The Reformation and Johann Sebastian Bach (1)

I’ve long been fascinated with the person of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). This dates back to my years in college when I became especially impressed by the pipe organ music, partly because Redeemer University College, which I then attended, housed a remarkable Reil organ whose potential, so far as I could tell, was fully tapped by the college organist, Dr. Christiaan Teeuwsen.

In the spring of 1992 I studied in the Netherlands and was exposed to some of the greatest pipe organs in the world. On Saturdays I would sometimes bike from Amsterdam to Haarlem (about 10 miles) to take in free concerts at St. Bavo’s Church to hear the massive 1738 Muller organ. Soon after the organ was constructed, incidentally, it was played by George F. Handel who traveled to Holland exclusively for this purpose and was charmed by its sound. In 1776 the organ was played by a ten year boy by the name of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

It was in Haarlem where I was introduced to the organ music of Johann Sebastian Bach and I’ve never stopped listening. Today I happily own a complete CD collection of Bach’s organ works featuring Ton Koopman, organist and conductor of the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra.

My fascination with Bach was revived recently by a new interest in the cantatas of Bach and by a recent reading of Christoph Wolff’s 2001 biography Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician. Wolff is Professor of Music at Harvard University and one of the great authorities on Bach in our time.

One of the things that has inclined me to Bach, as opposed to Mozart, for example, or Beethoven, is Bach’s Protestantism. In following Pastor’s Pages I’d like show from his life and music that Bach was an astute, pious and orthodox Lutheran.

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