editing has been done on any of these, except to normalize the volume a bit.
  2. Created with Virtual Composer.
  3. Entry for a fugue competition by pianist Tjako van Schie, based on Lute Prelude BWV 999.
  4. Although Glenn Gould for example is known mostly as a pianist, he was also a composer. It is not accidental he interpreted Bach's contrapuntal works so well. He also wrote two major works which are indicative of his composing genius:
    1. So, You Want To Write a Fugue? (YouTube).
    2. String Quartet, Opus 1 (YouTube).
    The first work is a super-complex human-voice fugue with many themes, on one level taking advantage of some of the standard tricks of the trade in a baroque contrapuntal composition outlining in a joking and humorous way the extreme complexity and difficulty of a good Bachian fugue and on another level giving a useful recipe to prospective fugue composers. The second work is a wonderful semi-modern and slightly atonal quartet, where his "darker" non-Bachian side can be seen.


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