Browsing a couple of days ago at the Milton Public Library, I found a new and previous unfamiliar biography of J.S.Bach.
Bach is the center of my musical universe. He has occupied that position for roughly the past sixty years. I discovered him — or he was revealed to me — when I was about fifteen; and I’m about to reach the end of my 75th year. 75 – 15 = 60.
My shelf of Bach volumes — excluding the music scores themselves — amounts to three or four feet of books. This biography from Martin Geck, published in English translation in 2007, was unfamiliar to me; the last major biography I was aware of came from Christoph Wolff at Harvard, which was published in 2000.
My first impression of the new work (formed as I read the first fifty pages) was that it was a distinctly secondary work. It seemed constructed of footnotes to one of the major biographies: it assumes the reader’s familiarity with all the major events in Bach’s life, offering comments arising from the most recent detailed scholarship.
But now, around pages 100+, more is starting to happen. I’m starting to learn the political context of Bach’s invitation to Leipzig in 1723: who were the supporters, who the opponents, what was at stake politically and religiously. Fascinating stuff. New to my acquaintance.