Sunday, May 8, 2011

Johann Sebastian Bach by Rick Marschall

Johann Sebastian Bach (Christian Encounters Series)
This biography of J. S. Bach is part of Thomas Nelson's Christian Encounters series. Author Rick Marschall has attempted to present the depth of Bach's Christian faith while also educating the reader about Bach's formidable place in music history. He points out that, while others have concentrated on Bach's music, his main objective is to let the world know that Bach was a devout Christian and Bible scholar. Bach's music was his life's work, but it was also an expression of his faith.

The author does a good job of describing Bach's professional and family life as well as cultural developments of Bach's time. Realizing that the average reader may not be familiar with Bach's music, the author spends some time describing his major works. I think he does not give enough emphasis to Bach's organ works, but that is probably because people just don't appreciate organ music nowadays.

I did not expect to learn much that I didn't already know. I majored in organ in college, and I wrote a couple of papers on Bach during those years. But, there were details about Bach's personal life that I had not read about before. Mainly, the author portrayed Bach as an outgoing, gregarious person. Other biographers made him seem as stuffy as his powdered wig. I knew that Bach always signed his compositions with SDG (Soli Deo Gloria, to God alone the glory). However I do not recall having heard that he wrote Jesu Juva (Jesus help me) at the beginnings.

My favorite Bach quote is found on page 78: "The aim and final reason of all music should be none else but the glory of God and refreshing the soul. Where this is not observed there will be no music, but only a devilish hubbub." I wonder what Bach would think of the stuff they call music today.

It was a fascinating read for me, but I wonder how it will be received by people not familiar with Bach. Don't be put off by your preconceived notions about Bach and his music. Read it to learn about his Christian faith and his devotion to his work. I commend Thomas Nelson for including Bach in this series.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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