The Musical Offering is one of those pieces that has a very famous name but very few people have actually heard the music. The same almost goes for Bach’s Art of Fugue.
The Musical Offering was inspired by a visit the Bach made to Frederick the Great at his new palace at Sanssouci in Potsdam in 1748. The composer was getting on in years and Frederick, who was a serious music lover, was very keen to show Bach his collection of new fangled keyboard instruments (pianos!). Incidentally Bach’s son CPE was on Frederick’s music staff at this time. Frederick dreamed up what a very angular theme which is known as the Royal Theme (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJXwNRrDelY) and asked Bach to improvise a three part fugue. This Bach was able to do despite the extreme difficulty of the task. However when Frederick asked him to do the same in 6 parts Bach had to admit defeat. He returned home to Leipzig and composed The Musical Offering which is an extraordinary collection of small pieces of sophisticated which has at its core the 6 part Ricercar and sent it to Frederick with the title Das Musikalische Opfer. This in German has the twin titles of Musical Offering and Musical Sacrifice representing the hard work Bach had taken in composing it. For a novel setting of this in a wonderful context have a look at Evening in the Palace of Reason by James R Gaines. Today John Butt will direct and explain the Musical Offering - as arguably the leading Bach Scholar of today this promises to be fascinating. Also Dunedin are perhaps the world’s leading performers of Bach at the moment as can be evidenced by this excerpt from the Bach’s Magnificat which also includes John Butt in lecturer model. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QA7pe_j0P7c
Dunedin Consort Bach's Musical Offering, Mon 17 Sep 2018