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Johann Sebastian Bach


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Christoph Wolff is Adams University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, where he taught from 1976 to 2012. A former director of the Bach Archive in Leipzig, Germany, he is the author of numerous works of music history including Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Biography, and Mozart at the Gateway to His Fortune: Serving the Emperor, 1788-1791, winner of the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award. Wolff lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Since this year is the 250th anniversary of the death of the composer now widely regarded as perhaps the most consummate musician who ever lived, it is an opportune moment for a major study of the man and his work by one of the leading authorities on both. While shedding no new light on Bach's life, Wolff, a Harvard professor of music, does offer the lay reader a thorough picture of the composer as both a technician and a surpassing artist. He describes how Bach (1685-1750) made a living in his early years traveling around testing and repairing church organs. Wolff devotes a great deal of space to examining how Bach was viewed by his contemporaries, to whom, of course, the idea of a musician as an artist--as opposed to a sort of scientist of sound (there are valuable comparisons of Bach's achievement to that of his contemporary, Isaac Newton)--was quite foreign. Wolff has excavated contemporary documents, giving remarkable detail on Bach's earnings and on the disposition of his manuscripts after his death to the various members of his multitudinous family; also included are charming examples of the musician's youthful zeal, such as his journey, 250 miles on foot, to see and hear the admired organist/composer Buxtehude. So much of the composer's life is shrouded in mystery--what exactly caused the death of the remarkably healthy Bach in his 66th year, and just where is he buried? (no tombstone marks the spot)--that although this study is certainly the last word in current Bach scholarship, the man behind the music remains infuriatingly elusive. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

A leading Bach scholar, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard, offers a comprehensive biography in time for the 250th anniversary of Bach's death. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

"A monumental work that must find its way into the library of every musician and every dedicated lover of music." -- Isaac Stern
"It's unlikely that anyone will fashion a finer tribute to [Bach's] genius." -- Los Angeles Times Book Review
"A magisterial biographical portrait...necessarily learned, but also user-friendly, helpful and entertainingly informative." -- Chicago Tribune
"Likely to be the standard one-volume Bach biography for some time to come." -- New York Review of Books
"A work of clarity worthy of its subject and his music." -- Wall Street Journal
"Undoubtedly the most important Bach biography since Phillipp Spitta's life written over a century ago." -- The New Republic

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