The True Life Of Johann Sebastian Bach

  • Publish Date: 2001-07-05
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Author: Klaus Eidam
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In this new biography of Johann Sebastian Bach, Klaus Eidam brings the icon of Baroque music into focus as never before.
This engagingly eccentric biography by German playwright and television scriptwriter Klaus Eidam performs the valuable service of knocking off the dust accumulated around Bach (1685-1750) by generations of writers more concerned with their own musical, religious, or political theories than the particulars of the composer's life. Eidam has as little use for Marxist scholars declaring Bach "the musician of the Enlightenment" as he does for their precursors who declared the composer to be so devout that he viewed his art only as a means to praise God. His aim is to restore Bach to the general public as a musician first and foremost, well versed in the techniques and instruments of his day, deeply immersed in his artistic goals.

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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