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When I was asked to make a comment for the Well Tempered Clavier by my great friend Johann Sebastian Bach, I thought that I was supposed to be in charge of 'the Fifteenth Prelude and Fugue'. It is on G major. I am addicted to G major because 'the Aria and 30 Variations', which J. S. Bach presented to me, is on G major. I love them so much. By the way 'the Fifteenth Prelude and Fugue' of the Well Tempered Clavier is not said to be the better one. Mr. Altonichol has been compiling the Second Volume of the Well Tempered Clavier. And the Fifteenth of the new volume is simply beautiful. Can you hear it? Why doesn't he propose the replacement of the Fifteenth.
It was 13 years ago in the year 1731 when I visited Dantzih and for the first time I met Mr. Georg Erdmann there. Dantzih or Danzig is called by the Polish as Gdansk, pronounced like "Gdanisk". The City of Danzig is located at the mouth of the Vistula River on the Baltic Sea and has ports and shipyards. It was then granted local autonomy and prosperous beautifully as the largest of any eastern European city. There Mr. Georg Erdmann was working as a diplomatic agent or a commissioner of the Embassy of the Emperor of Russia in Danzig. Mr. Erdmann was 48 years old and I was 34. I was 14 years yonger than him, but I was Russian Envoy to Berlin, so he remained reserved at first. In course of courteous conversation at a night party for the diplomatic corps, he happened to talk to me about his old friend, Johann Sebastian Bach. I already heard of Bach's reputation as the Director of Music and Cantor at the Thomas-Schule in Leipzig. Mr. Erdmann and I were similarly disposed toword music. Even after the party two of us talked a lot about various matters and especially on music.|
Mr. Georg Erdmann said,
"On 15 March 1700, I remember this as well as if it had happened yesterday, Bach, only just fifteen, and I, two years older than him, left our hometown, Ohrdruf, and went 290 km north to Lüneberg to study at the Latin School. There we paid our tuition and living expenses by ourselves by singing in the matin choir of St. Michael's choir and church. Actually Johann Sebastian was an orphan. And in my case, I wanted to be a lawyer in spite of my father's strong opposition. We had to earn our living. Our good boysoprano voices helped us to live. Anyway it was a great learning period in my friend's musical career. The school had an impressive musical library where there were over 1000 important music manuscripts and prints of the works of about 200 of Germany's greatest composers. Johann Sebastian seemed happy with them. He was fond of reading and copying scores. And I knew that he was a splendid keyboard performer even when he was only 15. So he had an oppotunity to take special lessons from the famous organist, Georg Böhm. He also tought Johann Sebastian the French musical tradition. We soon lost our soprano voices, but he was able to work and earn as a violinist in the orchestra and as a harpsichord accompanist during choir rehearsals. And my father at last consented to my wish to be a lawyer and thankfully began to support my expense in Lüneberg."
Mr. Georg Erdmann continued,
"Of course we studied Latin, Rhetoric and other subjects seriously. He always ranked almost the highest in our school. I did my best, too. We completed the Latin school when he was 18 and I was 20. After graduation we parted at Lüneberg and headed for our respective destinations. I went to college to study Jurisprudence and Politics. And Johann Sebastian went Weimar to work but shortly after he found a post as organist at Arnstadt. More than 10 years after I visited Weimar in 1714 on business and saw his family. At that time he was 28 years old and he had changed his post to an active member of the chamber orchestra and Organist to the Court of Weimar. But I'm sorry I have never had a chance to see him since then. Rumor has it that Johann Sebastian plays an active part in the world of music. Also I corespond with him one time or another. The recent letter from him was one I recieved last year, in 1730. In that letter Johann Sebastian wrote about his domestic situation,'I am married for the second time, my late wife having died in Cöthen. From the first marriage I have three sons and one daughter living, whom you will graciously remember having seen in Weimar. From the second marriage I have one son and two daughters living. My eldest son is a Studiosus Juris, and of the other two from the first marriage, one is in the prima class, the last class of school and the other in the secunda, and the eldest daughter is also still unmarried. The children of my second marriage are still small, the eldest, a boy, being six years old. But they are all born musicians, and I can assure you that I can already form an ensemble both vocaliter and intrumentaliter within my family, particularly since my present wife sings a good clear soprano, and my eldest daughter, too, joins in not badly.'I can imagine how they are enjoying thier family life."
Mr. Georg Erdmann added,
"Well, I just purchased a new score book published by J.S.Bach titled 'Clavierübung I' which contains 6 Partitas. Three months ago I ordered it for friendship's sake. I thought it very interesting and beautiful. My clavier performing ability was not well enough for this work. There was a young organist in Marienkiiche or St Mary's Church of Danzig whose father was from Ohrdruf. So I met this young with his father man in our hometown party at the nearest restaurant from the Danzig City Hall. He said that he would de delighted to play it at a music gathering I planned to held in my residence. The music was marvelous and had a good reputation which led me to give free concerts at my favorite coffee shop two times until now. Among the audience of the latest concert there were Mr. and Mrs. Goldberg with a small boy from Königsberg. They said that this music was amaging and that thier son was only 4 years old but glad to listen to it. He just started to play with clavichord at home. Mr. Goldberg said that his son might be a genius and added, 'I am like a doting father'.
Mr. Georg Erdmann was worried while saying,
Königsberg and Seven Bridges Königsberg is a next city from Danzig. It is also beautiful and prosperous like here. But it is worldly famous for the Königsberg Bridges Problem, which means 'The river Pregel divides the city into four separate landareas. Seven bridges connect them. People in Königsberg love to take walks along the river and the island for some time, and it has became a Sunday tradition to take the walk of seven bridges. Many of them wondered if it were possible to take a journy across all seven bridges without having to cross any bridge more than once. The elderly say, 'We could do that easily, but then there were only six bridges.' Now many people want to find the solution. So they walk in town over and over and they don't have time to listen to music.' Mr. Goldberg said, 'People there are addicted to this kind of problem or Philosophical matters. I wish my son could live with music like in Danzig.' Later I made a handcopy of the easier peaces from Clavierübung 1, and presented it to this kid named Johann Gottlieb Theophilus Goldberg."
"Your Excellency Mr. Count, would you please do me a little favor? My friend Johann Sebastian Bach wrote to me in the same letter,'....The authorities of Leipzig are odd and little interested in music, so that I must live amid almost continual vexation, envy, and persecution; accordingly I shall be forced, with God's help, to seek my fortune elsewhere. Should Your Honor know or find a suitable post in your city for an old and faithful servant, I beg you most humbly to put in a most gracious word of recommendation for me.'He seemed to have been in trouble. I'm afraid I am much overrated. I don't know what to do for him. Johann Sebastian complained that the Princess, the bride of the gracious Prince of Cöthen, had seemed to be pleasurable or an amusante and the Prince got absorbed in being with her day and night. This marriage made the Prince overjoyed. Their wedding celebration continued a full five weeks. Johann Sebastian composed two of new cantatas for the celebration party. These things forced, not directly however, Johann Sebastian and his family leave for Leipzig. Without her presence, he would have spent the rest of his life in Cöthen."
In the evening of next week Mr. Georg Erdmann prepared a small concert at the Ambassador's residence in Danzig. The young organist in St Mary's Church played 'Clavierübung I' or 6 Partitas composed by J. S. Bach. The Ambassador and his wife invited honored guests and they were all very glad to listen to the music. Of course the Ambassador invited me to this concert at Mr. Georg Erdmann's discretion. I fell in love with Bach's music. Then I thought I should become acquainted with him.
Six years later, early in 1737, I had another chance to visit Danzig in business from Dresden, because I was discharging my duties as the Russian Ambassador to Dresden from 1733. I was informed beforehand that Mr. Georg Erdmann had passed away the year before. I felt sorry that I could not talk with him about music especially about J. S. Bach. That time, to take the boy Goldberg to Dresden was my assignment. Because Dresden was a center of contemporary music activities. The boy grew up to 10 years old and was amazingly talented in music at the school of St Mary's Church of Danzig by the support of the late Mr. Georg Erdmann. But the poor boy had lost his father and he should live by himself.
|According to Mr. Erdmann's last wishes I desided to take care of the boy by making him one of my attendants in my residence in Dresden. The boy was lively and intelligent. On the way to Dresden he said, "I have been lonely but I am all right now. By the way, my Lord, do you know the Königsberg Bridges Problem which was very famous because many people tried and failed to solve it? But Leonhard Euler, the Swiss mathematician and physicist, visited Königsberg and solved it magically in 1735. Euler solved the problem by showing why a one-pass-route could not be found. That's really something. It is not only a new and profound mathematical concept but also easy to understand even for me. The name of city Königsberg will be immortal in the history of mathematics. I appreciate Euler's achievement and feel sorry that he lost the sight of one eye two years ago because of his hard work like his excessive obsevation of the Sun. So for my part I will do my best to be helpful to my Lord and be a good musician."|
Shortly after we arrived at Dresden, I arranged an opportunity for the boy to learn from Wilhelm Friedemann Bach 27 years old, the eldest child of J.S.Bach, who was the organist in Dresden from 1733, the same year when I settled in Dresden.
I assisted Bach to get the title of the Court Composer. Even more I arranged successfully a royal meeting of Bach with King Friedrich.
The boy, Goldberg, sometimes gave me a new piece of information about mathematics, saying, "My Lord, do you remember Prof. Euler? Yes, he solved my town's problem. This time he adopted the symbol π pronouced pai, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its radius in 1737, yes, two years ago. Beautiful, isn't it? And it is quickly becoming a standard notation. Then I had a dream in which Prof. Euler would reveal an exquisit formula in about coming ten years."
"It looks beautiful but I can't imagin its meaning."
In 1741 J. S. Bach met Goldberg of his age of 14 years old. Even for a short time the boy became one of pupils of Bach and stayed Bach's resident. When Goldberg visited Bach's resident for the first time, he met Anna Magdalena. The boy, Goldberg played some of 'Clavierübung I' for her. Of course he played Fantasia and Allemande from Partita No.3 and Toccata and Allemande from No.6, whose originals were written in her cherished Music Book by her great husband and dedicated to her. Anna Magdalena knew that Fantasia from Partita No.3 was titled "Praeludium" on the key "A M" or "a moll" in her book and that its starting notes were two As. She was very glad to listen to his performance and the boy was welcome to Leipzig.
One of my sons was studying at the Leipzig University, and I heve been there several times. One day when I visited Bach's house in Leipzig, I asked him, half in jest, to compose for me a kind of music which can soothe my insomnia. He said that for healing the insomnia, variations might have a force against it. Johann Sebastian decided to finish these variations under development at that time Johann Gottlieb Goldberg has been an eligible young harpsichordist these days. Goldberg will perform that work well.
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