Expressing the inexpressible with Bach

Saturday, 8 February, 2014

How did Johann Sebastian Bach manage to express the inexpressible, especially with regard to death? What guided his compositional decisions? The search for the answers to these questions lies at the heart of a new book, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven, by the British conductor John Eliot Gardiner. Praising Gardiner’s work in the New York Review of Books, George B. Stauffer gives us an overview of a composer’s music that is hallmarked by an exuberance and a grace “that gives it extraordinary emotional depth and drama.” In the words of Gardiner, Bach “celebrates the fundamental sanctity of life, an awareness of the divine and a transcendent dimension as a fact of human existence.”

Here, from the St Matthew Passion, which was written by Bach in 1727, is the magnificent bass aria Mache dich, mein Herze, rein, sung by Stephan MacLeod and conducted by Philippe Herreweghe.

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