History[ edit ] The compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach that had been printed during his lifetime were nearly exclusively instrumental works. The most complete 18th century publication of chorales by J. About half of the chorale harmonisations in this collection have their origin in other extant works by Bach. This collection went through four more editions and countless reprintings until
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Bach composed a total of over chorales, which come from two sources, the C. Even though later composers did not always write strictly in four voices as Bach did in his chorales, they nevertheless relied on the voice-leading rules set forth by Bach. Bach chorales are not piano music per se, but rather vocal music for a choir consisting of four voices: soprano, alto, tenor, bass SATB. A pianist who can play and sight-read Bach chorales in a musical and artistic fashion is far better prepared for the real-world of classical piano than the pianist who plays predominantly flashy and virtuosic 19th-century etudes.
Schirmer, Inc. The most available and popular is the Harmonized Chorales, which virtually every music theory student possesses nowadays. The advantage of this edition is that you get chorales for a very low price. The second book listed, by H. In addition to these two comprehensive editions, Peter J.
Billam has transcribed 40 chorales into legible piano notation minus fingerings, which are available for free: 40 Bach Chorales. Aside from size of manuscript, the main difference in text between the Riemenschneider and Button editions are ties. The Harmonized Chorales usually includes ties when a note repeats whereas in the Chorales Harmonised by Johann Sebastian Bach the ties are usually omitted. To investigate this discrepancy further, one would have to consult C. I have not looked into the BG Edition yet, but plan to do so in due course as my Bach chorale research progresses.
Virtually all piano methods neglect the teaching of this technique, in which all the great masters even after Bach Mozart, Beethoven, etc. The most beneficial technique a piano student can learn is that of being able to read and play fluently with four voices.
Learn the two-voice version hands separately with emphasis given to attaining a smooth, legato touch with the fingering provided. No pedal is necessary in this step. Learn the two-voice version hands together with the same care given to step 2.
It is recommended that beginning to intermediate level students refrain from using pedal in this step; however, advanced pianists are permitted to use the pedal sparingly if done tastefully and artistically.
Learn the four-voice version hands separately with careful attention given to fingering. Pay close attention to which notes should connect usually changing notes or not connect usually repeated notes and changing notes in which the thumb is repeated.
Learn the four-voice version hands together with careful attention given to the fingering and with no pedal. Always strive for a smooth "singing" cantabile tone and never just "play the notes. Fermata cadence points almost always call for a little slowing down or ritardando, not too little and not too much, but just the right amount in the right proportion. Advanced pianists are welcome to use the damper pedal in chorales, although less advanced students should use the pedal sparingly or not at all.
Bach chorales are the perfect style in which to learn the fine points of proper piano pedaling, which Rubinstein referred to as "the soul of the piano.
Harmonic Analysis of J.S. Bach’s Chorales
Bach Chorales 1-100
371 Harmonized Chorales and 69 Chorale Melodies with Figured Bass