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BACH 338

Concert on J. S. Bach’s birthday, 21st March 2023: The story behind the concert poster

BACH 338 — poster J. S. Bach (Elias Gottlob Haussmann, 1746)

Poster of the BACH 338 concert. Design: Máté Lachegyi, 2023
Elias Gottlob Haussmann: Johann Sebastian Bach (1746). Town Hall, Leipzig. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The artwork on the poster shows the schematic shape of the melody of the 13th of J. S. Bach’s 14 Canons (BWV 1087), a six-part triple mirror canon (BWV 1076). The canon appears on the only authentic portrait of Bach, painted by Elias Gottlob Haussmann in 1746, where the composer is holding the manuscript in his hand.

The manuscript on the portrait and the manuscript of the canon BWV 1076

The discovery of the 14 Canons is also an adventurous story. „Bach published few of his works during his lifetime. Among these exceptional pieces is the series of variations known as the »Goldberg« Variations, which he published in 1741 with a Nuremberg publisher. The most valuable of the nineteen surviving copies of the first edition, Bach’s own copy, was discovered in a library in Strasbourg in 1974. The copy contains not only Bach’s own handwritten entries, but also 14 canons handwritten on the inside of the back cover, all of which use the first eight notes of the bass sequence on which the variation series is based. Among them is the six-voice triple mirror canon (the thirteenth), which is also shown in the Hausmann portrait.” (Gergely Fazekas: Bach, the scholar-composer. Exhibition in the Palace of Arts Budapest, 2023)

The 14 Canons (BWV 1087) performed by Rolf Junghanns & Bradford Tracey on two harpsichords:

The 13th canon (BWV 1076) performed by Musica Antiqua Köln:

The 13th canon (BWV 1076) performed on viols by the Fretwork ensemble:

© MMXXIII Consort Zenei Alapítvány