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Bach and Censorship

Bach and Censorship

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 19, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Although Bach deploys Pietist sentiments in some parts of the Cantatas and in the Passions, the predominant tendency is to orthodox Lutheran expression. >
Do we know if Bach had to submit his texts to the authorities and receive an official "Nihil obstat" before beginning composition? Given the sensitivity of the Lutheran - Pietist ebate, it seems unlikely that Bach would have been allowed to publish and sell texts which had not been approved by the authorities. It would also add another step to his compositional process.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 19, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>Do we know if Bach had to submit his texts to the authorities and receive an official "Nihil obstat" before beginning composition? Given the sensitivity of the Lutheran - Pietist debate, it seems unlikely that Bach would have been allowed to publish and sell texts which had not been approved by the authorities.<<
On the contrary, Bach was required to pass an examination given by a theology professor, Johann Schmid, at the University of Leipig. Bach passed this exam and was also required to swear an oath to support Lutheran doctrine in its most conservative form. The latter included the "Visitationsartikel" of 1592 which condemned 'all the negative and contrary Calvinist doctrine'.

The theology exam was not simply a pro-forma test. Just the previous year, Conrad Küffner, a candidate to become the Cantor of St. Catherine's Church in Zwickau, had failed to pass such a test. There is a record of the questions which were asked on that occasion: "How many chapters are there in each of the Gospels and in the letters of St. Paul?"; "How often is Christ's genealogy given in the Bible?"; "Where in the Bible does the statement occur: 'Das ist das ewige Leben' = "That is the eternal life"; and "What are all of the characteristics ascribed to God the Father as the first person of the Godhead?"

[All of the above is given on p. 150 (with footnotes to the sources) of Martin Geck's "Bach: Leben und Werk" (Hamburg, 2000, 2001).]

Based upon the above, it would appear that what Bach accomplished here is somewhat equivalent to passing a driver's license test. Just as long as someone can obey the laws and limitations set forth by the state and not break them or cause accidents, the state will have no cause to restrict your ability to drive a vehicle. Nor do you have to have your vehicle or driving abilities inspected and tested each week before you go out for a Sunday drive. Bach, likewise, after having passed these two important religious tests, would have gained the freedom to pick and choose (and write, if he had the time for that) any cantata text without submitting it to any higher authority (pastors, theology professors, etc.). He had been forewarned not to make his cantatas become too long or too operatic, but beyond that, none of the city council members saw any reason to restrict Bach's libretto choices because he had overcome the two important hurdles that were required of him. Bach could even accept and present libretti by university students or even Thomaner (as was recently suggested by a Bach expert) because the authorities now had to trust in his good judgment until a flagrant violation would be brought to their attention.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 19, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< On the contrary, Bach was required to pass an examination given by a theology professor, Johann Schmid, at the University of Leipig. Bach passed this exam and was also required to swear an oath to support Lutheran doctrine in its most conservative form. The latter included the "Visitationsartikel" of 1592 which condemned 'all the negative and contrary Calvinist doctrine'.
Based upon the above, it would appear that what Bach accomplished here is somewhat equivalent to passing a driver's license test. Just as long as someone can obey the laws and limitations set forth by the state and not break them or cause accidents, the state will have no cause to restrict your ability to drive a vehicle. Nor do you have to have your vehicle or driving abilities inspected and tested each week before you go out for a Sunday drive. >
This is a silly analogy and I'll give a silly answer: you have to be retested for a licence after 70 and cars have to be inspected before resale -- at least in Canada.

Most certainly Bach passed his qualifying exam, spectacularly so for someone who was not a university graduate. But the eccleasiastical authorities -- not the civic authorities -- had protocols and mechanisms for ensuring Lutheran orthodoxy.

The pastor of St. Thomas was also the Superintendent of the Leipzig region in succession to the pre-Reformation bishop. The superintendent conducted visitations in every parish which examined the work and public morals of the pastors and staff (including musicians). On a regular basis, Bach could have expected to appear before the St. Thomas pastor in the pastor's role as superintendent to be examined as to his orthodoxy and public behaviour.

Any published material, such as books, pamphlets, sermons and probably cantata libretti would be scrutinized. This is where many clerics fell afoul and were suspended from functioning. There is little chance that Bach had any such problems. He had close intellectual relationships with the principal clergy: he may very well have discussed his cantata projects with them. It's not beyond possibility that as a courtesy to the authorities he asked them to "sign off" on libretti so that there was never a chance of public complaint. The last thing that Bach would have wanted was the congregation pointing at the libretto text and whispering "Pietist!" to each other.

We tend to think of composition as a private activity for the artist and his muse alone. Composition for the church was a very public activity. All of Bach's training and expereinced taight him how to produce the greatest music ever written within what we would feel are intolerable restraints.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 19, 2007):
<< Based upon the above, it would appear that what Bach accomplished here is somewhat equivalent to passing a driver's license test. Just as long as someone can obey the laws and limitations set forth by the state and not break them or cause accidents, the state will have no cause to restrict your ability to drive a vehicle. Nor do you have to have your vehicle or driving abilities inspected and tested each week before you go out for a Sunday drive. >>
< This is a silly analogy and I'll give a silly answer: you have to be retested for a licence after 70 and cars have to be inspected before resale -- at least in Canada. >
Down here where I live, every motorized vehicle must be re-inspected and certified every year, and drivers every five.

Furthermore (on the silliness of the analogy), my driver's license does not grant me privilege to:

- 1. Invent or build my own motorized vehicle that is legally streetworthy (and un-inspected) for use on public roads.

- 2. Put up road signs of my own choosing in a public place, thereby creating new traffic laws that others must obey.

- 3. Drive a bus, taxi, or any other similar vehicle for hire...but only a privately-owned passenger vehicle.

- 4. Drive my vehicle in some improper or "reckless" way, such as backwards or doing a wheelie, down the correct side of a public road, even while adhering to the letter of the law in going the correct direction.

- 5. Go teach a driver's training course, or a theological course, or any other course with responsibility of public instruction into orthodoxy.

- 6. Write and sign my own annual inspection stickers, or the inspection sticker for anyone else's vehicle.

- 7. Remove road signs, or any other Department of Motor Vehicles property, just because they inconvenience me with their placement or appearance.

...1, like writing or assembling a new poetic text for use in a public worship service.

...2, like making up my own theology and expecting others to adhere to it.

...3, like leading a service and getting paid to do so.

...4, like making a theological or biblical text say the opposite of what it really says, and hoping that no one notices the switch.

...5, like teaching or assigning new religious music to students, entirely at my own whim as to what is appropriate material.

...6, like having carte blanche, with the direct and paid responsibility, to approve any religious text that suits my own fancy or my compositional desires.

...7, like leaving out parts of a theological text that someone did officially approve, editing sneakily, with the hope that nobody catches the change but still adheres to the authority of the approval.

=====

p.s. I'm still waiting eagerly to see the three complete and untranslated sentences about Stuebel, typed directly from Martin Geck's book. That couldn't take more than five minutes of work!

Somebody has already presented a faithfully transcribed copy of the official and published English translation, viz:
"Is Bach's author perhaps the former Konrektor of St. Thomas, Andreas Stübel, whose chiliastic, that is, radically Pietist views caused his removal from office? Hans-Joachim Schulze considered this scholarly and poetically gifted man a possibility because (among other reasons) he died after a three-day illness on 31 January 1725, just at the point when the last three libretti of the chorale cantata cycle set by Bach were due. Schulze conjectures that Stübel's death could have been the crucial factor causing the cycle to remain incomplete."

Let's see the original German, please, without any gratuitous interpretation or second-guessing. This has already been requested several times.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 19, 2007):
< Most certainly Bach passed his qualifying exam, spectacularly so for someone who was not a university graduate. But the eccleasiastical authorities -- not the civic authorities -- had protocols and mechanisms for ensuring Lutheran orthodoxy.
The pastor of St. Thomas was also the Superintendent of the
Leipzig region in succession to the pre-Reformation bishop. The superintendent conducted visitations in every parish which examined the work and public morals of the pastors and staff (including musicians). On a regular basis, Bach could have expected to appear before the St. Thomas pastor in the pastor's role as superintendent to be examined as to his orthodoxy and public behaviour.
Any published material, such as books, pamphlets, sermons and probably cantata libretti would be scrutinized. This is where many clerics fell afoul and were suspended from functioning. >
So, given the [perhaps relevant, perhaps not] fact that Bach passed his qualifying exam: we still don't know one way or the other, do we, which of the following was the normal process for ratifying texts?

(1) Bach was granted carte blanche authority to publish and compose music for whatever texts suited his own purposes, without requiring anyone else's advice or consensus. As long as nobody complained loudly enough or brought him up for public discipline for something deemed inappropriate, he could do what he wanted.

(2) Bach became a member -- whether through this prerequisite exam or some additional processes -- of a group responsible to ratify the texts...needing some consensus or at least a majority approval on them. Presumably, with meetings at least as often as it was time to publish a new batch of them for the upcoming season of performances.

(3) Bach, despite the certified theological orthodoxy with his exam (which is neither here nor there, i.e. a red herring), still had to submit texts to some group for final approval of publication and composition. That group had any final say; and Bach as music director could only offer his best recommendations, then submit to the decision handed down.

And given these texts for printing, words only, to be handed out: what was the role of the publisher in this, whether theologically or financially? As at least part of a committee saying what makes it into print and what doesn't?

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 19, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>The pastor of St. Thomas was also the Superintendent of the Leipzig region in succession to the pre-reformation bishop. The superintendent conducted visitations in every parish which examined the work and public morals of the pastors and staff (including musicians).<<
Salomon Deyling was the 'policeman' patrolling the churches in his district, but did he as a 'policeman' stop every motorist (pastors having prepared a new sermon or cantors selecting and wishing to compose a specific libretto) without beforehand seeing a flagrant violation of the rules?

DC: >>On a regular basis, Bach could have expected to appear before the St. Thomas pastor in the pastor's role as superintendent to be examined as to his orthodoxy and public behaviour.<<
Documentation? On what regular basis? How many times a month or year? Or is this just another one of the many rules (like in the Schulordnungen der Thomasschule) which appear in the printed regulations but are only enforced when egregious exceptions occur?

DC: >>Any published material, such as books, pamphlets sermons and probably cantata libretti would be scrutinized.<<
After they had been printed and performed perhaps, but not before.

DC: >>There is little chance that Bach had any such problems. He had close intellectual relationships with the principal clergy: he may very well have discussed his cantata projects with them.<<
It is just as likely, if not more than likely, that Bach did not discuss the specifics of each libretto with any of his superiors.

Christoph Wolff, in his "Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician" (Norton, 2000), p. 259, states:

"Before composing the cantata, he [J. S. Bach] had to select its text and prepare it for publication in the form of booklets that the congregation could read before or during the performance."

Wolff does not mention anything here about submitting his libretti to any of his superiors for approval. Where is there even a single shred of evidence that he had ever done this in Leipzig with his church cantatas?

DC: >>It's not beyond possibility that as a courtesy to the authorities he asked them to "sign off" on libretti so that there was never a chance of public complaint.<<
This is a highly imaginative scenario created in retrospect without any real, direct evidence to back this up.

DC: >>We tend to think of composition as a private activity for the artist and his muse alone. Composition for the church was a very public activity. All of Bach's training and experience taught him how to produce the greatest music ever written within what we would feel are intolerable restraints.<<
This may be true in other respects, but submitting each cantata text for approval before having the cantata booklets printed does not appear to have any direct historical support from documents relating to Bach's tenure in Leipzig. Remember that Bach had his 'driver's license' and was free to move within the established rules and limitations of which he was well aware. He did not have to be 'rechecked' every month or so by the authorities to determine whether he still properly adhered to the established religious doctrine whenever he used a new cantata text.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 19, 2007):
< Wolff does not mention anything here about submitting his libretti to any of his superiors for approval. Where is there even a single shred of evidence that he had ever done this in Leipzig with his church cantatas? >
It's kept in a box, along with the single shred of evidence that he DIDN'T ever do this in Leipzig with his church cantatas. Unfortunately, that box is lost; and so we don't know, one way or the other.

An, Wolff's non-mention of whatever-it-was does not in itself constitute proof that whatever-it-was didn't happen. We shouldn't expect Wolff, or anyone else, to be that comprehensive and that omniscient in the writing of history.

What's the sound of a bell not ringing? A non-knell! Sort of like the infamous sustain on Nigel Tufnel's guitar, when it's not playing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhVWJgIzftE

Don't even point at it.

By the way, there's probably not even a single shred of evidence that Bach ever belched. Excellent proof that he didn't! Er, non-proof.

Nessie Russell wrote (April 19, 2007):
DC: >>It's not beyond possibility that as a courtesy to the authorities he asked them to "sign off" on libretti so that there was never a chance of public complaint.<<
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< This is a highly imaginative scenario created in retrospect without any real, direct evidence to back this up. >
I can't believe you said this Thomas.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 20, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>(1) Bach was granted carte blanche authority to publish and compose music for whatever texts suited his own purposes, without requiring anyone else's advice or consensus.<<
This appears to be the most acceptable option given the lack of evidence for any of the others. He may, of course, have consulted only one or two superiors for general advice: "How about doing a cantata cycle based upon chorale texts and melodies? Perhaps there is a possibility here that the pastors involved could coordinate their sermons to the chorales agreed upon? [Historically, this procedure had already been followed by one of Bach's predecessors. In such an instance, planning such a cycle would have to be a cooperative effort. In Bach's case, the chorale cantata cycle does not appear to have been linked to the sermons - at least I have not seen evidence yet that it was.]

BL: >>And given these texts for printing, words only, to be handed out: what was the role of the publisher in this, whether theologically or financially? As at least part of a committee saying what makes it into print and what doesn't?<<
The publisher/printer probably received Bach's orders for the cantata booklets at the last possible moment and most likely worked overtime to get the booklets printed in time for the performance of the 1st cantata in the booklet on the next morning which was Sunday. A printer as a member of the peer-group editing panel? I thought printers were more interested in whether a book would sell well or not. In the early 1730s, Leipzig printers, for instance, were printing and selling a number of different books on the subject of vampires. The actual, verified reports (two officers in the army who witnessed this) and analytical commentaries by university professors were not being screened or scrutinized by city and church authorities beforehand. (I wonder whether Bach read books like these and discussed them with others, or perhaps his sons might have brought home a copy from the university where such books were being circulated among students.)

As long as the printers were being paid in advance by Bach to print in advance his cantata booklets, why should they be interested in 'snitching' on Bach to the authorities who might shut down the entire printing process for the cantatas, so that the printers would lose a portion of their lucrative business? Who knows? Bach might even go to a competitor for a better deal?

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 20, 2007):
>>(1) Bach was granted carte blanche authority to publish and compose music for whatever texts suited his own purposes, without requiring anyone else's advice or consensus.<<
< This appears to be the most acceptable option given the lack of evidence for any of the others. >
Despite the lack of evidence for this one, either. I guess the word "acceptable" then apparently means something non-standard, such as, "the one that best confirms the foregone romanticized conclusion: that Bach was an autonomous superhero, who didn't have to answer to anybody on this...."....

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 20, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>(1) Bach was granted carte blanche authority to publish and compose music for whatever texts suited his own purposes, without requiring anyone else's advice or consensus.<<
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< This appears to be the most acceptable option given the lack of evidence for any of the others. >
Not the sort of introductory remark that induces reasonable readers to continue eagerly. Nevertheless, I will save the rest for later digestion (indigestion, or 'das Knochenkotzen'?)

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 20, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>I guess the word "acceptable" then apparently means something non-standard, such as, "the one that best confirms the foregone romanticized conclusion: that Bach was an autonomous superhero, who didn't have to answer to anybody on this...."....<<
...the same way that anyone who has a valid driver's license does not have to answer to any authority (a law officer like a policeman) when driving within the limits of the laws and abiding by the rules of the road. Within these limits anyone is an 'autonomous superhero'. Bach proved that he was well-acquainted with the rules of the road prescribed by the Leipzig authorities and sometimes he tested them to the limit, not always succeeding in getting his way. While he may have accepted general advice from authorities, he also was known not to kowtow to any of them to curry favors with them or remain on their good side. This simply was not part of Bach's nature/character.

Where is there any evidence that Bach had to submit for approval beforehand the chorales to be sung or the cantata texts he wished to use in the church services under his jurisdiction?

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 20, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Where is there any evidence that Bach had to submit for approval beforehand the chorales to be sung or the cantata texts he wished to use in the church services under his jurisdiction? >
No actual evidence as yet, but some very interesting speculation. Perhaps adopting Stübel, the 'Konrector emeritus' (Wolff), as collaborator on the chorale text adaptations was a means of sliding things through easily? Some people are better at this sort of thing than others.

Does anyone really believe that any preacher worth his salt (ACE, derived from the Roman armies) would let musical texts go by, which are out of joint with his preaching? Selling the Lord is a highly coordinated activity. Just take a look around.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 20, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Documentation? On what regular basis? How many times a month or year? Or is this just another one of the many rules (like in the Schulordnungen der Thomasschule) which appear in the printed regulations but are only enforced when egregious exceptions occur? >
"Worship Wars in Early Lutheranism: Choir, Congregation, and Three Centuries of Conflict" by Joseph Herl (Oxford 2004) describes in great scholarly detail the way in which Lutheran churches were supervised and orthodoxy was maintained. The superintendent's visitations called for written reports from the parishes, interviews with clergy and cantors, and a centralized report with recommendations for action.

On a postitive note, this might include the organization of relief for the poor or the building of new churches. The reopening of the University Church in Leipzig to meet the spiritual needs of the neighbourhood may well have been the result of the superintendent's study and report.

I'm not sure why you resist the notion that Bach respected the protocols of ecclesiastical establishment. In fact, he was an important part of that ecclesisastical establishment and had daily access to the top officials of
the Leipzig church. He was not some free agent roaring around downtown Leipzig in a red Corvette even though he had a licence to drive.

Bach's ecclesiastical superiors clearly had confidence in him -- there are no hints of any theological criticism. When Bach protested the usurpation of his right to choose chorales by a new cleric, the consistory found in his favour. However, we can not exclude the likelihood that even Bach followed the procedures which minutely regulated every word of the public liturgy. A pro forma submission of cantata libretti was not an attack on his genius; it was the juridical way in which a closed political system excluded heterodoxy and maintained uniformity.

When the superintendent of Leipzig sat back in his choir stall to listen to the cantata, he was never surprised by its theological content.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 20, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Bach's ecclesiastical superiors clearly had confidence in him -- there are no hints of any theological criticism. When Bach protested the usurpation of his right to choose chorales by a new cleric, the consistory found in his favour. >
Key detail, easily overlooked in the fray. Thanks.

< When the superintendent of Leipzig sat back in his choir stall to listen to the cantata, he was never surprised by its theological content. >
Apologies for my less formal statement, but we came to the same conclusion!

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 20, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>"Worship Wars in Early Lutheranism: Choir, Congregation, and Three Centuries of Conflict" by Joseph Herl (Oxford 2004) describes in great scholarly detail the way in which Lutheran churches were supervised and orthodoxy was maintained. The superintendent's visitations called for written reports from the parishes, interviews with clergy and cantors, and a centralized report with recommendations for action.<<
The "Schulordnungen" for the Thomasschule (1723) spell out all sorts of regulations on how a school should be conducted such as the cantor being required to conduct the 'ordinary singing instruction classes' where each student must be instructed and listened to individually during the course of one hour. But we know from other documents that Bach was very lax in carrying out this duty which is spelled out in detail in the "Schulordnungen". Why would Bach's attitude toward submitting his cantata texts for approval in advance be any different in this regard?

Three centuries of conflict within early Lutheranism! What specifically has Herl presented about the churches under Bach's jurisdiction during his tenure in Leipzig, and even more specifically about the prior submission of cantata texts to the Superintendent of Leipzig churches?

DC: >>On a positive note, this might include the organization of relief for the poor or the building of new churches. The reopening of the University Church in Leipzig to meet the spiritual needs of the neighborhood may well have been the result of the superintendent's study and report.<<
This is interesting but does not shed light on this matter relating to cantata texts that Bach would be required to submit for approval. What does Herl say about this?

DC: >>I'm not sure why you resist the notion that Bach respected the protocols of ecclesiastical establishment. In fact, he was an important part of that ecclesiastical establishment and had daily access to the top officials of the Leipzig church. He was not some free agent roaring around downtown Leipzig in a red Corvette even though he had a license to drive.<<
The protocols you refer to are very similar to the rules and regulations spelled out in the Schulordnungen. If Bach would not comply with these, why would he feel obligated to do the same within the ecclesiastical establishment? He seemed to know 'what he could get away with' and generally maintained his artistic freedom pushing the limits of drama and operatic forms without actually becoming too operatic. He would not slavishly adhere to the pericopic requirements, often referring to them indirectly without any specific connection at all. He had cantatas that could be performed on any occasion not related to any specific Sunday or Feast Day.

DC: >>Bach's ecclesiastical superiors clearly had confidence in him -- there are no hints of any theological criticism.<<
All the more reason to consider that they would not have required Bach to submit his libretti to them before he began to compose these texts or in advance of any performance using them.

DC: >>When the superintendent of Leipzig sat back in his choir stall to listen to the cantata, he was never surprised by its theological content.<<
This was accomplished without his prior input as to what was acceptable or not. Martin Petzoldt makes the observation that many cantata librettists made use of Johann Olearius' (1611-1684) 5-volume work (7200 pages! published between 1678-1681). Bach's cantata texts seem to have been based in large part upon the biblical interpretations and images presented by Olearius. Even characteristic concepts such as "Kreuzstab". "Seelenkur" and "Sündenaussatz" can be traced back to Olearius who was the first to coin these terms/images. Guided by Olearius, a librettist who submitted texts to Bach for consideration would have nothing to fear from the ecclesiastical authorities, nor would there be a need to submit texts beforehand for approval. The superintendent would simply sit back in his choir stall and think "Yes, that's an interesting interpretation/image that comes from Olearius, who is a reliable source."

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 20, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Three centuries of conflict within early Lutheranism! What specifically has Herl presented about the churches under Bach¹s jurisdiction during his tenure in Leipzig, and even more specifically about the prior submission of cantata texts to the Superintendent of Leipzig churches? >
These frantic demands for specific documents are going to go unanswered because THERE ARE NO DOCUMENTS! All of our discussions about the performance particulars of Bach's music will remain speculative because on nearly every question the documentary record is so meagre. That's why these desperate assertions about late night copying and and sight-singing without rehearsals are so ludicrous. A few documents are snatched at and forced to support arguments which are unprovable.

Scholars like Herl and Schiller are among the new generation of scholars who have done extensive research in primary documents in order to create the wider historical context in which to place Bach's music. In Schiller's study, I was very surprised to find out that the survival of Catholic customs was much more extensive than popular history suggests: Bach was expected to attend private confession on a regular basis.

I was also surprised at the dergree of inquisitorial supervision and control that was exerted over clergy, musicians and schools. Any notion that Bach worked in free-thinking, theologically-pluralistic environment needs to be dropped. The reason that I raised the issue of censorship -- be it self-imposed or external -- is that we were loosely discussing the influence of Pietism as if Bach had latitude in theologizing. He didn't. I would suggest that Bach's texts were subejcted to his own self-regulation (his decisions about using the Brockes Passion as a source would be interesting to study) but that a "nihil obstat" nod from his ecclesiastical superiors would be politically astute.

I can easily imagine an ultra-conservative member of the consistory bringing along a cantata libretto and, like this list, raising a query qbout a turn of phrase sounding "Pietistic". That's when Bach would have wanted the Superintendent to say, "I approved the text" and move on to a letter from an anonymous parishionner complaining that a preacher's sermon had smacked of Anabaptism.

Bach lived undean autocratic government where he had to petition to quit a job and worked under the scrutiny of ecclesiastical authorities whose hand was as heavy as the Roman Inquisition.

Paul T. McCain wrote (April 20, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< In Schiller's study, I was very surprised to find out that the survival of Catholic customs was much more extensive than popular history suggests: Bach was expected to attend private confession on a regular basis. >
I think readers here would like to know that the life of the Lutheran Church in Bach's day was not simply a "survival of Catholic customs."

Private Confession and Absolution is taught and advocate in Martin Luther's Small Catechism, and extolled and praised in the Lutheran Confessions as contained in the Book of Concord, published in German in 1580 and in Latin in 1584 [in Leipzig]. Bach was formally pledged to the Lutheran Confessions.

The best single source on what church life was like in Bach's day is Stiller's "Liturgical Life in Leipzig."

The system of the "consistory" and the "superintendent" was well known and practiced, and particularly so in Saxony.

Doug is absolutely correct that J.S. Bach was not a free-agent, nor is there any reason to believe he was merely begrudgingly cow-towing to social conventions or pressures of the state, all the way yearning to break free of the "bondage" of "organized religion" etc. These are all myths that reached their zenith in Communist East Germany when it served the communist state well to propogate this mythology.

J. S. Bach was a devout, orthodox Lutheran who was very aware of the struggle against Pietism. Pietism rejected much of classic Lutheran practice, as the Stiller book explains and documents.

You do not have to agree with J.S. Bach to enjoy and love his music, but it is inappropriate to try to "reinvent" Bach in our time's uncertain, pluralistic image.

 

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Last update: żAugust 17, 2007 ż22:22:12