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Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician Paperback – September 17, 2001
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“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)
About the Author
More About the Author
Recipient of the Dent Medal of the Royal Musical Association in London (1978), the Humboldt Research Award (1996), an honorary professorship at the University of Freiburg, and several honorary degrees, he is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften. He has been awarded the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, honorary membership by the American Musicological Society, the American Bach Society, and the Mozarteum Foundation Salzburg.
He was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist in biography for "Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician" (New York, 2000), which won the Otto Kinkeldey Award of the American Musicological Society for the best musicological book published in 2000.
Top Customer Reviews
This book is thoroughly impressive in both its scope and its detail, though the numerous tables cataloguing Bach's work from the various periods such as Weimar and Cothen are not as well integrated in text as one might hope. Where Wolff makes the occasional reference to the tables, I as the reader desired to see more comparison and analysis of various works in each period.
It is also immediately apparent upon even a glance through the index that Wolff dedicates much of his analysis of Bach's major works to Bach's vocal music, and notably less space to Bach's instrumental and keyboard/organ music. As we know, Bach's Fugue "the Great" in G minor, BWV 542, is a towering masterpiece of Bach's (and Baroque) organ music, but Wolff hardly affords it the analysis it demands. He also neglects to develop much depth of analysis with Bach's instrumental works. For example, we know that nearly all of Bach's solo and multiple piano concerti have their roots in previous concerti, but little attention is paid as to why Bach chose to transcribe to piano(harpsichord), why he selected the works he did, and whether there is a distinct method/pattern to Bach's transcriptions.Read more ›
Professor Wolff naturally grasps it. He is a professor of music and director of the Bach-Archiv in Leipzig. He speaks learnedly and enthusiastically of "ritornellos" and the "Oberwerk" and "Brustpositiv" of an organ and the daring dissonance in BWV38 as a result of a third-inversion dominant-seventh chord, while the musically uneducated among us (such as myself) wonder, "What's THAT?" And of course his musical examples at the end are lost on us. Professor Wolff has sought to bring Johann Sebastian Bach to us, and has succeeded very well, but he is handicapped not by his inabilities, but by ours.
Nevertheless, I think he could have done slightly better for those of us who love Bach but who lack his musical erudition - perhaps a glossary of the musical terms used therein, even a rudimentary explanation of some of the technicalities behind this extraordinary music, would have helped the reader (this one anyway) feel less at sea in parts. OK, this is not a "baroque music for dummies" book, but such additions would have helped.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Can't wait to give this to my piano student for her birthday! Thanks!Published 16 days ago by Amazon Customer
Excessive info concerning his dealings with various invites. More time spent with Bach and his children and their successes would be best served if it were simplified in its... Read morePublished 3 months ago by John P. Giammasi
Even though many of the technical details were beyond my comprehension, I found the life and times of this great master most fascinating.Published 5 months ago by Fred F. Rother
You may wonder, if it is so definitive, then why only four stars. The research that went into this biography is amazing, but I think most general readers will give up early since... Read morePublished 7 months ago by E. Davis
No Illustrations. Charts don't work in eBook form. I've been cheated.Published 10 months ago by Sean Elfyn Cairne
A comprehensive look at the man behind the music, in so far as the records allow. Fully supported with notes and useful selections of music and information about life in Bach's... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Bronwyn Brown