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Johann Sebastian Bach


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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations Preface Prologue: Bach and the Notion of "Musical Science" 1: Springs of Musical Talent and Lifelong Influences: Eisenach, 1685-1695 2: Laying the Foundation: Ohrdruff, 1695-1700 3: Bypassing a Musical Apprenticeship: From Luneberg to Weimar, 1700-1703 4: Building a Reputation: Organist in Arnstadt and Muhlhausen, 1703-1708 5: Exploring "Every Possible Artistry": Court Organist and Cammer Musicus in Weimar, 1708-1714 6: Expanding Musical Horizons: Concertmaster in Weimar, 1714-1717 7: Pursuing "the Musical Contest for Superiority": Capellmeister in Coethen, 1717-1723 8: Redefining a Venerable Office: Cantor and Music Director in Leipzig---The 1720s 9: Musician and Scholar: Counterpoint of Practice and Theory 10: Traversing Conventional Boundaries: Special Engagements---The 1730s 11: A Singing Bird and Carnations for the Lady of the House: Domestic and Professional Life 12: Contemplating Past, Present, and Future: The Final Decade---The 1740s Epilogue: Bach and the idea of "Musical Perfection" Notes Music Examples Appendices:1: Chronology 2: Places of Bach's Activities 3: Money and Living Costs in Bach's Time 4: The Lutheran Church Calendar Bibliography Genre Index of Bach's Works Title Index of Bach's Works General Index

About the Author

Christoph Wolff is William Powell Mason Professor of Music and dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. He is co-author of the Bach Compendium, co-editor of the research journal Bach-Jahrbuch, and author of The New Grove Bach Family. Thirty-two of his numerous journal articles have been collected in his Bach: Essays on his Life and Music.


Since this year is the 250th anniversary of the death of the composer now widely regarded as perhaps the most consummate musician who ever lived, it is an opportune moment for a major study of the man and his work by one of the leading authorities on both. While shedding no new light on Bach's life, Wolff, a Harvard professor of music, does offer the lay reader a thorough picture of the composer as both a technician and a surpassing artist. He describes how Bach (1685-1750) made a living in his early years traveling around testing and repairing church organs. Wolff devotes a great deal of space to examining how Bach was viewed by his contemporaries, to whom, of course, the idea of a musician as an artist--as opposed to a sort of scientist of sound (there are valuable comparisons of Bach's achievement to that of his contemporary, Isaac Newton)--was quite foreign. Wolff has excavated contemporary documents, giving remarkable detail on Bach's earnings and on the disposition of his manuscripts after his death to the various members of his multitudinous family; also included are charming examples of the musician's youthful zeal, such as his journey, 250 miles on foot, to see and hear the admired organist/composer Buxtehude. So much of the composer's life is shrouded in mystery--what exactly caused the death of the remarkably healthy Bach in his 66th year, and just where is he buried? (no tombstone marks the spot)--that although this study is certainly the last word in current Bach scholarship, the man behind the music remains infuriatingly elusive. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

eminently readable, at times even colloquial. Wolff is one of the foremost Bach scholars today, and his comprehensive knowledge of the source materials equips him admirably to write such a book ... all sorts of interesting details emerge. John Kitchen, Early Music Today, Oct.-Nov. 2000 Drawing on a lifetime's involvement with Bach's music, Professor Wolff has written what is undoubtedly the most authorative and up-to-date survey of the composer's life and works in English, and probably in any language. Malcolm Boyd, The Gramophone Musical biographies don't come much better than this ... no-one seriously interested in Bach should pass it by. Bettina Neumann, Piano, July-Aug 2000 this is a learned and satisfying account of Bach's work, temperament and milieu which will disappoint neither specialist nor general music lover. Nicholas Anderson, BBC Music Magazine

A leading Bach scholar, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard, offers a comprehensive biography in time for the 250th anniversary of Bach's death. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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