Musicalisches Opfer, 1747

Johann Sebastian Bach, Musicalisches Opfer, 1747
BWV 1079, Facsimile Edition, Leipzig: Edition Peters, 1977

Musicalisches Opfer title page

Musicalisches Opfer, page 3

Johann Sebastian Bach composed the Musical Offering in 1747 as a gift to the King following a visit to Potsdam in May of that year. When Frederick publicly challenged Bach to improvise a three-part fugue based on a theme which he played for him on the fortepiano, Bach improvised what is now known as the three-part Ricercar (standing for Regis Iussu Cantio Et Reliqua Canonica Arte Resoluta – the theme provided by the King, with additions, resolved in the canonic style). Frederick then demanded a piece in six parts. Bach responded on a different theme but promised to provide what was required. Later that year he sent Frederick an engraved copy of the Musicalisches Opfer, a set of pieces based upon the royal theme and including the six-part Ricercar. The musical meeting between the two famous men at the Potsdam court was reported in newspapers across the German-speaking lands, as was Bach’s intention to provide his response to the challenge in engraved form.

University of Hull logo

© 2012 Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, University of Oxford
Acknowledgements | Legal Notice

Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg logo