Bach and religion

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jserraglio
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Bach and religion

Post by jserraglio » Wed Apr 04, 2018 4:36 am

Links were added to the NYT article.

Michael Marissen: Bach Was Far More Religious Than You Might Think
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/30/arts ... music.html

Michael Marissen is the author of "Bach & God."
https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2 ... 9tzaragSwA

Bach biographers don't have it easy. Has there ever been a composer
who wrote so much extraordinary music and left so little
documentation of his personal life?

Life-writing abhors a vacuum, and experts have indulged in all
manner of speculation, generally mirroring their own approaches to
the world, about how Bach must have understood himself and his
works.

The current fancy is that Bach was a forward-looking,
quasi-scientific thinker who had little or no genuine interest in
traditional religion. "Bach's Dialogue With Modernity,"
one recent, indicative book [by John Butt] is called.
https://www.amazon.com/Bachs-Dialogue-M ... 1107404606

In arriving at this view, scholars have ignored, underestimated or
misinterpreted a rich source of evidence: Bach's personal three-volume
Study Bible, extensively marked with his own notations.
https://www.cph.org/p-6234-J-S-Bach-and ... ntary.aspx

A proper assessment of this document renders absurd any notion that Bach
was a progressivist or a secularist.

Listen to Bach's Religious Reflections
https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/121 ... v5WegzFQ2n

Bach's copy of these tomes--which were published in 1681-82 with
commentary culled by Abraham Calov from Martin Luther's sermons and
other writings--was unexpectedly discovered in the 1930s among the
belongings of a German immigrant family in Frankenmuth, Mich., and
is housed today at Concordia Seminary Library in St. Louis.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_cont ... c2zHMvxQbg


An enterprising publisher in the Netherlands, the Uitgeverij Van
Wijnen, has now issued a spectacular facsimile.

Image

All three volumes are inscribed "JSBach.1733" and contain a host of
handwritten corrections and comments. Bach handwriting experts have
identified the vast majority of these verbal entries as "definitely
Bach" or "probably Bach." Hundreds of passages are further scrawled
with marginal dashes and other nonverbal markings. Although these
are harder to evaluate, physicists at the Crocker Nuclear Laboratory
have concluded through ink analysis that "with high probability,
Bach was also responsible for the underlinings and marginal marks."

Where does all this science get us? Bach's notations bear witness to
a life of conservative Lutheran observance.

Within Calov's scripture verses, there are many small printing
errors that would doubtless go undetected by even the most
biblically literate reader. Yet time and again Bach has restored
text that was far from clearly missing, or has changed perfectly
plausible sounding, but in fact unattested, wording to the standard
Lutheran rendering. None of these corrections stem from the list of
errors printed in Calov's appendix.

Some biblical scholars have concluded from this that Bach acted like
an astute textual critic, poring over Calov's volumes and
painstakingly comparing them, line by line, with other Lutheran
Bibles. But there's a simpler and more likely scenario, fully
grounded in conservative 18th-century social and religious
practices.

Picture the people of Bach's household on free evenings, gathered in
their living room for the activity of reading aloud. The children
take turns reciting from a family Bible for practice in reading and
elocution, not to mention spiritual edification. The patriarch
follows along in his magnificent Study Bible, in part to make sure
there's no passage-skipping from the lectors, and in part to allow
him to reach for his inkwell whenever he spots, compared with what
he's just heard, an error in Calov's scriptural verses.

Tellingly, in something akin to what linguists call a mondegreen,
Bach at several passages apparently misconstrued what the children
--in this reconstruction of the scene--had said, and emended a
scriptural verse's legitimate Lutheran rendering to a
similar-sounding but unattested wording. At Isaiah 16:8, Luther's
text reads: "its vine-branches are scattered, and over the sea."
Bach caught sight of Calov's obvious typographical error "Fesser,"
but he evidently misheard a lector's utterance of the correct
wording, and thus emended Luther's intended "Feser" (vine-branches)
to the biblically unattested "Fäßer" (wine-casks).

The Calov volumes also provide insight into Bach's professional and
personal concerns, showing that he understood himself less as a
modern artist than as a preacher who was following his religious
vocation. An annotation in Latin that the Crocker Laboratory
physicists have filed under "definite Bach entries" makes for
especially poignant reading, as it takes note of manifold passages
in the Bible's Solomonic literature speaking of how to find godly
solace in a world that is hostile to people faithfully pursuing
their divine callings. Sundry administrative records indicate that
Bach often fell into trouble over philosophical differences with his
employers about the place of music in worship and in education.

Only a handful of Bach's entries in Calov concern music, and these
have received the most extensive--indeed, typically the only--
attention from biographers. Leading writers have striven to explain
these marginalia as progressive. In truth, all of them
straightforwardly reflect conservative Lutheran thinking. What they
share as well is a premodern interpretive approach called
"typology," whereby events and principles in the era of ancient
Israel act as "types" or "shadows" for their correlated "antitypes"
or "substances" in the era of Christianity. Typology was looked upon
less as a scholarly path to intellectual understanding than as a
doctrinal path to spiritual comfort.

Citing one of Bach's annotations on music as key progressivist
testimony, John Eliot Gardiner, in his 2013 biography "Bach: Music
in the Castle of Heaven," wrote:
https://www.amazon.com/Bach-Castle-John ... 0DA70AZGAK
"Bach understood that the more perfectly a composition is realized,
both conceptually and through performance, the more God is immanent
in the music. 'NB,' he wrotein the margin of his copy of Abraham
Calov's Bible commentary, 'Where there is devotional music, God
with his grace is always present.' This strikes me as a tenet that many
of us as musicians automatically hold and aspire to whenever we meet
to play music, regardless of whatever 'God' we happen to believe in."

What a lovely, modern idea! Alas, no aspect of it could possibly
have been part of Bach's understanding.

Lutherans like Bach certainly would have condemned as a grievous sin
of idolatry any notion that the essence of a piece of music is, or
turns into, the essence of God. And Bach's somewhat cryptic note is
not even about the less heretical notion of God's possibly just
"dwelling" within music, either. Its language plainly echoes more
particularized orthodox Lutheran observations about God and music
that were laid out in Johann Gerhard's "School of Piety" (1623), one
of many books of practical theology listed in Bach's estate
inventory.

Thus the impetus behind Bach's remark was not progressivist but
doctrinal. The Old Testament text Bach commented on presents the
"shadow": At the sound of the priestly music, the "Glory of the
Lord" inhabited the Jerusalem Temple. Bach's marginal note points to
the orthodox Lutheran understanding of the "substance": At a
rendering of devout music, the "Grace-Presence" of God will always
inhabit the hearts of Christian believers, whose bodies, according
to the New Testament, are "a temple of the Holy Spirit." Bach had
worked with these very tenets earlier in his career, when he
composed glorious musical settings of them in his Cantata No. 172,
"Ring Out, Ye Songs."


Bach Cantata BWV 172 "Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten"

Beside another significant passage in Calov, Bach wrote, "A splendid
demonstration ['Beweis'] that music has been mandated by God's
spirit." Christoph Wolff's magisterial biography, "Johann Sebastian
Bach: The Learned Musician" (2000), identifies Bach's use of
https://www.amazon.com/Johann-Sebastian ... 0393322564
"Beweis" here as an approving nod toward the term's centrality in
the progressive methodology of scientific empiricism, a methodology
that was held already during Bach's lifetime to be applicable also
to theological principles.

But the noun "Beweis" was also used frequently, from the 16th
through 18th centuries, in the same conservative way it's used in
Bach's note: for the "demonstration" of theological principles
through study of biblical revelation alone. Bach's music likewise
employs the word "Beweis" in its conventional pre-Enlightenment,
nonscientific sense. A recitative in his "Christmas Oratorio"
proclaims that a believer's heart should safeguard the biblical
account of the miracle of Christ's birth "as a sure demonstration
['Beweis']" of salvation.


Bach Weihnachtsoratorium BWV 0248 3-09 Ja, ja, mein Herz soll es bewahren

Bach was contractually answerable for choosing the liturgical poetry
he set to music, and modern-day critics, in a bit of wishful
thinking, often proclaim that his theologically conservative choices
were designed simply to please his employers. But on this
biographical question, the Calov volumes turn out to be acutely
instructive. The sentiments expressed in Bach's vocal music are
continually paralleled in his Calov notations. Most of his vocal
music was composed from the 1710s to 1730s, whereas his Calov
notations were entered in the 1730s and 1740s. In view of the fact
that almost all the private notations come well after the public
compositions, Bach obviously subscribed to the sentiments expressed
in his vocal music.

Both Bach's music and his Calov notations put powerful stress upon:
(1) contempt for human reason, along with the exalting of biblical
revelation as the proper arbiter of truth; (2) disparagement of
notions of human autonomy and achievement, along with the exalting
of dependence on God, including for one's position in the social
hierarchy; (3) contempt--explicit or implicit--for Judaism,
Catholicism and Islam, along with the exalting of orthodox
Lutheranism; (4) disdain for foreigners, along with the exalting of
German faithfulness and goodness; and (5) the emphatic exalting of
monarchical power, as authorized not by the people but by God.
Nowhere in Bach's music or Calov notations are these sentiments
contradicted.

In short, Bach, in his unswerving religious conservatism, was living
and working very much at odds with the progressivist currents of his
day, and ours. While we're arguably free to make use of him and his
music in whatever new ways we find fitting, we ought also to be on
the ethical alert for casting Bach in our own image.
Last edited by jserraglio on Wed Apr 04, 2018 9:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Lance
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Re: Bach and religion

Post by Lance » Wed Apr 04, 2018 11:33 am

My word! What an absolutely wonderful read on Bach here. Has it changed anyone's mind about Johann Sebastian Bach in any way. I have always felt that Bach was inspired by God, much in the same manner that Handel was in writing music "for the glory of God." It is, perhaps, a wonderful way to be inspired to write music that will surely last forever.
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Re: Bach and religion

Post by Belle » Wed Apr 04, 2018 4:42 pm

Brilliant read about Bach and Religion, which I've sent on to others. Just one more reason to love and admire Bach - as if another one were needed!!!

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by jbuck919 » Thu Apr 05, 2018 3:46 am

So who didn't/doesn't think Bach was religious, extremely devout even? The same mistake is made about Handel. Atheists and agnostics tend to think that all artistic people are crypto-secularists because they fancy that Shakespeare and Milton, for instance, are to much in the way of geniuses to be believers. (In fact, as Harold Bloom says, Milton was a tissue of heresies, and Shakespeare, the supposed crypto-Catholic, wrote all those plays that based on a pagan source, The Tempest which is neo-pagan, and Measure for Measure which is heretical if only because the Duke disguises himself as a monk and hears Isabell's confession.)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

jserraglio
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Re: Bach and religion

Post by jserraglio » Thu Apr 05, 2018 7:56 am

jbuck919 wrote:
Thu Apr 05, 2018 3:46 am
So who didn't/doesn't think Bach was religious, extremely devout even?
It's a question of emphasis, not a binary choice.

As quoted in the article, John Butt, Christoph Wolff and John Eliot Gardiner regard Bach as religious, surely not as a deist, but nevertheless believe he was influenced to some degree by progressive religious thinking.

Michael Marissen argues, rightly or wrongly, that Bach was religious in a different sense: he was a dyed-in-the-wool follower of Martin Luther, and as such, pretty much untouched by scientific empiricism or the Enlightenment.
Last edited by jserraglio on Thu Apr 05, 2018 10:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

John F
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Re: Bach and religion

Post by John F » Thu Apr 05, 2018 9:49 am

Lance wrote:
Wed Apr 04, 2018 11:33 am
My word! What an absolutely wonderful read on Bach here. Has it changed anyone's mind about Johann Sebastian Bach in any way.
Not in the slightest. I already knew about Bach's annotations in his Bible, though this piece told me more. But anyone who has listened to the St. Matthew Passion (or sung it) can have no doubt about the importance and depth of Bach's religious faith.
John Francis

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by Belle » Fri Apr 06, 2018 1:59 am

I've had many people - many - over the years write or say to me that Bach was a religious expedient who only served God so he could get a job. I never knew what to say to such people because, surely, they were never going to listen to his music. Easier to 'leave the room'.

I absolutely adore this and it speaks for itself: unadulterated ecstasy!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBeXF_lnj_M

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by John F » Fri Apr 06, 2018 2:14 am

Cynicism is cheap especially when based on ignorance, as it often is.
John Francis

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by maestrob » Fri Apr 06, 2018 10:58 am

John F wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 2:14 am
Cynicism is cheap especially when based on ignorance, as it often is.
Amen. :mrgreen:

barney
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Re: Bach and religion

Post by barney » Fri Apr 06, 2018 5:45 pm

Well, I agree with everyone, a dangerous precedent. :D
I don't know why people want to doubt it (I exempt the scholars from having a deliberate agenda), and suspect jbuck is on the money. All that work to play down the annotations, of which the simplest version is the obvious one. My Bible has underlinings and occasional marginal annotations too. For Protestants that remains very common.
Christians often claim too much in the name of Christianity, and secularists allow too little.

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by Belle » Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:58 pm

This morning I've found a series of coloured analyses of different great compositions. I've watched the analysis of Mozart's "Jupiter" and then I found this - and I was struck by how similar the musical thinking was between Mozart and Bach - obviously the former studied the latter. As they all did!

Bach BWV 80 Cantata, "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTq3gszPsIQ

Click on the author's name in this analysis and you can see his other great contributions.

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by THEHORN » Sat Apr 07, 2018 2:05 pm

Interesting article, but the claim about Bach allegedly having a "contempt for Judaism, Catholicism and Islam " as well as for "foreigners " strikes me as questionable . As far as I know, there is no evidence that Bach, devout as he was as a Lutheran, was this intolerant toward other religions or foreigners .
There have been accusations against him of "AntiSemitism " because of lines in the libretti of the St. Matthew and or St. John Passions showing the crowd angrily denouncing Jesus , but again, this is highly questionable . And of course, there is no evidence of Bach having ever met a Muslim let alone being hostile to Islam .

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by jserraglio » Sat Apr 07, 2018 5:02 pm

The Jews are not explicitly named in the SMP. As for the SJP, in another essay, the same Michael Marissen argues that the devout Lutheran who composed the SJP is not anti-Jewish, though Luther was. But Lutheranism taught that all humans, not just Jews, are radically sinful. So according to Marissen, the congregation hearing the SJP were supposed to identify their own sinfulness with that of the Jews in the passion narrative, and see themselves as the crucifiers. Bach, he suggests, was actually more tolerant than other composers of his time, Handel for instance.

https://ism.yale.edu/sites/default/file ... 0St(1).pdf
Marissen wrote:Who, then, is held accountable for Jesus’ crucifixion in Bach’s St. John Passion? The commentary hymn following on Jesus’ being struck by one of the attendants of “the Jews” expresses matters the most forcibly, its “I, I” referring to Bach’s Lutheran congregants: “Who has struck you so? ... I, I and my sins, which are as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore; they have caused you the sorrow that strikes you and the grievous host of pain.” Bach’s Passion, in contrast to Handel’s, takes the focus away from the perfidy of “the Jews” and onto the sins of Christian believers.
Last edited by jserraglio on Sun Apr 08, 2018 6:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

barney
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Re: Bach and religion

Post by barney » Sat Apr 07, 2018 8:32 pm

Agreed, that is precisely the point, and shows Bach's sound Lutheran theological understanding.
The idea that the Gospel of John is anti-Semitic is a relatively new opinion, and I think it is highly anachronistic. But there is no doubt that Gospel passages, especially from John, were later used to justify persecution and pogroms. That, however, is a different charge.

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by jserraglio » Sun Apr 08, 2018 5:10 am

THEHORN wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 2:05 pm
Interesting article, but the claim about Bach allegedly having a "contempt for Judaism, Catholicism and Islam " as well as for "foreigners " strikes me as questionable . ... As far as I know, there is no evidence that Bach, devout as he was as a Lutheran, was this intolerant toward other religions or foreigners ... And of course, there is no evidence of Bach having ever met a Muslim let alone being hostile to Islam .
from Cantata BWV 126, "Erhalt uns durch deine Gute"

Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort
und steur' des Papsts und Turken mord
Die Jesum Christum, deinen Sohn,
sturzen wollen von seinem Thron.

Uphold us, Lord, in Thy word
And fend off murderous Papists and Turks
Who wish to topple from his Throne
Jesu Christ, Thy son.

I think this text might be part of what Prof. Marissen would point to as Bach's "contempt—explicit or implicit" for Catholics and Muslims. Here Bach was setting a hymn by Luther. Is it plausible that Bach would have set these words to music unless to some degree he had approved of Luther's oft-expressed hostility to the Pope and "the Turk"?
Luther in Table-Talk wrote:Antichrist is the Pope and the Turk together; a beast full of life must have a body and soul; the spirit or soul of Antichrist is the Pope, his flesh or body the Turk. The latter wastes and assails and persecutes God's Church corporally; the former spiritually and corporally too, with hanging, burning, murdering, &c. But, as in the apostles' time, the Church had the victory over the Jews and Romans, so now will she keep the field firm and solid against the hypocrisy and idolatry of the Pope, and the tyranny and devastation of the Turk and her other enemies.
I dunno whether or not Bach ever met a Muslim, but his older brother must have met a slew of them during his military service in Constantinople. Back then, as now, Islamophobia, and Islamophilia, was in the air: both are found even in freethinkers like Voltaire.

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Apr 08, 2018 7:30 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Sun Apr 08, 2018 5:10 am
THEHORN wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 2:05 pm
Interesting article, but the claim about Bach allegedly having a "contempt for Judaism, Catholicism and Islam " as well as for "foreigners " strikes me as questionable . ... As far as I know, there is no evidence that Bach, devout as he was as a Lutheran, was this intolerant toward other religions or foreigners ... And of course, there is no evidence of Bach having ever met a Muslim let alone being hostile to Islam .
from Cantata BWV 126, "Erhalt uns durch deine Gute"

Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort
und steur' des Papsts und Turken mord
Die Jesum Christum, deinen Sohn,
sturzen wollen von seinem Thron.

Uphold us, Lord, in Thy word
And fend off murderous Papists and Turks
Who wish to topple from his Throne
Jesu Christ, Thy son.

I think this text might be part of what Prof. Marissen would point to as Bach's "contempt—explicit or implicit" for Catholics and Muslims. Here Bach was setting a hymn by Luther. Is it plausible that Bach would have set these words to music unless to some degree he had approved of Luther's oft-expressed hostility to the Pope and "the Turk"?
Luther in Table-Talk wrote:Antichrist is the Pope and the Turk together; a beast full of life must have a body and soul; the spirit or soul of Antichrist is the Pope, his flesh or body the Turk. The latter wastes and assails and persecutes God's Church corporally; the former spiritually and corporally too, with hanging, burning, murdering, &c. But, as in the apostles' time, the Church had the victory over the Jews and Romans, so now will she keep the field firm and solid against the hypocrisy and idolatry of the Pope, and the tyranny and devastation of the Turk and her other enemies.
I dunno whether or not Bach ever met a Muslim, but his older brother must have met a slew of them during his military service in Constantinople. Back then, as now, Islamophobia, and Islamophilia,
Yet as has been pointed out on another thread, Bach has been adopted by Catholics, a situation not only condoned but even approved by traditionalist Catholics who otherwise continue to treat Lutheranism as a horrible heresy. I can only interpret this tolerance as based on a combination of ignorance and arrogance. (They don't don't know that Bach wrote at least one cantata--BWV 9-- with a theologically Lutheran text, and so great a religious composer must be compatible with Catholicism. This school of so-called thought at the same time inconsistently ignores Beethoven, another important religious composer who was manifestly a nominally Catholic heretic.)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by jserraglio » Sun Apr 08, 2018 8:28 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Sun Apr 08, 2018 7:30 pm
Bach wrote at least one cantata--BWV 9--with a theologically Lutheran text
One would expect the text of BWV 9 to refer to a foundational doctrine of the Reformation (divine grace trumps good works).

Not quite so easy to stomach is Bach's associating himself in BWV 126 with Luther's bigoted notion that Catholics (the papists) and Muslims (the Turks) are murderers and by implication Christ killers.
Last edited by jserraglio on Mon Apr 09, 2018 12:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by diegobueno » Mon Apr 09, 2018 9:13 am

BWV 18 Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee also expresses similar sentiments. It entreats God "From the cruel murders and blasphemies of the Turks and the Pope, protect us like a father".

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by jserraglio » Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:35 am

diegobueno wrote:
Mon Apr 09, 2018 9:13 am
BWV 18 Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee also expresses similar sentiments. It entreats God "From the cruel murders and blasphemies of the Turks and the Pope, protect us like a father".
Thanks. Sensitive enough for some that it generated an alternative line:

That we, from the Turks and the Pope’s
*alternate line [That we, from the Enemy's and Satan's]
horrid murder and blasphemy,
raging and fury, be fatherly protected.
Hear us, dear Lord God!

I read on the Bach Cantatas Website that John Harbison remarked in a pre-concert talk that Bach equated the Pope with Satan musically by using snake-like riffs whenever the name of either one surfaced in the cantatas.
jbuck919 wrote:
Sun Apr 08, 2018 7:30 pm
Bach has been adopted by Catholics, a situation not only condoned but even approved by traditionalist Catholics who otherwise continue to treat Lutheranism as a horrible heresy. I can only interpret this tolerance as based on a combination of ignorance and arrogance.
Christian theology made much bigger accommodations than that earlier on when it appropriated elements of pagan myth (Apollo prefiguring Christ) and philosophy (Stoicism, Neo-Platonism, Aristotelianism & Gnosticism).

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by barney » Tue Apr 10, 2018 1:52 am

jserraglio wrote:
Sun Apr 08, 2018 8:28 pm
jbuck919 wrote:
Sun Apr 08, 2018 7:30 pm
Bach wrote at least one cantata--BWV 9--with a theologically Lutheran text
One would expect the text of BWV 9 to refer to a foundational doctrine of the Reformation (divine grace trumps good works).

Not quite so easy to stomach is Bach's associating himself in BWV 126 with Luther's bigoted notion that Catholics (the papists) and Muslims (the Turks) are murderers and by implication Christ killers.
Yes, but let's remember when Bach lived, with the Turks only recently repelled from the gates of Vienna, and the scars of Europe's religious wars still highly evident. We might find it similarly embarrassing to look at some of the rhetoric by Christian preachers during the Cold War.

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Apr 10, 2018 2:21 am

jserraglio wrote:
Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:35 am
diegobueno wrote:
Mon Apr 09, 2018 9:13 am
BWV 18 Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee also expresses similar sentiments. It entreats God "From the cruel murders and blasphemies of the Turks and the Pope, protect us like a father".
Thanks. Sensitive enough for some that it generated an alternative line:

That we, from the Turks and the Pope’s
*alternate line [That we, from the Enemy's and Satan's]
horrid murder and blasphemy,
raging and fury, be fatherly protected.
Hear us, dear Lord God!

I read on the Bach Cantatas Website that John Harbison remarked in a pre-concert talk that Bach equated the Pope with Satan musically by using snake-like riffs whenever the name of either one surfaced in the cantatas.
jbuck919 wrote:
Sun Apr 08, 2018 7:30 pm
Bach has been adopted by Catholics, a situation not only condoned but even approved by traditionalist Catholics who otherwise continue to treat Lutheranism as a horrible heresy. I can only interpret this tolerance as based on a combination of ignorance and arrogance.
Christian theology made much bigger accommodations than that earlier on when it appropriated elements of pagan myth (Apollo prefiguring Christ) and philosophy (Stoicism, Neo-Platonism, Aristotelianism & Gnosticism).
I don't disagree with you, except I'm doubtful about Apollo. I'd entertain evidence. I'm also doubtful about the similarity between any intellectual appropriation of pagan philosophy and any artistic appreciation of Bach. As to Belle's question, a lat that I learned was in college and I just can't remember the sources. The standard book is, I'm afraid, Apel's textbook on medieval music, which is the Wikipedia article.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by jserraglio » Tue Apr 10, 2018 3:35 am

Early Christian iconography. Christ was sometimes depicted as strikingly similar to Apollo manifested as sun-god (Helios?) or Apollo as shepherd. Christ was not identified with Apollo, however.

https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/dai ... neighbors/

As I recall from reading him long ago, the very early Christian apologist Justin Martyr appealed to the Romans by pointing out the parallels between their own pagan religion and Christianity. He even concocted an ingenious theory, the logos spermatikos or seminal word, to account for the ways that pagan thinkers like Socrates, anticipated Chistianity.

I agree with you that RC appropriation of Bach's art is dissimilar to the early-Christian assimilation of Greek philosophy but for a different reason: the latter was far more radical, all-encompassing and culturally significant than the former.
Last edited by jserraglio on Tue Apr 10, 2018 9:38 am, edited 7 times in total.

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by jserraglio » Tue Apr 10, 2018 4:07 am

barney wrote:
Tue Apr 10, 2018 1:52 am
let's remember when Bach lived, with the Turks only recently repelled from the gates of Vienna, and the scars of Europe's religious wars still highly evident.
I agree but would like to point out that understandable does not equate to defensible.

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Apr 10, 2018 4:10 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Tue Apr 10, 2018 3:35 am
Early Christian iconography. Christ was sometimes depicted as strikingly similar to Apollo manifested as sun-god (Helios?) or Apollo as shepherd. Christ was not identified with Apollo, however.

https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/dai ... neighbors/

As I recall from reading him long ago, the very early Christian apologist Justin Martyr appealed to the Romans by pointing out the parallels between their own pagan religion and Christianity. He even concocted an ingenious theory, the logos spermatikos or seminal word, to account for the ways that pagan thinkers like Socrates, anticipated Chistianity.

I agree with you that RC appropriation of Bach's art is dissimilar to the early-Christian assimilation of Greek philosophy but for a different reason: the latter was far more radical, all-encompassing and culturally significant than the former.
It was also more purposeful. Educated Roman Christians wanted to convert other educated Romans. (Why these men were Christians to begin with is a different question.) It is often thought that the Latin translation of the Bible by Sophronius Hieronymus, commonly known as St. Jerome and called the Vulgate, was for the masses (lower-case "m"), thus vulgar. Nothing could be further from the truth. The masses used simplified Greek as a lingua franca. Educated Romans, though, were put off by the koine Greek in which the New Testament was written, and thought that nothing good could come from badly written Greek. Jerome "improved" the texts by translating them into relatively elegant Latin.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by barney » Tue Apr 10, 2018 4:52 pm

For the couple of you who may be interested, I reviewed a new book at Easter: What Did Jesus Look Like? Professor Joan Taylor concluded the closest DNA to first century Jewish men from tombs, osteological data etc would be a modern Iraqi Jew. He probably had shortish hair and a cropped beard, honey or olive skin, brown eyes etc.
Of course far and away the most common representation is a European man, light brown long hair, long beard.
Failure to look at this will NOT cause offence.
https://www.theage.com.au/entertainment ... 0xw3u.html

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by barney » Tue Apr 10, 2018 4:53 pm

I should add, my previous post was sparked by comments on Apollo, which is one of the categories of depiction the book considers.

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by jserraglio » Wed Apr 11, 2018 4:19 am

jbuck919 wrote:
Tue Apr 10, 2018 2:21 am
I'm doubtful about Apollo. I'd entertain evidence.
_________________________________________________________________________________

Might the epithet Christos (the Anointed) have become assocated with the similar sounding Apollo or Helios Chrestos (the Good)?

Clement of Alexandria, 3rd century: "For the Sun of Righteousness [Malachi 4:2], who drives His chariot over all, pervades equally all humanity, like His Father, who makes His sun to rise on all men." (Exhortation to the Heathen, c. 195 CE)

Image
Christ? (as Sun-god? with sun halo. Mosaic, Vatican necropolis, under St. Peter's Basilica, Rome 2nd century)

Image
Apollo-Helios (with Sun halo. Roman mosaic, Tunisia 3rd century)

Image
Christ? (with Chi-Rho halo, flanked by pomegranates. The Hinton St. Mary mosaic, Roman villa Dorset, England, 4th century, British Museum)

This magnificent mosaic was discovered buried beneath a field in the village of Hinton St Mary, Dorset, in 1963. It may feature the earliest known representation of Christ.

The mosaic was laid on the floor in the wing of a large building complex, probably including the remains of a villa. It was designed as a continuous floor in two panels for one large room divided by a pair of short cross-walls. The smaller panel contains a central roundel (circular piece) which shows the hero Bellerophon mounted on his winged horse, Pegasus. He is spearing the mythical three-headed monster, Chimaera, a scene perhaps intended to illustrate the triumph of good over evil. It is flanked (bordered) on two sides by hunting scenes showing stags pursued by hounds.

The larger panel comprises a central roundel flanked by four semi-circles. Three show similar hunting scenes and one a large, spreading tree. In the corners are busts of four male figures with windswept hair. They may represent the four Evangelists, the four winds, or indeed both.

In the central roundel is a portrait of a clean-shaven man. He has been placed in front of the Greek letters chi and rho, the first two letters of Christ's name, which form a monogram behind his head. On either side is a pomegranate, symbol of eternal life. Therefore he may represent Christ, although there is also the possibility that he represents a Christian emperor http://www.thebyzantinelegacy.com/hinton-mosaic

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Apr 11, 2018 12:34 pm

barney wrote:
Tue Apr 10, 2018 4:53 pm
I should add, my previous post was sparked by comments on Apollo, which is one of the categories of depiction the book considers.
Now we're really drifting, but every single actor who has portrayed Jesus in a spectacle (Max von Sydow, Jeffrey Hunter, Robert Powell, Willem Dafoe) has had blue eyes. James Caviezel also has blue eyes, but they were digitally changed to brown for The Passion of the Christ. Only Lothaire Bluteau, the Canadian actor who played in the little-known and provocative Jesus of Montreal has brown eyes. (An irony to me, because being of French Canadian extraction, the men in my family all have blue eyes.)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by THEHORN » Wed Apr 11, 2018 2:12 pm

Bach was required to use a variety of religious texts for the cantatas he composed ; this was part of his job as a Cantor and Kapellmeister . So we can't be sure he agreed with all the sentiments expressed in them . Therefore, we can't be sure he was as hostile to Catholicism as the tex in the cant you cite , and there is on evidence of Bach being an out and out anti-semite .

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by jserraglio » Wed Apr 11, 2018 2:16 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 12:34 pm
every single actor who has portrayed Jesus in a spectacle (Max von Sydow, Jeffrey Hunter, Robert Powell, Willem Dafoe) has had blue eyes.
Was Jesus a blue-eyed amateur actor in one of the greatest of all gospel flicks? Hard to tell given Pasolini's choice of b & w photography. But probably not.

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by jserraglio » Wed Apr 11, 2018 2:26 pm

THEHORN wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 2:12 pm
Bach was required to use a variety of religious texts for the cantatas he composed ; this was part of his job as a Cantor and Kapellmeister. So we can't be sure he agreed with all the sentiments expressed in them. Therefore, we can't be sure he was as hostile to Catholicism . . . .
If the attacks on Papists and Turks are now to be called into question (Maybe Bach didn't really believe the nasty things about Catholics and Muslims he set to music), then how can we be sure Bach fully espoused the devout sentiments expressed in his cantata texts?

Isn't Bach responsible for the content disseminated by his chosen medium? The fact that Bach set Martin Luther's anti-Catholic and Islamophobic hymn texts to music is problematic and cannot be easily explained away.
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Re: Bach and religion

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Apr 11, 2018 6:02 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 2:16 pm
jbuck919 wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 12:34 pm
every single actor who has portrayed Jesus in a spectacle (Max von Sydow, Jeffrey Hunter, Robert Powell, Willem Dafoe) has had blue eyes.
Was Jesus a blue-eyed amateur actor in one of the greatest of all gospel flicks? Hard to tell given Pasolini's choice of b & w photography. But probably not.

In fact, Enrique Irazoque's eyes are brown. Since the movie is on YouTube, I guess I'll have to watch it. (Thanks, Robert.)

Some artists have been more perspicacious about such things. Rembrandt got a number of his models from the Jewish quarter. They do not necessarily look very Semitic, but if you see this Christ with Folded Arms from the local Hyde Collection of Art in Glens Falls NY, you will get the point. Or the point will get you.

Image

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by jserraglio » Wed Apr 11, 2018 6:12 pm

I saw this Pasolini flick in a Manhattan revival house and was deeply moved by its spirituality. Right up there with Dreyer's Joan of Arc silent.

Maybe only atheists should be allowed to make movies about Christ.

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by barney » Thu Apr 12, 2018 6:48 am

jserraglio wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 4:19 am
jbuck919 wrote:
Tue Apr 10, 2018 2:21 am
I'm doubtful about Apollo. I'd entertain evidence.

This magnificent mosaic was discovered buried beneath a field in the village of Hinton St Mary, Dorset, in 1963. It may feature the earliest known representation of Christ.
No, the fourth century mosaic is certainly not the oldest representation. We have the second century depiction that I referred to in the article:
"The earliest image we have is certainly derogatory. It is a piece of graffiti scratched on the wall of the guardroom of the imperial palace on the Palatine Hill room in Rome in the second century, with the caption "Alexamenos [says] 'worship God'." It shows a man with his hand raised declaiming, while slightly above him is Jesus on the cross with the head of a donkey."

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by jserraglio » Fri Apr 13, 2018 8:46 am

barney wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 6:48 am
No, the fourth century mosaic is certainly not the oldest representation. We have the second century depiction that I referred to in the article:
"The earliest image we have is certainly derogatory. It is a piece of graffiti ... a man with his hand raised declaiming, while slightly above him is Jesus on the cross with the head of a donkey."
Back in the 1970s, if a caricaturist had portrayed Donald Trump as the east end of a jackass moving west, who else, besides me, would call that image the earliest representation we have of the future President?

So I think the website was only technically incorrect. Their general point about the very early provenance of that worshipful 4th-c portrayal, which anticipated later Byzantine church art, still stands, assuming the mosaic in the British Museum does actually depict Jesus Christ, and not somebody like the HRE Constantine.

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Re: Bach and religion

Post by barney » Fri Apr 13, 2018 5:57 pm

Yes, certainly.
The other claimed source, probably of less interest to non-Catholics, or not so devout Catholics, is the number of images claimed to have been passed miraculously to pieces of cloth with which Jesus wiped his face - not just the Veronica, which was an important relic for centuries. And also the Shroud of Turin. I do not suggest any of these actually hold the image of Jesus.

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