The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: It’s Father’s Day. Who is tops as a musical father figure? The Ear says Johann Sebastian Bach is the Father of All Fathers – literally and figuratively — when it comes to classical music. | June 16, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

Today, Sunday, June 16, is Father’s Day in the U.S.

The holiday just isn’t as important as Mother’s Day, as lower retail sales figures show. But it is well worth noting and is widely celebrated.

So The Ear has to ask: What is the best music to play on Father’s Day, and who qualifies as the most important father figure in classical music?

Of course there are many father figures in opera, with Verdi’s Rigoletto protecting his daughter Gilda as a prime example. (Below is a photo from a production by the San Francisco Opera.)

Rigoletto SF Opera

Then there is Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang’s dour, tyrannical and demanding father who played such a pivotal and not always good role in his son’s career.

leopold mozart 1

Same for Beethoven’s father, a drunk who forced and abused his son Ludwig into practicing in the middle of the night.

The talented Alessandro Scarlatti (below top) gave us the prolific composer of wonderful keyboard sonatas Domenico Scarlatti (below bottom).

Alessandro Scarlatti

Domenico Scarlatti muted

But I think the honors for today’s holiday must go to the Father of All Fathers: Johann Sebastian Bach.

Not only did he father a lot of children– 20 with two wives. He also fathered some pretty important composers in their own right who followed him and at times even disavowed or repudiated their own father’s style as old-fashi0ned and outdated: Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and Johann Christoph Bach.

More importantly, Johann Sebastian (below) was — at least to my ears – the father of all Western classical music, if any single figure can be said to be that.

He was, in short, The Big Bang of classical music.

In that sense J.S. Bach was a father to all classical composers who followed him, whether they emulated him or rebelled against him.

Bach1

So here is a favorite work of mine by J.S. Bach to celebrate Father’s Day and the towering influence of Bach as a literal and figurative father:

If you can think of others father figures, please let The Ear know by leaving a remark in the COMMENTS section.

The Ear wants to hear.

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7 Comments »

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  5. Yup, he’s the grandaddy of Western music, and he biologically fathered a few composers too.

    Comment by Susan Fiore — June 16, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

  6. I think you nailed it. And what a great, lively performance!

    Comment by Ann Boyer — June 16, 2013 @ 6:49 am

  7. Guido d’Arezzo, whose hand became the staff. Rameau, whose treatise on tonal harmony brought us OUT from underneath the spell of endless counterpoint. Arnold Schoenberg, who stepped aside from Rameau and brought new systems of organization to composition. And the Greek theorists, whose ideas about the overtone series have triumphed over counterpoint, simple tonality, and serialism, to give us Music that relates,somehow and always, to the vibrations that surround us. And we have Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and John Coltrane as well, all African-American innovators, as well as Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters, who gave us Rock n’ roll and electric blues.
    My heart belongs to all these daddies, and I’ll bet yours does, too. MBB

    Comment by Michael BB — June 16, 2013 @ 2:38 am


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