THE AESTHETIC OF JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
BY ANDRÉ PIRRO
 
Translated by Joe Armstrong
 
With a foreword by Melvin P. Unger,
Editor of
BACH: Journal of the Riemenschneider Bach Institute
 
Published by Rowman & Littlefield's Scarecrow Press
July, 2014
https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442232907

 
      The Aesthetic of Johann Sebastian Bach (L’Ésthétique de Jean-Sébastien Bach) by French organist and musicologist, André Pirro, was first published in 1907 by Librairie Fischbacher in Paris and later, in 1986, by by Minkoff Éditions, Geneva (not to be confused with Pirro’s 1906 biography of Bach, which was translated into English by Mervyn Savill in 1957). This English translation by Joe Armstrong is approximately 500 pages, including 614 musical examples and corrections of dates and sources of works that subsequent research has revealed.
 
     The book is essentially about the expressive nature of Bach’s music. It initially focuses intensively on the close relationships between language and music in Bach’s vocal works—a full appreciation of which depends, for the English-speaking reader, upon direct, word-for-word translations of Bach’s German and Latin lyrics, and the bulk of the German-to-English lyric translations have been drawn from Melvin Unger’s Handbook to Bach’s Sacred Cantata Texts. Pirro’s twelve chapters range from describing how Bach forms his motifs in order to express a huge gamut of both secular and religious experiences in life, through an examination of his instrumental accompaniments and his use of orchestration, his interpretation of texts, his compositional forms, how he joins the same compositions to different texts, and to how an understanding of expression in his vocal music can be applied to studying his instrumental music. Only the last two chapters focus primarily on historical and biographical aspects through an examination of Bach’s exposure to early and foreign music and his work’s essentially German character.
 
     Pirro’s book contrasts distinctly with Albert Schweitzer’s presentation of similar material in J. S. Bach (Le Musicien Poète), which was first published in French in 1905 and translated into English in 1911 (Dover). Pirro’s research into the relation between music and text in Bach’s works as a clear illustration of the musical imagery and expression contained in them is much more systematic and penetrating than that of Schweitzer, whose musical examples tend not to include the corresponding texts, or, when they do, they do not include word-for-word English translations of the German in the 1911 English version. Pirro also carefully illustrates a good number of historical precedents by choosing musical examples and writings from the work of 17th- and 18th-century composers and writers on music.
 
     Some consider this work to be a rare masterpiece—containing writing of “largeness and elevation” (to quote literary editor Jeffrey Mitchell)—that reaches (carefully) beyond the bounds of most other writings on the essential nature of Western music.
      

See the review by Paul Brainard of the 1984 Minkoff French reprint of this book: http://em.oxfordjournals.org/content/14/4/587-b.extract
          
     André Pirro was a pioneer of modern French musicology who published numerous books and articls on music. Born in Saint-Dizier, France, he studied law and letters at the Sorbonne and attended the organ classes of Cesar Franck and Charles-Marie Widor at the Paris Conservatory. He later became a member of the directorial committee of the Schola Cantorum, where he also taught organ and music history. In 1912, he succeeded Romain Rolland as professor of music history at the Sorbonne.
 
 
 
                                                                   THE WRITINGS OF ANDRÉ PIRRO
 
Prefaces in A. Guilmant: Archives des maîtres de l’orgue des XVIe, XVIIe et XVIIIe
            siècles (Paris, 1894‒1011/R)
“De la notation proportionelle (XVe et SVIe siècles),” Tribune de Saint-Gervais, I
            (1895), 1, 4, 8
L’orgue de Jean-Sébastien Bach (Paris, 1895; Engl. translation, 1902/R)
“Les organists français du XVIIe siècle; Jean Titelouze (1563‒1633), “ Tribune de Saint-
            Gervais, iv (1898), 132‒35, 180‒84, 207‒11, 231‒35 [lecture given at Salle de la
            Société St. Jean, Paris, 24 March 1898]
“Heinrich Schütz (1585‒1672),” “Les formes d’expression dans la musique de Heinrich
            Schütz,” Tribune de Saint-Gervais, vi (1900), 97‒106, 314‒21
“François Roberday,” Tribune de Saint-Gervais, vii (1901), 3‒4, 65‒71, 110‒108
“Un organiste au XVIIe s.: Nicolas Gigault,” RHCM, iii (1903), 302‒307, 550‒57
“Louis Marchand,” SIMG, vi (1904‒05) 136‒59
“Nicolas de Grigny (1671‒17030,” Tribune de Saint-Gervais xi (1905), 14‒21
J. S. Bach (Paris, 1906, rev. 1949; Eng. trans., 1957)
Descartes et la musique (supplementary diss., U. of Paris, 1907: Paris, 1907/R)
L’esthétique de Jean-Sébastien Bach (diss., U. of Paris, 1907; Paris, 1907/R)
“Frescobaldi et les musicians de la France et des Pays-Bas,” BSIM, iv (1908), 1127‒53
“Remarques de quelques voyageurs sur la musique en Allemagne et dans les pays du
            Nord, de 1634 à 1700,” Riemann-Festschrift (Leipzig, 1909/R), 325‒40
Dietrich Buxtehude (Paris, 1913/R)
“La musique des Italiens d’après les remarques triennales de Jean-Baptiste Duval,
            1607‒09,” Mélanges offerts à M. Henri Lemmonier (Paris, 1913), 175‒84
Schütz (Paris, 1913/R)
“La musique religieuse allemande depuis les psaumes de Schütz (1619) jusqu’à la mort
            de Bach (1750),” “La musique en Allemagne pendant le XVIIe siècle et la
            première moitié du XVIIIe siècle, EMDC, I/ii (1914), 929‒71, 971‒1013
“Jean-Sébastien Bach auteur comique” (Madrid, 1915) [lecture given at Residencia de
            Estudiantes, Madrid, 26 April 1914]
“Franz Liszt et la Divine Comédie,” Dante: mélanges de critique et d’érudition
            françaises (Paris, 1921), 165‒84
“Les ‘frottole’ et la musique instrumentale,” RdM, iii (1922), 3‒12
Les clavicinistes: étude critique (Paris, 1924/R)
“Deux danses anciennes (XVIe‒XVIIe siècles),” RdM, iii (1922), 3‒12
“Notes pour server éventuellement à la biographie de Reincken,” Gedenkboek
            aangeboden aan Dr. D. F. Scheurleer (The Hague, 1925), 251‒64
“Une requète des joueurs de violon de Birche (XVIIe s.),” RdM, vi (1925), 97‒104
“L’art des organists,” EMDC, II/ii (1926), 1181‒1374
“Jean Cornuel, vicaire à Cambrai,” RdM, vii (1926), 190‒203
“Orgues et organists de Hagenau, de 1491 à 1525 environ,” RdM, vii (1926), 11‒17
“Remarques de quelques voyageurs sur la musique d’Italie entre 1720 et 1730,” Etudes
            italiennes, x‒xi (1928‒29), 131‒46
“Gilles Mureau, chanoine de Chartres,” Musikwissenschaftliche Beiträge: Festschrift für
            Johannes Wolf, ed. W. Lott, H. Osthoff and W. Wolffhiem (Berlin, 1929/R),
            26‒32, 45‒56
“L’enseignement de la musique aux universités françaises,” Bulletin de la Société
            international de musicology, ii (1930), 26‒32, 45‒56
La musique à Paris sous le règne de Charles VI (13801422) (Strasbourg, 1930/R)
“Remarques sur l’exécution musicale de la fin du XIVe au milieu du XVe siècles,”
            IMSCR I: Liège 1930, 55‒65
“Comment jouer Bach sur l’orgue,” ReM, xiii/131 (1932), 20‒26
“Robiner de la Magdalaine,” Mélanges de musicologie offerts à M. Lionel de La
 Laurencie (Paris, 1933), 15‒18
“Léon X et la musique,” Mélanges de philologie, d’histoire et de literature offerts à
            Henri Hauvette (Paris, 1934), 221‒34
Ed., with A Gastoué and others: La musique française du Moyen-Age à la Révolution,
Galerie Mazarine of the Bibliothèque nationale, Paris, 1933 (Paris, 1934)
[exhibition catalogue]
Histoire de la musique de la fin du XIVe siècle à la fin du XVIe (Paris, 1940)
Mélanges André Pirro; recueil d’articles publié sous le patronage de la Société française
            de musicologie (Geneva, 1972) [reprint of 13 articles from 1909 to 1935; incl.
            preface by F. Lesure and index]