Musical Forces At The Time Of J.S. Bach.
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Joshua Rifkin, Andrew Parrot, John Butt, and Ton Koopman are just some of the names that stand in the forefront of contemporary thinking on the life and music of the enigmatic and illusory Johann Sebastian Bach. One of the most heated polemics discussed among these scholars has been the performance practice of Bach's choral works, of which performance forces (number of players and singers) are the most often disputed. To these authors, and indeed, to the layman for whom the choral works of Bach lie in the periphery, the cantatas, passions, and masses hold the key to understanding not only Bach's compositional style, but also his attitude as musician; ideas which may help elucidate Bach's ideal performing forces. The Bach scholars I mention here, and many others, have argued extensively on the issue of performance forces. The following essay will examine the history of Bach performance musicology, using as its guide documents Bach himself wrote, research into theperformance of early music, the important compositions that provide insight to Bach's orchestra and/or choir, and contemporary thought and aesthetic views pertaining to what musical forces produce an artistically satisfying result.