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Love and Death. Grief and Joy. Music that lasts forever.
Leipzig, 1726. Eleven-year-old Stefan Silbermann, a humble organ-maker's son, has just lost his mother. Sent to Leipzig to train as a singer in the St Thomas Church choir, he struggles to stay afloat in a school where the teachers are as casually cruel as the students.
Stefan's talent draws the attention of the Cantor - Johann Sebastian Bach. Eccentric, obsessive and kind, he rescues Stefan from the miseries of school by bringing him into his home as an apprentice. Soon Stefan feels that this ferociously clever, chaotic family is his own. But when tragedy strikes, Stefan's period of sanctuary in their household comes to a close.
Something is happening, though. In the depths of his loss, the Cantor is writing a new work: the Saint Matthew Passion, to be performed for the first time on Good Friday. As Stefan watches the work rehearsed, he realises he is witness to the creation of one of the most extraordinary pieces of music that has ever been written.
'A wise, refreshing novel, and a touching human story ... Runcie has an expert imagination' HILARY MANTEL
This wise, refreshing novel takes us to the heart of Bach's life and work. James Runcie's expert imagination makes his picture of Leipzig specific and convincing, and behind the music's echo lies a touching human story. It offers a glimpse into a world more faithful and attentive than our own, but not alien to us: "we listen to music as survivors," the great Cantor says -- HILARY MANTEL
In this moving and fascinating portrait of a rare moment in musical history, Runcie turns a legend into a real man, compellingly unveiling the intricate connection between passion, grief and the greatest art. Careful research and beautiful writing make this a memorable and rewarding read -- LUCY JAGO
The Great Passion is a novel revering the life and work of JS Bach, as told by a young boy soprano in Leipzig * IRISH INDEPENDENT, BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2022
* This is historical fiction of the highest order ... intricate and accessible * PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, starred review
* A delightful novel filled with warmth, music, and an obvious love of Bach * KIRKUS * Praise for James Runcie: 'Runcie has the gift of the born storyteller * DAILY MAIL
* Tremendous: shrewd, compelling and full of insight -- WILLIAM BOYD
A triumph of inspired imagination* FINANCIAL TIMES *