Bach among the theologians /

Main Author: Pelikan, Jaroslav Jan, 1923-
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Philadelphia, Pa. : Fortress Press, c1986.
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Review by Choice Review

A labor of love by an eminent historian of Christianity and world authority on Luther and the Reformation. Pelikan employs ``the texts of ... {{Bach's}} sacred music as a case study in the methodological problem of how to handle the liturgical and biblical settings of Christian thought.'' An introduction on the liturgical seasons of Bach and a conclusion (Bach-between sacred and secular) allow Pelikan to point out that in Bach's time secular works were an expression of a unitary world view in which all beauty, including secular, was sacred because God was one, both Creator and Redeemer. Part 1, ``The Theological Context of Bach's Church Music,'' reviews Bach's appropriation of the musical heritage of the Lutheran Reformation, and closely examines Bach and orthodoxy, demonstrating that many cantata and Passion texts are permeated by the spirit of Pietism. A chapter on ``Rationalism and Aufkl;arung {{enlightenment}} in Bach's Career'' relates Bach's encounter with J.A. Ernesti and Frederick the Great, who, Pelikan says, represent opposite poles of Aufkl;arung thought in relation to music. Part 2, ``Some Theological Themes,'' examines the St. John and St. Matthew Passions and the B-minor Mass. Pelikan quotes, in lucid English translation, from major theologians of the time, helps nonspecialists by citing documents in Hans T. David and Arthur Mendel's The Bach Reader (CH, Apr '67), and reassures specialists by referring to German and American musicologists. An index identifies contemporaries of Bach, and works of Bach arranged by BWV number, but references are found only in 14 pages of endnotes. Essential for all readers who want to understand the religious basis of Bach's music.-P.G. Swing, Swarthmore College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.