Bach is, arguably, considered the greatest of all composers, especially among musicians and those who understand how music is created. Why is he counted among the greatest of all human geniuses, above many of the other most highly regarded composers? Unlike most he did not develop a radical new style, he was not “avant-garde.” What Bach did, without breaking any molds, was raise the bar for all composers far beyond the level of sophistication, intellect and profundity any music—perhaps any art—had achieved before him. In the 21st century it is still Bach that is the standard composers must look to for guidance in the search for perfection. In this course we will look at the fundamentals of musical art as Bach received them, greatly expanded them, and handed them on for all future generations. From his teenage years to the end of his life he tirelessly and methodically took on each of the facets of musical art: keyboard, instrumental, orchestral, choral and the large sacred forms, and achieved an entirely new plane of excellence in each. While the material in this course will take two terms (fall and winter), it is not required that students register for both. Some prior knowledge of basic musical forms and theory is highly desirable, but not essential.
Richard Knisely hosted Classical Performances and several other programs
on WGBH radio for 25 years, bringing a casual enthusiasm for great music to many thousands of people in New England and beyond.