Listen: Johann Sebastian Bach

 

I’ve just finished reading a book (And After the Fire, by Lauren Belfer) that centers on a fictional cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. The story features various Bach pieces, as well as some by both Felix Mendelssohn and his sister Fanny, also a composer. As I was reading I thought to myself, I really need to go find some of this music, so I can better enter into the story. Happily for me, the author made up a Spotify playlist of music that appears in the book–such a great idea.

So today I’ll share a track from Bach’s cello suites, No. 1 in G major, V. Menuets I and II, played by Jean-Guihen Queyras. If you like what you hear and want more, the book’s play list can be found at this link.

 

The book features an unknown Bach manuscript with highly anti-semitic lyrics, based on incendiary text written by Martin Luther. Though the manuscript doesn’t exist, the text of some of Bach’s movingly beautiful music does in fact reflect alarming religious intolerance toward Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. One of the central questions of the book is how we come to grips with the entanglement of great genius and odious opinions or behavior. Alas, the need to figure that out is as pressing now as it was in centuries past.

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