Moreover, and contrary to all reasonable expectations, this age was one of the most productive in German architecture. It saw the first flowering of German baroque, which gave a new front of charm and gaiety to Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Dresden, Bayreuth, Würzburg, and Vienna. It was the time of builders like Johann Fischer von Erlach, Jakob Prandtauer, Johann and Kilian and Cristoph Dientzenhofer, and Andreas Schlüter, whose names would be as well known to English-speaking peoples as those of Wren and Inigo Jones, were it not for the prison of frontiers and the babel of tongues. Some of their work, however, was destroyed in the invasions of Germany by French armies (1689), and some in the Second World War. 12 History is a race between art and war.
Some lovely churches rose amid the poverty and desolation. We should dishonor our record if we found no line for Johann Dientzenhofer’s cathedral at Fulda or his abbey church at Banz, or for the work of Christoph and Kilian Dientzenhofer on the churches of St. Nicholas and St. John in Prague. In 1663 the Italian architect Agostino Barelli began the Nymphenburg Palace outside Munich, and Joseph Effner completed its interior in a successful merger of classic pilasters and baroque decoration. Ornament was the besetting temptation of baroque; it went to excess in the Festsaal, or Festival Salon, of the Schloss Berlin, and in the pavilion of the Zwinger Palace built at Dresden by Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann for Augustus the Strong; here baroque passed into a pretty rococo rather befitting a boudoir interior than a palace front. This was mostly destroyed in the Second World War; so were the Schloss Charlottenburg and the Schloss Berlin, the royal palace begun by Andreas Schlüter in 1698.
Schlüter was the outstanding German sculptor of the age. All Germany was thrilled by his equestrian statue of the Great Elector, Der Grosse Kurfürst, which withstood all the bombs of war, and now rides the Charlottenburg plaza outside Berlin. At Königsberg Schlüter set up an equally imposing figure of Frederick I, just made King of Prussia. Julius Glessker carved a quietly mourning Head of Mary for a Crucifixion group in the cathedral at Bamberg. The wood carvers showed their skill in the magnificent choir stalls of the Klosterkirche in Silesia, but they went to excess in the extravagantly carved furniture demanded by patrons who had more pride than taste.
German painting begot no masterpieces in this period, unless we count as such a charming Young Man with a Gray Hat by Christoph Paradiso. 13 The tapestries designed for the Würzburg Palace by Rudolf Byss are among the finest; and Paul Decker’s engravings in copper were near the top of their kind. The little town of Warmbrunn—the Warm Springs of Silesia—was famous for its cut glass; Dresden made “Dresden china” fashionable; Augustus the Strong was also le roi de faïence; and at Meissen, suitable clays having been found nearby, he established (1709) the kilns that produced the first hard porcelain in Europe.
But it is in music that the German spirit found its most characteristic expression; this, so to speak, was the eve of Johann Sebastian Bach. The forms and instruments came from Italy, but the Germans poured into them their own tender sentiment and massive piety, so that while Italy excelled in melody and France in graceful rhythm, Germany moved toward primacy in lieder, organ music, and chorales. In G. F. Krieger’s 12 Suonate a due Violini (1688) the sonata sequence is already established in three movements—allegro, largo, and presto. Instrumental music, rising out of dance forms (pavan, saraband, gavotte, gigue, etc.), was declaring its independence of both dance and voice.
Italian musicians were still in demand in Germany. Cavalli reigned in Munich, as Vivaldi later in Darmstadt. Italian opera was imported, and had its first performance in Germany at Torgau (1627); others followed at Regensburg, Vienna, and Munich. The first German opera, called a Singspiel, was Johann Theile’s Adam und Eva, produced at Hamburg in 1678; from that time, for half a century, Hamburg held the leadership in German opera and drama. There Handel brought out his Almira and Nero in 1705, and hisDaphne and Florinda in 1706, before going to conquer England. The great name in the German opera of this period is Reinhard Keiser, who produced 116 operas for the Hamburg company.
After 1644 German composers won pre-eminence from the Italians in compositions for the organ and the church. The hymns of Paul Gerhardt expressed his uncompromising Lutheranism. Jan Reinken dominated the organ in the Katherinenkirche at Hamburg from 1663 till his death at the age of ninety-nine in 1722. Dietrich Buxtehude, born in Denmark, became organist in the Marienkirche at Lübeck in 1668; his performances there, and especially his Abendmusik concerts for organ, orchestra, and chorus, were so renowned that in 1705 the great Bach walked fifty miles from Arnstadt to Lübeck to hear him play. 14 Nearly seventy of his compositions for the organ have survived; many are still performed; and his chorales shared in forming Johann Sebastian’s style. Johann Kuhnau preceded Bach as organist at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig; he developed the sonata, for the clavier, and composed Partien of the same type as Bach’s suites.
The Bach family was now entering upon the musical scene in bewildering profusion. We know of some four hundred Bachs between 1550 and 1850: all musicians, sixty of them holding important posts in the musical world of their time. They formed a kind of family guild, meeting periodically at their headquarters in Eisenach, Arnstadt, or Erfurt. They constitute unquestionably the most extensive and remarkable dynasty in cultural history, impressive not merely by their number, but by devotion to their art, by a typically Germanic steadiness of purpose, and by their productivity and influence. They do not come prominently into musical annals until their fifth generation, with Johann Christoph and Johann Michael Bach, sons of Heinrich Bach, organist at Arnstadt. Johann Christoph was chief organist at Eisenach for thirty-eight years: a simple, serious, painstaking man who trained choirs and composed for organ and for orchestra. His brother Johann Michael became organist at Gehren in 1673, remained there till his death in 1694, and gave his fifth daughter to be the first wife of Johann Sebastian. Heinrich’s brother Christoph Bach, organist at Weimar, had twin sons who were violinists; one of them, Ambrosius, was Johann Sebastian’s father. Johann Bach, brother of Heinrich and Christoph, was organist at Erfurt from 1647 till 1673, when he was succeeded by his son Johann Christian Bach, who in 1682 was succeeded by his brother Johann Egidius Bach. All the forces of nature seem to have been directed to produce and prepare Johann Sebastian Bach.