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J.S. Bach: Kantor

July 28, 2011

I have read many fine posts celebrating the life of J.S. Bach today, and I thoroughly enjoyed them.  I will not even attempt to be more eloquent than those I’ve read, so I will offer one of my favorite stories about Bach, an account of Bach in a brawl, which is quite entertaining.  (This comes from The Bach Reader edited by Hans. T. David and Arthur Mendel.

Bach in a Brawl

On August 5, 1705, Bach appeared before the Consistory to complain about the student Geyersbach.  The latter, as Bach was crossing the market place on his way home from the Castle with his cousin Barbara Catharina, daughter of Johann Christoph Bach, Court and Town Musician in Arnstadt, had been sitting on the “Long Stone” with five other students, and had suddenly set upon him with a stick, calling him to account for having made abusive remarks about him, and no one could prove that he had, seeing that he had been going his way perfectly quietly.  But Geyersbach had replied that if Bach had not abused him, he had once abused his bassoon, and whoever abused his things abused him; Bach was a dirty dog (Hundsfott); and with this he had at once struck out at him.  Bach, for his part, had thereupon drawn his sword, whereupon Geyersbach had fallen into his arms, and the two of them had tumbled about until the other students had thrown themselves between them.

On August 29, at a further hearing, it developed that Bach had indeed called Geyersbach a nanny-goat bassoonist (Zippelfagottist), and it was indicated to him that he might well have refrained from this, especially as he already had the reputation of not getting along with the students, and of claiming that he was engaging only for the simple chorale music, and not for concerted pieces, which was wrong, for he must help out in all music-making.  Bach answered that he would not refuse if only there were a Director musices, whereupon he was told that man must live among imperfecta, that he must get along with the students, and that they must not make each other’s lives miserable.

I especially love that Bach carried a sword, which is something more church musicians should consider.

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