February 10, 2005
Vol. V, No. 4
I'd like to start this Rampage off by discussing Bach's passions. No, not the St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke or St. John. I'm talking about the favorite passions not just of JSB but of many an artist: wine, women, and song. I would imagine in Bach's case that he would prefer the order reversed however since we'll never know for sure, I'll start with beverages.
Rather then wine, it would appear that Bach's beverage of choice was beer. His salary was paid in part with beer and in those days it was used as a substitute for drinking water. I can understand that because there have been times when I drank it like water myself. Coffee, too, was all the rage back then, hence Bach's Coffee Cantata (BWV 211). Here's a great link to some background on it:
Now on to the next passion: women. Bach fathered 20 children. 'Nuff said.
Moving right along, the next passion is song, or more broadly, music. Bach created hundreds and hundreds of compositions. Where he found time, I don't know but perhaps the coffee had something to do with it. In any case, way to go Bach in balancing work and family!
OK, enough silliness. Not!
A while back, a family member sent me a Woman's Day magazine from 1954, containing an article about Bach. It was one in a series entitled "About the Men Who Wrote the Music in Your Life," designed to introduce a little culture into the lives of the women of the day. At this point, I'm seeing June Cleaver discussing a Bach cantata over a meatloaf with Ward.
Anyway, the article not only gave a nice biography of Bach but also a suggested listening list. I've typed up the article, available at the link below. I've also scanned in the cover. Oh, my, I think she's wearing organ shoes!
Also in the article was a picture I'd never seen, with the caption "Morning Prayers in the Family of Sebastian Bach." A quick search on the Internet revealed only one result which was on the Project Gutenberg website (in other words, FREE).
The picture appeared in a book from 1903 entitled "The Love Affairs of Great Musicians, Volume I" by Rupert Hughes. Chapter VIII is devoted to "Bach, the Patriarch." Before you click on the link below, prepare yourself with a preview from the opening chapter of the book:
"Musicians as lovers! The very phrase evokes and parades a pageant of amours! The thousand heartaches; the fingers clutching hungrily at keys that might be other fingers; the fiddler with his eyelids clenched while he dreams that the violin, against his cheek is the satin cheek of 'the inexpressive She;' the singer with a cry in every note; the moonlit youth with the mandolin tinkling his serenade to an ivied window; the dead-marches; the nocturnes; the amorous waltzes; the duets; the trills and trinkets of flirtatious scherzi; the laughing roulades; the discords melted into concord as solitude into the arms of reunion -- these are music's very own."
For something actually written in this century, try "Grand Passions and Broken Hearts: Lives and Lusts of the Great Composers" by Basil Howitt.
Unfortunately, the book doesn't contain a chapter on Bach. No BACH!?! Well, it still looks entertaining but if you have your heart set on the Grand Passions of Bach, there's always St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke and St. John.
Click this link to read comments and offer your own:
Added is the FREE book mentioned above "The Love Affairs of Great Musicians, Volume I" (1903) by Rupert Hughes. See Chapter 8 for JS Bach.
Added is the Woman's Day article from above. I've also included links to some of the pieces recommended by the author.
Added is the book above "Grand Passions and Broken Hearts: Lives and Lusts of the Great Composers" by Basil Howitt. Unfortunately, no Bach but still great for a Valentine's Day gift!
Have a great week and Happy Valentine's Day!
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