The Bach Players
Event 12
Sunday 14th October, 3:00pm 
Little Missenden Church

A musical offering: the art of eloquence
Johann Pachelbel
Canon in D
Suite in F sharp minor
Dieterich Buxtehude
Toccata in G major BuxWV165
Trio Sonata in C major BuxWV266
Johann Sebastian Bach
The Musical Offering BWV1079

This is an archived event from the 2018 Programme.


Marion Moonen flute  Nicolette Moonen violin  Anna Curzon violin  Flora Curzon violin/viola  Reiko Ichise viola da gamba  Silas Wollston harpsichord


The musical world of northern Europe in the late 17th and early 18th centuries was tightly-knit; Pachelbel was a great friend of Bach’s father, acting as tutor to his eldest son, Johann Christoph, who passed on Pachelbel’s teaching to his younger brother, Johann Sebastian - whose 400-mile walk to Lübeck and back to hear Buxtehude is the stuff of legend.

Highly influential as an organist and composer, Pachelbel was hugely popular in his day, yet very little of his music is played now - except the famous Canon, whose melody and striking ostinato bass have made it seemingly ubiquitous.

Buxtehude also had to be rediscovered. His highly inventive chamberworks are mostly written in the free and adventurous ‘Stylus Fantasticus’ manner - the Toccata and Trio Sonata in our programme are fine examples.

Written only three years before his death, Bach’s great Musical Offering is a collection of canons and fugues, ending with a magnificent trio sonata which brings all the threads together. It’s one of the summits of polyphony, yet the work’s sensitivity and emotional weight shines through its strict musical form.

'Johann Sebastian Bach’s Musical Offering (BWV 1079) is a late work that looks both back to the tradition in which he worked and forwards to the music of his sons. We play this dazzling piece in the context of music by Bach’s esteemed elders; Buxtehude and Pachelbel' Nicolette Moonen

Founded by artistic director Nicolette Moonen in 1996, The Bach Players are renowned for their interpretation of 17th and 18th century music, played on original baroque instruments. Their concerts are lively, informal events in which the musicians engage actively with their audiences.

“Their concerts always strike me as a gathering of friends, on which the audience eavesdrops, an atmosphere that produces consistent outstandingly musical performances” Andrew Benson-Wilson

Frederick the Great

Frederick II plays the flute in Adolf Friedrich Erdmann Menzel's painting A Concert of Frederick the Great

Johann Sebastian Bach was 62 when, in 1747, he visited the Prussian court of Frederick II, who was just 35. It had taken Bach some twenty hours to reach the Royal Palace in Potsdam from Leipzig.

Frederick, a fine flautist, was about to begin his regular evening concert just as Bach arrived. The King announced, ‘Gentlemen, old Bach is here’, and invited the great composer to try his newest Gottfried Silbermann fortepiano - one of seven. During the visit, the King played a short, but extremely complicated piece, upon which he asked Bach to improvise. Despite his travel-weariness, and to the astonishment of everyone present, he did so quite brilliantly.

On his return to Leipzig, Bach developed the theme and entitled it ‘A Musical Offering’ which he sent to the Court with a thank you and a dedication. The work - all based on Frederick's royal theme - comprised a brilliant set of canons and fugues, and a trio sonata that is without parallel in 18th-century chamber music. According to musicologist Charles Rosen, the 6-part fugue is the most significant keyboard work ever written.

Bach’s son, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (at the keyboard in Menzel’s painting), was Frederick’s harpsichordist during his last years as Crown Prince and he remained with him for nearly thirty years in the stimulating environment of Berlin and Potsdam, where he composed more than 300 works.

But all was not what it might have seemed. Read The Art of Feud from the Guardian here

Listen to The Bach Players


From their acclaimed recording A Musical Offering - read more and buy here