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To this end, Eidam spends a good deal of time quarreling with previous biographers about everything from whether or not Bach's second marriage was a love match to the precise circumstances under which he departed his post at Weimar. Although it's accessibly written and thorough, this is not really the book for readers seeking a recital of the accepted facts about Bach's life. Biography connoisseurs, however, will relish Eidam's marvelous bluntness, as when he comments of an alleged Bach authority's ideas, "Such claims provoke me to so much head-shaking they make me suspect I suffer from Parkinson's disease," and his valuable reality checks on predecessors' insufficiently documented speculations. (Translator Hoyt Rogers has maintained the author's contentious tone in English.)
Locating Bach firmly in the context of the gritty intrigues by which composers got and kept musical positions in 18th-century Germany, Eidam also manages to convey appreciation for his timeless genius. --Wendy Smith
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