London Festival Orchestra

LFO_Cornucopia LFO-black Copy (2) of Studio 1b


The Warehouse

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Johann Sebastian Bach

Musical Offering BWV 1079

In the spring of 1747 Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) travelled to Berlin with his eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-1784), with the intention of visiting his second son, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788), who was engaged as court harpsichordist at the court of Friedrich II in Potsdam.  The Berlinische Nachrichten (Berlin News) of 11th May, 1747 reports the following visit, wich is supposed to have taken place at the wish of the muci-loving King:


    "We have heard from Potsdam that last Sunday (7th May) the famous Kapellmeister from Leipzig, Herr Bach, arrived in the town with the intention of taking pleasure in the excellent Royal Music.  That evening at the time when usual chamber music is want to be performed in the royal apartements, His Majesty was told of the arrival of Kapellmeister Bach in Potsdam (...and the King) ordered immediately that Bach whould be invited to court.  On his entry the King went to the 'Forto and Piano' (the newly invented Hammerklavier) and without any preparation or forewarning played Kapellmeister Bach a theme which the latter was subsequently supposed to extend into a fuue (...)  Herr Bach consedered the theme given to him of such beauty that he intends to commit it to paper with a good fugue and to have this engraved on copperplate."


A further witness to the history behind this work is in Bach's preface to the original signed copy of the Musical Offering: "I hereby dedicate with deepest subserviance a Musical Offering to Your Majesty, the most beautiful and elegant part of which work stems from your own noble hand. With the greatest reverence and pleasure I may remember the special Royal favour a short while ago when during my visit in Potsdam Your Majesty designed to pay for me the theme to a fugue on the piano and nobly instructed me to perform this fugue in your royal presence. However I noticed all too soon that due to lack of necessary preparation the performance did not meet the expectations of such an excellent theme. I therefore made the decision to assert myself, to draw on the full potential of this right royal theme and to present it to the world. This intention I have here carried out to the best of my ability (...)"


These quotes show that the young Prissoan king, who had devoted himself wholly to the modern style of Graun and Hasse desired to hear the great master of couterpoint and improvisation and more importantly to challenge hi with a quite unsuitable fugal theme. Bach was well aware of this situation asn on his return to Leipzig did not limit himself to developing the improvised fugue (Ricercar a 3) but composed a string of fugues, canons and contrapuntal miniatures, all of which referred in some way to the eight-bar long and extremely catchy thema regium. The dedicated copy contains the Ricercar a 3, the Canon perpetuus super thema regium, the five Canones diversi and the Fuga Canonica. Five further pieces were written at a later date. Bach's intended order for the thirteen pieces cannot be found in the many sections of the original printed copy, furthermore it is not clear whether Bach ever meant the whole cycle to be performed in one sitting.  


                                                                                               Petra Hinterholzer-Leinhofer

                                                                                               Translation: Sarah Wilson





London Festival Orchestra

Ross Pople, conductor


ARTE NOVA musikproduktions GmbH

Distributed by BMG A Bertelsmann Music Group Company

Producer: Wulf Weinmann

Recorded at The Warehouse, London (1995)



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J S Bach Musical Offering


01 Canon 1 a 2 cancrizans

02 Canon 2 a 2 violini in unisono

03 Canon 3 a 2 per motum contrarium

04 Canon 4 a 2 augmentationem,         contrario motu

05  Canon 5 a 2 per tonos

06  Canon 6 Fuga canonica in Epidiapente



08 Largo

09 Allegro

10 Andante

11 Allegro



12 Canon 7 Perpetuus Super Thema Regium

13 Canon 8 Perpetuus

14 Canon 9 a 2

15 Canon 10 a 4

16 Ricercar a 6