Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Good for the Soul

English: Young Johann Sebastian Bach. 1715. Te...
English: Young Johann Sebastian Bach. 1715. Teri Noel Towe seems to demonstrate that the portrait is probably not of Bach (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
   As writer Cecelia Porter tells it, 17th and 18th century “occasional music” was “for coronations of monarchs and installations of important civic leaders.” She notes a glaring significance: “All these commemorations, whether religious or civic, relied on sacred texts-a far cry from today’s custom of choosing secular music for public heads of state.”  
   Thanks to The Washington Post (Style, C10, 9/25/2012), Ms Porter's music review of works performed locally by the Washington Bach Consort led me this morning to YouTube, to savor some of the cited works: “Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn,” BWV 119, “composed to honor the Leipzig town council’s inauguration in 1748,” and Bach’s “Lobe den Herrn,” BWV 69.  (She noted also Washington Bach Consort’s performance of John Blow’s “God spake sometime in visions” and William Boyce’s “The king shall rejoice.”)  

   When I hear certain compositions by J. S. Bach, I recall that God is working all things together for good to those who love Him, as St. Paul wrote in the familiar Romans 8:28 scripture. That Bach wrote music for “the glory of God and the recreation of the mind” is evident. His composing has brought us a sense that life is intended for good, capable of higher planes that we can only attempt to imagine or dream; yet by the grace of faith we participate in them, in part, now and will participate fully one future day.  
    J.S. Bach is my favorite composer, but not an exclusive favorite, if that makes sense to you. It is like love, this love of certain music, in that it is open, receptive, varied, and unlimited. Bach's inventive genius works behind music of the eras since his time. I recommend you to listen to an overview, with music excerpts, of Bach’s life and musical influences. Also, look for audio or video featuring Yo Yo Ma or Rostropovich playing Bach cello compositions.  
   I came to know of Bach’s life at about age eight or nine, when my new sister-in-law gave me a children’s biography of his life. I was taking piano lessons and she, a calm, intelligent young woman, recently married to my oldest brother, held my fascination. Anyone that could catch one of my handsome brothers had to be special. She set a bright tone, beginning by directing me to an interest to Bach.  
   No one has to know, grasp, or understand most of the deeper technicalities of the composing genius of Bach. You may know what I mean, perhaps having, as I did, to learn Two-part Inventions and the calming, flowing "Well-Tempered Clavier.” Of the latter, I relate instantly to what one concert pianist, who plays it every day, said:  

It has something good for the soul…
“ is so pure, cleansing...
like taking a shower,”

   “Bach was able,” says one of the video commentators, “to articulate the inner self of modernity…um, and we are modern people… (his music) gives to our fragmented lives a…sense of significance that takes us beyond the muddled present and helps us touch something timeless and eternal….” –

“The glory of God and the recreation of the mind…”
—the musical reasoning of Bach

Sources: All quotes not cited from The Washington Post are from the YouTube video. Subscribers to The Washington Post by delivery can get e-paper free and paste:

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