Thursday, March 31, 2016

Johann Sebastian Bach Turns 331 Years Old Today

J.S. Bach statue in Leipzig, Germany

Today marks the birthday (in 1685, and for Old Style calendar sticklers, it's March 21) of one of the great three "B's" in classical music, Johann Sebastian Bach, He gave us some of the most sublime music in western culture and it would be an oversight, especially as a Lutheran, not to honor this master of the Baroque and pillar of Lutheranism. His music was largely forgotten for almost a century following his death, but had been restored by the first quarter of the 19th century. The new-found popularity of Bach was due largely to the composer-performers, Felix Mendelssohn and Ludwig van Beethoven, and the publication of many of Bach's works. 

I was introduced to the music of J.S. Bach as an infant at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in my little hometown in the mountains of Maryland. The church already had been baptizing members of my father's family for over seventy years. We were a large family within the larger church family. One aunt was the principal organist while several aunts, uncles, and cousins held various position in church administration and in the choir. In the summer of my ninth year our family moved leaving behind not only familiar places but also family linkages to Mount Calvary Lutheran Church. I left with a strong faith reinforced in part by Bach's profound music. Although faith faced some challenges in my revolutionary days the awe and appreciation for Bach never waned.

Here are three examples why. First is Glenn Gould's interpretation of the Goldberg Variations, Nos. 1-4 in which you can hear the performer's notorious verbal accompaniment.

Second is "Dona Nobis Pacem," [Grant Us Peace] from the Mass in B minor.

And third simply for the fun of it, the Gigue Fugue.


Photos and Illustration:, flickr/seabamirum

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