Well-Spoken Wednesday–Johann Sebastian Bach by Rick Marschall Review

By Ruth on May 11, 2011 in book, Music, review

Summary from Goodreads:

Christian Encounters, a series of biographies from Thomas Nelson Publishers, highlights important lives from all ages and areas of the Church. Some are familiar faces. Others are unexpected guests. But all, through their relationships, struggles, prayers, and desires, uniquely illuminate our shared experience.
Johann Sebastian Bach is generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time. He enriched his generation, and beyond, with his prolific ability to survey and bring together the principal styles, forms, and national traditions that had developed during preceding generations. He left a corpus of sacred music to cover the entire liturgical year, including Latin Masses written for the Catholic Court of Dresden and spent much of his working life as a church music director in Germany. He was a highly respected organist during his lifetime, but he wasn’t recognized as a great composer until the early nineteenth century.

Johann Sebastian Bach (Christian Encounters Series)Johann Sebastian Bach by Rick Marschall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let me begin by saying that I have a bachelor’s degree in music, and I have taught music for 14 years or so.  I was always a music history buff, and when I saw this book, I knew I wanted to read it.  I always enjoyed learning about Bach, but I do not think I ever felt like I knew much about him.  I would say I probably appreciated his faith more than I did his music.  That was until I read this book.

As I began reading this book, I marveled at what I did not know about Bach.  He was always one of the few musicians whom I would have called a definite Chrsitian, and some of his music was interesting to me.  But I always found musch of his music dry and/or too complicated to appreciate correctly.

Rick Marschall, in my opinion, has captured the person and work of Bach in a way that few people have been able to–my revered music professor in college included.  I had never considered the fact that Bach’s music and his faith were so closely tied together that in order to understand his music, you must first understand his faith. When he wrote the phrase Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be the glory), that was the exact intention of his work. All of his music was a “love song to God.”

I greatly appreciated the fact that Bach was presented as a flawed but humble human.  It was nice to know that he was not perfect in any aspect of ihs life, but I was amazed to realize that I had a misguided view of his musical and academic (as well as theological) prowess.  i had always taught that Mozart was a musical genuis.  I had always put him at the top of the pedastal.  I was wrong.  Bach was able to do just about the same things as Moazrt when it came to compostition and musical performance.  And he not only taught music, but he taught other subjects as well–theology included.  He was as knowledgeable about the Bible as Martin Luther.  In fact, the book made the statment that his music completed the work the Reformation began.

A criticism I read of this book was that one had to understand music to fully understand this book.  Yes, I tend to agree.  Although there is a glossary in the back, if you do not have a working knowledge of music, you probably would struggle to understand some potionts of the book.  But for me, I absolutely adored the author’s analysis of Bach’s music and the great talent God gave him.  I also wish to thank Rick Marschall for not giving into the secular views of Bach and relying on what Bach and others who wrote about him with respect for who he truly was.  I am definitely a tremendous Bach fan now, and I am so glad I took the time to read this.

View all my reviews

About the Author:

Rick Marschall has written or edited more than 60 books and many magazine articles. He has been a political cartoonist, newspaper columnist, magazine editor, book publisher, teacher, and lecturer. He is also President of Marschall Books, specializing in cartoon anthologies.
Marschall has written many audio devotionals, and the “answer book” The Secret Revealed with Dr Jim Garlow (FaithWords, 2007). He served as Director of Product Development for Youth Specialties, a youth-ministry resource company.
As a lifelong devotée of Baroque music and Bach in particular, Marschall has attended two Bach festivals in Europe; and commemorations in Augsburg, Germany, on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s birth.
Marschall was the 2008 recipient of Christian Writer of the Year award from the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. He and his wife live in Swartz Creek, Michigan.
For more information:

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

1 Comment

  1. Debra May 17, 2011 Reply

    I have been staring at this book for awhile. I may need to read it… 🙂

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