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Johann Sebastian Bach’s and Franz Liszt Connections Essay

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Updated: May 18th, 2020

This paper is aimed at discussing the works of Johann Sebastian Bach and Franz Liszt. In particular, it is necessary to illustrate the similarities and distinctions of their styles. Admittedly, they represent different periods in the history of music, but they share common attributes such as the technical complexity of their works and the use of common musical passages. Yet, there are significant structural differences. In particular, Bach’s works have a distinct prelude, whereas Franz Liszt does not always incorporate this element. Moreover, Liszt frequently applies extremely fast cadenzas that were not applied in the eighteenth century. These are the main issues that should be discussed in greater detail.

At first, it should be mentioned that Bach represents the baroque period in the history of music which lasted from the seventeenth to the eighteenth century. In turn, Franz Liszt was the advocate of the so-called New German School (Spielvogel, 2011, p. 791). Moreover, it is important to mention that they lived in different societies. For example, Bach lived at the time, when only wealthy aristocrats and religious institutions supported classical composers. In fact, they could be the main patrons of composers like Bach. In turn, Franz Liszt’s works could be heard by wider audiences. At the time, when Bach created his works, musical compositions could be performed by a small number of performers who could be located in a palace chamber. In turn, the nineteenth century was the period during which large orchestras began to play the key role. Moreover, the composers, who worked in the nineteenth century, tended to create more complex works. These are some of the factors that should be taken into account because they are important for understanding the styles of these composers, especially some of the main distinctions.

One should mention that both Bach and Liszt were distinguished keyboardists, and they were known for their performing ability. It is possible to focus on the solo piano works known as Dreams of Love created by Franz Liszt and Bach’s English Suites because they represent the methods applied by these composers. First, their works require considerable technical ability. In this work, Bach combines imitative counterpoint with the movements and patterns that were typical of the baroque. For instance, each of the suites has a distinct prelude. This is one of the details that can attract the attention of the listener. Certainly, these legacies of the Baroque are no longer noticeable in the works of Franz Lists. In particular, Liszt’s Dreams of Love do not have such a prelude. Furthermore, Liszt’s compositions have a very fast cadenza, and such passages were not often used by Baroque composers such as Bach. It is also vital to mention that Liszt often relied on the passages explored by Bach (Arnold, 2002). For instance, one can mention the famous B-A-C-H theme (Arnold, 2002). These are the main aspects that can be singled out.

On the whole, this discussion indicates that despite significant time differences, the works of Liszt and Bach have some common attributes such the use of counterpoint and technical complexity of their compositions. Nevertheless, there are structural differences in their works. In particular, much attention should be paid to the absence of prelude in Liszt’s work. However, it is vital to remember that Liszt often relied on the passages created by Bach. These are the main elements that can be identified.

Reference List

Arnold, B. (2002). The Liszt Companion. New York, NY: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Spielvogel, J. (2011). Cengage Advantage Books: Western Civilization, Volume II: Since 1500. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Johann Sebastian Bach's and Franz Liszt Connections'. 18 May.

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