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Review of Eric Chafe. Analyzing Bach Cantatas. Oxford University Press, 2000. xvii, 286 pp.

Ito, John

This analysis of the two tasks of suggestive theory help in making a precise
assessment of Eric Chafe's 2000 book, Analyzing Bach Cantatas. With
Analyzing Bach Cantatas, Chafe continues to develop his theory of the allegorical
use of tonal centers in Bach's vocal music, also the subject of his
1991 book Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of J S. Bach (henceforth Tonal
Allegory). These works advance, defend, and illustrate the hypothesis that
Bach used relationships among tonal centers in the allegorical representation
of the theological contents of the vocal works. Analyzing Bach Cantatas
is an extremely ambitious work in that it attempts three simultaneous advances
over Tonal Allegory: it seeks to broaden the audience for Chafe's
ideas; it deepens the historical contextualization of the cantatas; and it
uses the concept of tonal allegory with greater flexibility. While a fuller
picture of Chafe's success in reaching these goals will emerge over the
course of this review, an initial assessment is offered here.



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Columbia University
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November 26, 2014