Johann Sebastian Bach
Das Musikalische Opfer
Musica Antiqua Köln
Reinhard Goebel, conductor
Das Musikalische Opfer (The Musical Offering) is the title given by Johann Sebastian Bach to the collection of fugues, canons and trios composed on a theme proposed by the Prussian King Frederick the Great during a visit to Potsdam in 1747. From this theme, Bach elaborates two ricercari (the definition derives from an acronym, Regi Iussu Cantio Et Reliqua Canonica Arte Resoluta, which appears in the dedication to the king in the first edition), nine canons, a Canonical Fugue in Epidiapente, providing a bridge between the canons, and a sonata for flute, violin and continuo in four movements, which in the second movement echoes the style in vogue at the Prussian court. In this way, Bach explores all possible variations on a single theme up to three instruments.
According to some musicologists, Das Musikalische Opfer reflects the structure of the classical oration and contains theological references.
The recordings are usually based on the first printed edition of this work, since no other manuscript survives except a version of Ricercar a 6, but the printed edition does not clarify the order in which Bach wanted to perform the pieces, nor if he actually intended the compositions as a cycle.
The complex of Musica Antiqua Köln directed by Reinhard Goebel gives full justice to this complex and fascinating composition, creating an intense and fervid performance, exalted by the silvery sound of the cembalo, the melancholy of the strings and the delicacy of the flute, instruments that combine together to make Bach’s music fluid and refined. It is particular worth of attention the Sonata sopr’il soggetto reale a traversa, violino e continuo, which gives the best example of the interaction of the instruments.