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Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of J.S.Bach Hardcover – 1 Jul 1992


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 460 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (1 July 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520058569
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520058569
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 18.4 x 26.7 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,667,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Eric Chafe is Associate Professor of Music at Brandeis University and author of "Monteverdi's Tonal Language" (Schirmer 1991).

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Amazon.com: 3 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
An excellent specialized study of key and affection 4 Nov 1998
By McIrvine@IX.Netcom.Com - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a scholarly study that will appeal to Bach scholars and choral conductors who are interested in the tonal underpinnings of Bach's vocal music and the world of affection as a rational statement of emotion. (This sounds like an oxymoron, but Bach's vocal music does reconcile faith and reason, and Chafe's intriguing study supports this view of Bach's music.) This book is most noteworthy for its discussion of anabasis (ascent toward sharp keys) and catabasis (its opposite, descent to flat keys) and the emotional-rhetorical meaning of this. It is well-written, very detailed, and makes a compelling case for re-thinking Bach's use of key structure. This book has limited appeal --- mostly to musicologists and theorists --- but is an excellent study for those so inclined. I consider it to be one of the best discussions of musical-rhetorical structure in Bach.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Making clear Bach didn't write beautiful music to silly text 24 Nov 1999
By sybrandb - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the most popular books in the Netherlands about the St. Matthew Passion is called 'His Lightning, his Thunder', written by Martin van Amerongen. His basic line of thought is : forget about the texts, they're silly, weird and unimportant. This book proves the contrary is true. It makes you understand what the texts are saying, it makes you understand the religious ideas of Bach's time and it makes you understand why Bach wrote his works the way he did. Doing so, the book fills a missing link, as usual writings concentrate on the music only and the comments are usually superficial.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Interesting, but not without major problems 8 July 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Bach scholarship has mostly been positivistic: Chafe's attmept here is to approach the music with a greater critical stance through a submersion in the contrasts between the concepts surrounding keys and tonality and those which are applicable to lutheran dogmatic principles. Chafe bases his thesis, which is essentially that the tonal processes of the bach's sacred vocal music work in conjunction with the text, and, as such, form a highly important part of Bach's musical-religious exegesis.
Interesting, and plausible though this may seem, there is really very little evidence provided into which Chafe can mould his ideas:he finds consolation in the writings of Johann Kunhau who, he claims, endorses a hermeneutic approach, thus seemingly giving the go ahead to chafe's theory. It is not suprising that nowhere in the book does Chafe actually quote at length from Kuhnau, and this rightly sets the alarm bells ringing. The fact is that Kuhnau is not talking about the kind of hermeneutic's that chafe suggests - Kuhnau is concerned with linguistic and semantic musical adoptions (i.e. musical-rhetorical device), which is of course a world away from large scale tonal symbolism.
If Chafe's evidence is virtually nonexistant, then his interpretations are also misleading. Whilst, from time to time, his readings are convincing, there are others during which his reasoning borders on the asinine. He suggests that, in one cantata, the relative attributes of sharps and flats (and their related tonal procedural progressions - anabasis and catabasis) and reversed - i.e. instead of anabasis = positive, and catabasis = negative, the antithesis is true. The reversal is supposed to take place not uniformally across an entire piece, but rather between the arias and the recits across the whole work. Such tortuous logical patternings force his interpretations, and do little for their credibility, especially given the paucity of therotical documentation.
It is a bold attempt, but before such drawn out and complex interpretations should be attempted a greater effort should have been made to secure the facts that we actually have: what a pity.
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