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Hardback

£26.49

£23.84

Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 9780190606954
Published: 16/06/2016

Bach & God explores the religious character of Bach's vocal and instrumental music in seven interrelated essays. Noted musicologist Michael Marissen offers wide-ranging interpretive insights from careful biblical and theological scrutiny of the librettos. Yet he also shows how Bach's pitches, rhythms, and tone colors can make contributions to a work's plausible meanings that go beyond setting texts in an aesthetically satisfying manner. In some of Bach's vocal repertory, the music puts a "spin " on the words in a way that turns out to be explainable as orthodox Lutheran in its orientation. In a few of Bach's vocal works, his otherwise puzzlingly fierce musical settings serve to underscore now unrecognized or unacknowledged verbal polemics, most unsettlingly so in the case of his church cantatas that express contempt for Jews and Judaism. Finally, even Bach's secular instrumental music, particularly the late collections of "abstract " learned counterpoint, can powerfully project certain elements of traditional Lutheran theology. Bach's music is inexhaustible, and Bach & God suggests that through close contextual study there is always more to discover and learn.

Michael Marissen (Professor of Music, Emeritus, Swarthmore College)

Michael Marissen is Daniel Underhill Professor Emeritus of Music at Swarthmore College, where he taught from 1989 to 2014. He has also been a visiting professor on the graduate faculties at Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania. His publications include The Social and Religious Designs of J. S. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos (Princeton, 1995), Lutheranism, anti-Judaism, and Bach's St. John Passion (Oxford, 1998), An Introduction to Bach Studies (co-author Daniel Melamed; Oxford, 1998), Bach's Oratorios (Oxford, 2008), Tainted Glory in Handel's Messiah (Yale, 2014), and essays in Lutheran Quarterly, Harvard Theological Review, The Huffington Post, and The New York Times.

[A] splendid title ... It brings to mind two approximately equal figures engaged in a complicated dialogue, like Jefferson and Adams, or Siskel and Ebert. * Alex Ross, The New Yorker * Michael marissen sets out to be thorough and honest (p. xv) as he investigates religious meaning in Johann Sebastian Bachs music. His scholarship is scrupulous, and thus he successfully achieves this goal. His meticulous arguments are convincing, and his use of sources - for example relying on books that existed in Bachs own library - grounds the subject in its context. * Robinson McClellan, Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology * In this excellent and provocative study the author aims to show the religious explanatory power that lays behind any understanding of Bachs music ... The book is very well documented and the analysis therein (both from a musicology standpoint and a religious studies perspective) is coherent overall ... an excellent addition to the critical studies into the religious meaning of Bachs music. * Ronald Charles, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Saint Francis Xavier University *

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