When I opened up the newspaper today, I turned to the TGIF section, where I hoped there would be something about my concert this weekend. Indeed, on page 2, there was my picture and the headline, “Veteran organist tackles daunting Bach chorales.”
You know, I didn’t know that story about Bach scaring off the competition when he was heard warming up! At least I didn’t remember the details.
I wanted to find out more information about this and went immediately went to a book in our library, The New Bach Reader: A Life of Johann Sebastian Bach in Letters and Documents,” edited by Hans T. David and Arthur Mendel and revised and enlarged by Christoph Wolff. Here’s what I found:
(Bach) had long been regarded with admiration and wonder, not only by amateurs, but by judges of the art, when, in the year 1717, Mr. [Louis] Marchand, formerly much celebrated in France as a performer on the clavier and organ, came to Dresden, where he performed before the King and obtained such approbation that a large salary was offered him if he would engage in His Majesty’s service… But J.S. Bach had an equally fine and elegant style and at the same time a copiousness of ideas which might perhaps have made Marchand’s head giddy if he had heard it. All this was known to Volumier, at that time Concertmeister in Dresden. He … wished to produce a contest between him and the French artist in order to give his Prince the pleasure of judging of their respective merits by comparing them himself. With the King’s approbation … a message was at once dispatched to J.S. Bach, at Weimar, to invite him to his musical contest… Bach was not discouraged, but wrote him a polite note, formally inviting him to a musical trial of skill; he offered to extemporise upon the spot whatever Marchand should require of him, but requested the same readiness on his part. A large company of both sexes and of high rank assembled in the house of the Marshal, Count Flemming, which was the place appointed for the contest. Bach did not make them wait long for him, but Marchand did not appear. After a long delay, they at last sent to inquire at his lodgings, and the company learned to their great astonishment that Marchand had left Dresden in the morning of that day, without taking leave of anybody.
Tickets are still available for the two concerts, August 18 and 25 at 2:00 pm and may be obtained by clicking this link: www.agohawaii.org. Plan to arrive early as parking is always a challenge in our neighborhood and all indications are that we will have a sell-out crowd.
All proceeds will benefit the scholarship programs of the Hawaii Chapter American Guild of Organists.