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Bach and Religion
Part 7

Continue from Part 6

OT: Some interesting material from Spitta

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 20, 2008):
As I had a little extra reading time yesterday, and since the topic of BWV 207 is somewhat restricted by a lack of widely available recordings, I decided to continue my reading in Spitta. I have to say that I am particularly impressed with both the detail and the literary style of this series.

One of the topics he addresses (Vol. 1, p. 31) is the topic of the tole of Pietism. He introduces the matter in sharing that following the Thirty Years War Germany as a people went through a rather vegetative period, and as a result of having many of the joys of life crushed out of daily life, they found comfort in the idea that the "deeds and suffering of men rest in the hand of God." An interesting quote follows in the next paragraph, "The first step to freedom was made in the province of religious thought by Spener and his followers, and the first work in which history was scientifically treated grew out of Pietism. Within scarcely a century music was developed by religion--since on the ground of pure feeling there were no external obstacles to be overcome--to a height which afforded an unerring evidence of the indestructable spirit of the German nation, and proved, as no other phenomenon ever has done, the immeasurable depth of its foundations. And as the bias towards instrumental music, with its transcendental ideals, is universal and seated in the depths of our very being, it is quite intelligible why, at that precise time, it was the art of organ music which sored up on mighty wings, and why all that Germany was then able to produce in the direction of vocal music could only lean on and grow from that. And those men, who during their whole lives, stood in intimate connection with religion, or who were in the service of the Church--which amounts to the same thing, so far as concerns the men whose history specially interests us--we may regard as enjoying particular advantages. The man who, filling such a position, cherished in his soul that precious ideal in all humble and faithful piety, we must, if for that reason only, designate as a foster-father of culture."

I had been for a while trying to sort out some past discussions as to Bach's background and the issues we have debated as to the influences that produced a man like J.S. Bach. And I wanted to find some information or element that made sense of certain patterns of views in Lutheranism that were handed down powerfully in the church, not only by theologians, but that contained the cultural element.

Some time ago Yöel wrote something that I cannot re-word exactly about Lutheran's preoccupation with death and glorifying death. At the time I didn't have any intelligent perspective to add, but I knew that the topic of death figured heavily in Bach and I can remember in my youth singing Bach double motets that glorified death--while at the same time wishing the imagery was not so strong and so emotionally moving. As a young person I wanted to feel life and relish it. And Yöel was wondering it seemed about the perspective of Lutherans toward life. In Bach, it now seems to me while reading Spitta, that Pietism impacted Bach through his family line--perhaps in the stories and attitudes handed down, and while in some regards he might well be considered Orthodox, by reading Spitta I have begun to place the role of Pietism in the influence and work of Bach, and why at times he may have been regarded by some as a mystic. To stretch the argument in a direction I cannot document at this point, prior to Christianity northern Europeans were in a positive sense something of an occult people. By that I am referring to a sensitivity to life and death and a kind of shared experience of premotions at times before some evil might or did possibly befall one among them. This refers to the kind of sensitivity even today one might have when there is a sense someone has died and then shortly thereafter one receives a phone call saying that a certain person has passed on.

I think that Pietism and its influence helped people like the Bach family, to cope with the tragedies that befell them, and that perhaps Orthodoxy helped them to survive in the more diverse population where it was incumbent upon them to often make a living at more than just serving as church musicians--playing in community bands for parties and events, and so on.

In my own mind I am trying to integrate these elements as they carry on even to the present day in Lutheransim. Without the historical context of the Thirty Years War and other conflicts of engagement, some of what we find in Bach seems very peculiar. And in a day and age when the marvels of modern medicine prolong and enhance life some of Bach's texts and text painting and colored moods seem a little out of place. But yesterday as I was reading Spitta while awaiting my husband's medical tests being completed I saw something that pulled the issue together for me. A nurse brought a patients tests and photos into the main office. From where I was sitting I could see that the results were very bad, and she gave orders to immediately fax the results to the hospital. Soon a family member rushed out of the patient area on the verge of tears. The danger and enemy of death is still with us, if not in the cultural context of a post-war Germany--alive in everyday circumstances. The undergirding of hope in the face of death that comes not only from Pietism, but that has strong roots in Pietism still serves as a strong-hold in the face of trouble. To my mind, whether I like to hear a great deal about death or not, this is what Bach must have been about with the variety of influences that were handed down to him, and in that regard I can see how the influences of Pietism served in part as a serious foundation for our favorite composer.

William Hoffman wrote (February 21, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] I was impressed with your thoughts about Pietism, which at times has been received very negatively. I think of the writings of that great German Protestant music writer, Friedrich Blume, after World War II. In part it was a reaction to the Romantic notion of Bach as the Fifth Evangelist. But his Marxist revisionism at that time went too far, I think, and one of the prinicple victims was Pietism. The current writer who influences me most is Robin A. Leaver, especially his booklet, "J.S. Bach as Preacher: His Passions and Music in Worship." Under that influence, I wrote a resaerch paper, "Spiritual Sources of Bach's St. Mark Passion," using Bach contemporary Lutheran authors writing about the St. Matthew Passion (the Passion accounts are very similar). Most were Pietists, such as Philipp Jakob Spener and August Hermann Francke. Pietistic imagery and sentiments are found throughout the texts of Bach's three original Passions. Mark's gospel, which is called the Passion Gospel, was the first. It is simple, immediate, human, direct. Bach's musical treatment is similar and possibly a reaction to Pietistic complaints about the "operatic" character of the St. Matthew Passion. Where the so-called Brockes Passion went overboard with Pietistic images, Bach was greatly restrained. I wrote then: "While Bach is placed within the mainstream of Lutheran Orthodoxy, he, like other citizens of Leipzig, were influenced by Pietism, and not always with adverse consequences. The Pietists certainly didn't have a monpoly on pietistic sentiments."

Just one more thought. The great closing choruses of all three Bach Passions contain some of the most moving texts and music: Matthew ("In deepest grief, sit we here weeping"), John ("Rest well, thou holy body sleeping"), and Mark ("By thy rock tomb will I take my solace"). The musical form of all three is the dance: sarabande in Matthew, minuet in John, and gigue in Mark (in 12/8, not 3/4). In these choruses, Bach embraces botdeath and life, or to quote Ecclesiastes 3:4: "the time for sorrow and the time for joy, the time for mourning and the time for dancing."

Paul T. McCain wrote (February 21, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] Actually, and this is something that Spitta was simply not aware of when he did his work, a typical problem with that era's scholarship, is that what some term Lutheran "mysticism" was actually part and parcel of Orthodox Lutheranism itself, with roots flowing from the life and times of Luther. While similar themes are found, it is not, based on my many years of study in these areas, something that we can say Pietism is responsible for in Lutheranism.

The early orthodox Lutherans wrote works of deep piety and what some might term "mysticism" ... and this made its way into Lutheranism. I'm thinking here of the work of Johann Gerhard whose works like "Daily Exercise of Pietism" and such were extremely popular and influenced the hymn writing of men like Paul Gerhardt and Johann Herrmann, etc.

Here are a couple of Gerhard's devotional works that might be of interest to people wanting to see these kinds of themes, etc. in Lutheran Orthodoxy:
Johann Gerhard: Meditations on Divine Mercy (Concordia Publishing House)
Sacred Meditations by Gerhard, Johann; Heisler, C. W., translator (Concordia Publishing House)

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 21, 2008):
[To William Hoffman] Thank you for your additional comments in support of my recent discovery of the manner in which Pietism and Orthodoxy interact in Bach's works. And thank you for enriching the cultural context of Bach's day, along with information that will allow for further reading.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 21, 2008):
[To Paul T. McCain] Good to see you writing on list again.

I appreciate your additions here. When we discuss theological areas related to Bach there certainly are times when the varying aspects of thought tend to overlap, but at times it is possible to miss all the implications. So I think it is great when people who have studied these matters for years, while I have not studied these specifics so deeply, can come forward and clarify the details as they see them, releasing the tensions of limited terminology. Thinking about all the strains of thought that come down to the present day, I am appreciative of those who can make or write about some distinctions, and point to additional reading. For as much study as I have done in my life I continue to be amazed at all I have not encountered. I did not know of Robin Leaver, for example, but it seems after checking the web that he has presented a considerable amount of information over at least thirty years via his writings on Lutheran, and other sacred music.

And, I do think in my own mind it is profitable to see what one can embrace from the varying points of view that may add to the total picture. True, Spitta would draw his own conclusions, and he did not have the WWW to cross-reference what he was doing. But from where he stood in his time, he interpreted Pietism to have had some positive influence, and from his observations in his time there must have been a pretty strong case for this or else this premise would not have come into his writing as he wrote about JSB and his work and influence on the music of Germany. I admit openly however, that I tend toward diplomacy and have a strong desire to unify arguments--just a basic personality trait to be honest.

Of course I cannot go back in time to those years, but what brought about my desire to bring some harmony in my own mind to the contributions of Pietism and Orthodoxy came from contributions on the list by those who had mentioned that Bach owned in his library texts by both the Orthodox thinkers of his day and the Pietists. Believe me, I am not defending Pietism here so much as trying to understand how the prominent forces of thinking in those days worked together positively.

So I was looking for some kind of link or links between these influences. I tend to think that while Pietists have had a tendency towards isolating themselves from the mainstream historically, that their influence would still be available through literature to the rest of the Christian community. Today, for example, we see in our church libraries books from many streams of Christian thought. I am quite aware of this as when I was a parish worker I had a task at one point to go through the library books and 'pull out' those that did not seem to be orthodox...I was not working for a Pietist preacher at the time, at all. And, I was trusted with the task because I could make distinctions.

I am sure you are right that the Orthodox also wrote deep and moving works in the time after Luther, and we know that Luther could also be quite profound. But I guess I am inclined to explore how a range of thoughts and literature would have had an impact on Bach, and I tend to think that one camp could not completely claim his independent mind, though he may have been inclined more in one direction. Here we are again, with IMO...but I am happy to hear others because I believe that they have so much to offer.

I will look at your links and continue to absorb more, appreciating your view--thank you so much for writing again, while continuing to explore the broader angles due to the fact that the basics of Christian thought in Bach cross both streams. (Do I sit on the fence...yes--to some extent.)

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 22, 2008):
PS...I checked The Oxford Companion - Boyd this afternoon for additional insights. Boyd's description of Pietism is couched in different terms than the idea we get from Spitta. Boyd seems to think that most of the Pietists would have rejected the ornate character of Bach's writings, and he gives little credence to the fact that Bach had some of the writings of the Pietists in his library. What seems to be emerging in my mind from contrasting these two writers is that the distance of years between their thinking might have given different interpretations to the character of Pietism...Boyd taking a view toward the movement as somewhat reactionary, whereas Spitta found it liberating particularly in the area of instrumental music. Certainly there would be reasons to think from reading the Oxford study that Bach would not have been influenced by the movement, while in Spitta the implication is that the cultural phenomena was refreshing and widespread. At any rate, so far this has been an interesting exploration for me since I had not taken to looking at these matters until the past few years. While Pietism in some form flourished among some of my relatives others were Orthodox to liberal, and the dictates of the church from the top down prevented one form from really dominating the broad experience. But every now and then when one gets to this age and reflects on what has gone by, curiosity builds and the idea of tracing a mixture of elements becomes interesting, time permitting.

Thanks to those who responded to my writing on this topic.Now to finish up the cantata for the next week which I will post this evening as I have guests arriving tomorrow, and I will need to get this out early.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 22, 2008):
William Hoffman wrote:
>Just one more thought. The great closing choruses of all three Bach Passions contain some of the most moving texts and music: Matthew ("In deepest grief, sit we here weeping"), John ("Rest well, thou holy body sleeping"), and Mark ("By thy rock tomb will I take my solace"). The musical form of all three is the d: sarabande in Matthew, minuet in John, and gigue in Mark (in 12/8, not 3/4). In these choruses, Bach embraces both death and life, or to quote Ecclesiastes 3:4: "the time for sorrow and the time for joy, the time for mourning and the time for dancing."<
My understanding of Bachs St. Mark Passion is that only the text survives. The music has been created in various reconstructions, none specifically by Bach himself for that text. Given that uncertainty, is it possible to define the dance form so precisely, as a gigue? I find your point interesting, so I ask not to attack its validity, but to tighten up a possible weak point, or to be corrected if I misunderstand.

On a related aspect of the (off) topic, my introduction to the political and theologic distinctions between Pietism and Orthodox Lutheranism came with <Evening in the Palace of Reason>, by James R. Gaines, via BCML discussion. I did not take the time to review the archives just now: my recollection is that theologians found it lacking in <theo>, <logy>, or both; scholars found it not very scholarly; readers found it very readable, and were perhaps easily seduced. I am in the latter category, and I cited Gaines as evidence for Bachs personal Pietism.

Gaines (p. 96) describes Bachs predicament in the Pietist conflict at Mühlhausen, in the context of emphasizing Bachs Pietist leaning:
<Bach was Orthodox Lutheran. Despite enough Pietist sympathy to straddle the issue in good conscience, Bach of course placed himself squarely in the middle of it, siding against his own superior [the Pietist Mulhausen superintendent].>

The emphasis is on the idea that the Orthodox faction endorsed more advanced music principles. In the context, it is easy to interpret that Bach went against his personal Pietist beliefs, and political expediency, for the sake of music. That overlooks the underlying fact, as reported by Gaines, that Bach endorsed Orthodox Lutheranism. His presumed motivation for doing so is freedom of musical expression, but that is indeed a presumption.

In retrospect, I do not see that Gaines provides much documented support for his determination of Pietist beliefs for Bach. He is not necessarily wrong, but the question is more open than he suggests. I think we all agree that Bachs theology (personal, official, and perhaps the two in conflict) is a major component of his music, and to that end, is worth further discussion.

Paul T. McCain wrote (February 22, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] Yes, Jean, Boyd is correct. There were various stages in Pietism.Spener and Francke were among some of the earliest Pietists and were actually still quite orthodox in their Lutheranism. They wanted to emphasize the personal life of spirituality and devotion to Christ. Pietists who came later, who were on the scene by Bach's time eschewed, very much, Bach's style of music and his kind of commitment to Lutheran orthodoxy. They gave Bach no end of grief, actually.

We know that Bach's personal library was much more heavily weighted toward Lutheran Orthodoxy. He went out of his away to acquire the copy of Luther's Works owned by Abraham Colov, a point of pride for Bach. Calov's nickname was "The Watchdog of Orthodoxy." An insight to Bach's interests theologically.

There are several excellent books if you are interested in getting a really good look at what liturgical life was like in Leipzig at Bach's time. Leipzig was sort of a "last bastion" for Lutheran Orthodoxy in Bach's time, whereas Pietism has come on very strongly all around it. The book is by Gunther Stiller and is titled, "Liturgical Life in Leipzig at the time of J.S. Bach" ... it is simply superb.

The other fascinating book I would recommend is Robin Leaver's "J.S. Bach and Holy Scripture."

Paul T. McCain wrote (February 22, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] Another very fruitful area of study to understand Bach better is carefully to study the hymns of Luther and the hymns writers who followed him: Johann Hermann, Paul Gerhardt, etc.

Lutheran hymnody in the age of Lutheran Orthodoxy is astoundingly rich and deep in terms of its spiritual content.

It forms the foundation for most of Bach's cantata and church music work.

Paul T. McCain wrote (February 22, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] The book is a fun read, but...it does suffer from a lack of good scholarship, but makes for a nice read and gives you a sense of the context and times in which Bach did his work.

Uri Golomb wrote (February 22, 2008):
I do not have the time to enter into this discussion in any great lengths, except to recommend another source on the issue of pietism and orthodoxy that, as far as I could tell, hasn't been mentioned here. This is Joyce Irwin's article "Bach in the Midst of Religious Transition", published in Carol K. Baron's Bach's Changing World: Voices in the Community (fuller details on http://tinyurl.com/2m6mta ; the book's title contrasts nicely with the introduction to Jan Chiapusso's 1968 book, Bach's World, which is titled: "A World Without Change: Luther to Bach").

Irwin looks at the basic concepts discussed here -- Pietism, Lutheran Orthodoxy etc. -- as shifting concepts, that might have changed their meaning and interrelationships during the 17th and 18th centuries, including in Bach's lifetime. One bit worth quoting, from early in the article (p. 110); bit in square brackets are my own additions:

"Pietism's different manifestations and shifting image complicate the attempt to desribe Bach's relationship to Pietism. Why, if Pietists were opposed to complex or elaborate church music, would Bach have books by Pietists or pietistically-inclined writers in his personal library? Why, if Pietists were characterized by an individualistic, emotional approach to religion as contrasted with a doctrinal, theocentric approach, would Bach have chosen highly subjective texts, unless he was a Pietist? The answer may be found partly in the realization taht in some respects people of the eighteenth century, wheter Pietist or orthodox, had more in common with each other than with people of either the sixteenth [e.g., Luther] or the twentieth century [or the 21st -- in other words, us]. Another part of the answer is to search for a more satisfactory understanding of Pietism in relation to music".

The point about "people of the eighteenth century" is also emphasised in Rebecca Lloyd's recent article, "Bach: Luther's Musical Prophet?" (Current Musicology, No. 83 [Spring 2007], pp. 5-32). Again, I don't have the time to provide even an adequate summary, but her basic contention is that a lot of theological Bach scholarship lacks an essential historical context: "in the view of Luther presented by many recent Bach scholars, among them Lothar Steiger, Renate Steiger, Eric Chafe, and Robin Leaver, some specifically twentieth-century confessional aspects can be identified" (p. 8). In other words, they take the views of major 20th-century Lutheran theologians and impute them to Luther himself, and consequently to Bach; whereas, in reality, Luther's and Bach's views could have been -- and in many cases were -- different (from the 20th century Lutheran view, and also from each other's). Her article does not have much to say specifically on Pietism, but does provide some methodological context for these issues. It was through her recommendation that I got to know Carol Baron's book.

Anyway, as I said, I can't really enter further into the discussion, except to recommend to anyone interested in these issues to look up both Lloyd's article and Baron's book.

Paul T. McCain wrote (February 22, 2008):
Based on Uri's quotes, I seriously doubt the author othe remarks about Luther and Bach has actually spent the time required to read the primary sources to be able to say with any authority that the Lutheranism of Luther's time is so much different than Bach's orthodox Lutheranism.

As I said previously, it is rather easy to show and demonstrate, all the way back to Luther, a deep piety [not Pietism, mind you] and what some might describe as mysticism.

The movement known as "Pietism" -- eschewed external forms, rights and "rituals" of the church, the very things in which Bach took park his whole life with commitment and noted enthusiasm for.

Again, there is really only one book available that gives the reader a clear picture of what Bach's religious life and experiences were like:

Liturgical Life in Leipzig
Gunther Stiller

What often happens in thes kinds of discussions is that 21st century or 20th century people very much want to assume that anyone who wrote such powerfully beautiful music must surely share a post-modern, 21st century view of religion and other values and issues.

But, in fact, Bach's music flowed out of his very decided Lutheran orthodoxy, which has always been a source of fascination for me. The very theology and belief system that is far and wide eschewed and even held in contempt by many moderns, was the very foundation for, and source from which, flowed all this powerful music. It was Bach's deepest inspiration.

And then we are led to wonder what about this belief system inspired Bach to write the music that he did and spend himself in service to the Church that held to these things, in spite of all his troubles along the way.

Fascinating indeed.

Uri Golomb wrote (February 22, 2008):
Paul McCain wrote:
"Based on Uri's quotes, I seriously doubt the author of the remarks about Luther and Bach has actually spent the time required to read the primary sources to be able to say with any authority that the Lutheranism of Luther's time is so much different than Bach's orthodox Lutheranism."
Excuse me, but based on my quotes you can reach NO CONCLUSIONS WHATSOEVER on whether Baron, Irwin, or Lloyd have or have not read primary sources, let alone how much time they spent on them. (BTW, I certainly haven't read many primary sources, nor have I claimed to). I knew I was taking a risk by bringing in these secondary sources when I really don't have time to do much more than give you a few selected quotes from articles that I found, on initial reading, quite persuasive. I just wanted to cite some scholarly views that I think should "pulled into" the discussion by those interested in the topics. (BTW, Lloyd's point, at least, is primarily about the 20TH-CENTURY Lutheranism, which, she contends, differs significantly from Bach's and Luther's alike).

You say that "there is really only one book available [Stiller's] that gives the reader a clear picture of what Bach's religious life and experiences were like". But Baron's multi-authored book claims to do something similar. Have you read it? (Presumably you haven't -- otherwise, why judge it only by the selected quotes I brought?). If not, how do you know how it stands in relation to Stiller's book? On what basis do you dismiss it, a-priori, as inferior?

If you're going to voice an opinion about the books and articles I mentioned -- especially such a disparaging opinion -- go and read what they actually say (I've given full referenes), check our their bibliographies and the sources they cite, etc. If they haven't persuaded you, go ahead and provide a detailed critique. All I gave you was a small selection of their CONCLUSIONS. You can't judge their ARGUMENTS credibly without reading them first.

(For my part, I have yet to read Stiller's book -- I certainly plan to do so. I've encountered many views of it -- some praising, others more criticial; but I certainly won't voice my own opinion until I've read it for myself.)

Uri Golomb wrote (February 22, 2008):
BTW, I just noticed that the tinyurl I gave for the webpage on Carol Baron's book doesn't work for some strange reason. So here's the full link: http://www.boydell.co.uk/www.urpress.com/80461905.HTM

The book was published by the University of Rochester Press in 2006.

Paul T. McCain wrote (February 22, 2008):
The other thing to be pointed out that the devotional works of the greatest of all Lutheran orthodox dogmaticians have been relatively unknown in scholarship in the 19th and 20th centuries for several reasons:

First, the Lutheran orthodox dogmaticians do not at all conform to the emerging modernist views of the Bible that came on the scene in the 18th century and reached a crescendo in the 19th and 20th centuries. The old Lutheran fathers were dismissed as being "dead orthodox." Hence, their dogmatic works were overlooked and their devotional works even more unknown to scholars working on these issues.

Second, the devotional writings of men like Johann Gerhard were relatively unknown among scholars precisely because they were for the laity and populist/popular in nature. But it is interesting to see in John Gerhard what some call the "mysticism" we find in his teacher, Arndt. Luther too was deeply impacted by Medieval mysticism and highly praised the work of several German mystics, for instance, Tauler.

The stereotype perpetuated by a lot of scholarship in the 19th and 20th century is that Lutheran Orthodoxy is dry, stuffy, sterile and devoid of "true piety" and devotion. In fact, a study of Lutheran Orthodox, particularly in its "Golden Years" shows a lively connection between doctrine and practice: hence the great age of the Lutheran chorale springs not from Pietism, but from Lutheran Orthodoxy, etc.

My point simply is that one must be very careful when making sweeping claims about "Pietism" it is actually extremely complicated and complex and there are frequent confusions in the literature between Pietism and simple Lutheran piety.

There is another book I can recommend. It is a very detailed presentation of Pietism written in the period itself. It's usefulness is found in that it provides many actual documented quotes from the Lutheran Pietists and helps you see precisely what they were teaching. It even replicates a number of their hymns, which are really "out there" and sound, in fact, very modern in the sense that they are non-specific in their talk about God and spirituality.

The book is:

The Complete Timotheus Verinus
by Ernst Valentin Loescher

It is available from Northwestern Publishing House: http://online.nph.net/cgi-bin/site.pl?10418&productID=150594

Even if you do not agree with the theology in this book, it is an invaluable treasure trove of original source material from the Pietists themselves, and in that sense alone, is helpful to anyone studying these issues.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 22, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] You cover a lot of detail below. I have read Gaines, and my impression with high regard for efforts to recreate the ambiance of Germany from Luther to Bach's time was good reading, but less scholarly than some other material that is available. Gaines sets a mood, incorporating incidents almost in a manner that could be used for creating a movie on Bach's life. When I was learning to write papers in the sixties scholarship was a fairly strong issue and in history classes we had to document all the statements we made. We had a lot of footnotes for that reason. In much writing that I see today the extensive amount of footnote work is not required as in this earlier discipline, and as I have sometimes helped students with papers I've been amazed at this loose approach. I like reading Grove because the bibliography at the end tends to assure me that the discussion is supported. if I wanted to be sure about this, I'd have to read the sources, and their sources and so on...and then still wind up with something I could use as a point of well-thought out debate.

Now, when we get into theological considerations some of the material will be poetic, and some will be devotional and some will be academic and historical material that requires a range of thought (as you already well know) to try to get the best picture of the forces that produced these magnificent works by Bach. So I am in agreement with you as to focus being an important factor.

I'd have to say that in the last twenty-four hours I've become aware that material I or others may quote is a kind of jumping off point from which a lot of further study would help each of us to establish in our own minds just what we think about how Pietism may or may not have influenced Bach. I often start from the cultural factor. Although the forces in motion today differ significantly and we have the web and TV, and radio, word of mouth in Bach's day also carried a lot of ideas far and wide. Many theological conferences that can be documented were held. One can discern these facts in the reading of literature produced in Europe...and the exchanges between theologians in written history.

Gaines is a good jumping off place, but one would go further in a lengthy study as I would if beginning a search I started with Wikipedia and then looked at the bibliography and branched out from there. Sometimes I trust old sources a great deal because they were written near the time events transpired...I do not automatically block them out, and so far I like Spitta and Schweitzer, even though I am more than willing to look at sources since their times. In fact, I own some sources since these times...and will explore many more.

So, when you quote Gaines, it really isn't a mistake...it's more like a starting point for further exploration and some more defined conclusions in the future. A thesis point is a beginning...that's what I think at the moment, and I congratulate you on the point that the search is worthy.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 22, 2008):
[To Paul T. McCain] Thank you for bringing out the idea that there were stages in Pietism. I will have to explore that aspect as I gradually begin reading in the many sources that various members of the group have recommended. I am interested in separating in my mind the positive aspects of Pietism within German culture from some of the issues that seem more negative, and with the time to gradually read I am sure after a period of years I will arrive at some conclusions I can more or less line up in an outline form. I'll approach this just keeping some notes or marking pluses and minus marks in some of my books...along with the same for Orthodoxy. One of the tensions I see between Pietism and Orthodoxy, and that I have found even in modern movements is a tendency to fail to mark the areas where same attitudes prevail, and separate out the differences.

In keeping something of an open mind, I do not intend damage toward those who weigh in most heavily on the Orthodox side, as having worked in church settings in my early years I understand only too well how easily people get upset when this view is challenged.

As I can acquire these books you've mentioned through interlibrary loan I will grow in knowledge==a general lifetime goal.

Thanks for contributing.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 22, 2008):
Paul T. McCain wrote to Ed Myskowski:
< The book is a fun read, but...it does suffer from a lack of good scholarship, but makes for a nice read and gives you a sense of the context and times in which Bach did his work. >
I agree with Paul, here.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 22, 2008):
Paul T. McCain wrote:
< Another very fruitful area of study to understand Bach better is carefully to study the hymns of Luther and the hymns writers who followed him: Johann Hermann, Paul Gerhardt, etc.
Lutheran hymnody in the age of Lutheran Orthodoxy is astoundingly rich and deep in terms of its spiritual content.
It forms the foundation for most of Bach's cantata and church music work. >
I will follow through on your reading suggestions.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 22, 2008):
[To Uri Golomb] Thank you so much for adding to the wealth of resources that will in time help me to make the distinctions I'd like to own. When I studied theology it was in an evangelical seminary, and the issues of Orthodoxy and Pietism were not emphasized as much as the concept of a joyful and helpful commentment to God through our belief systems. So, I have a whole new area here on which to interpret much of the past study, and delightfully in the context of the works of Bach.

You were very kind to take the time to add your experienced resources to the list.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 22, 2008):
[To Paul T. McCain, regarding his message to Uri Golomb] Your comments below, Paul, raise an interesting point in my mind. What one teacher calls the 'right' primary sources might not quite fit in another camp. I find our fragmented Lutheran churches today, despite many efforts toward ecumenism to be another parallel. I guess this is why I do not want to judge right off the bat what acceptable sources are, but read widely and see what sense I can make of the material.

Several times I have toyed with the idea of buying the Stiller text when I got some birthday or Christmas money. Since you feel this is such a prime text one of these days I will go ahead and get it. But I will also check out the range of suggestions that comes to me. This is a kind of personal journey for me in which I am evaluating in the light of musical history and church history how I came to think about things as I do. I happen to own Chafe, and he can be read by me in small doses as his thinking is very compact... I enjoyed using Unger in the library.

I do think for those who might have the time, creating a list they think best suits the sources for Pietism and Orthodoxy might be interesting--something to compare lists and read from both.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 22, 2008):
[To Uri Golomb] Thanks again, Uri.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 22, 2008):
[To Uri Golomb] Thanks again, Uri. I believe it behooves all of us to have read sources before we criticize. A person cannot simply tell what a book is about by the cover. At some time in the future when you get a little extra time it would be nice if you could make a list of sources that have been important to your reading in this area to date. I appreciate your contributions.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 22, 2008):
[To Paul T. McCain] Thanks Paul, for explaining why some devotional material might not be well known. I think most of us want to avoid sweeping statements, and as those of us who are interested in this topic delve deeper and become better educated we will do the best we can--but we need to remember we are all human and try to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. We are all fellow-travelers in the boat of discovery.

Paul T. McCain wrote (February 23, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] These are simply historical realities of the history of Christian thought. The 19th and 20th century saw the rise of a point of view over against previous understandings of the Christian faith that made the point of view held by Orthodox Lutheranism unpopular and even a point of view held in contempt by this era of theological scholarship. This is why Lutheran Orthodoxy was not as well understood by earlier generations of modern Bach scholars, whereas in recent years this has been corrected.

I'm not suggesting anyone has to agree with these points of view, either older, or later, but it is important to understand the context from which older studies of Bach and Pietism come from.

Pietism was regarded by 19th century scholars as a heroic struggle to free the Lutheran Church from the shackles of dry, dead orthodoxy.

And yes, ironically, it was precisely from the supposed "dead" orthodoxy period that J.S.Bach produced his powerful and moving music. This is a puzzle to some and they try to explain it by suggesting that in spite of the evidence to the contrary, J.S. Bach was really a Pietist earning to be free of the restrictions of Orthodoxy.

The most recent scholarship and investigations into these things demonstrates that there is a long history of a deeply devotional material within Lutheranism, long before Pietism was known. For example, consider Philip Nicolai's work on heaven, to which he appended what clearly are two of the crowning achievements of Lutheran chorales: O Morning Star and Wake, Awake.

The point simply is that what some try to suggest are "Pietist" influences on Bach, based largely on texts of the Cantatas (which of course Bach did not himself even write) the reality is that was very much in the mainstream of Lutheran orthodoxy.

Just today I received a copy of the Lutheran Confessions, printed in Leipzig in 1708 and paging through it and reading the appendices, I'm struck again by the great consistency through the age of Lutheran Orthodoxy, down to and including Bach's Leipzig, one of the last hold-outs as other parts of German Lutheranism were being increasingly influenced by Pietist teachings.

As I've said many times, it is impossible to fully understand the wor of J.S. Bach without an understanding of the liturgical, devotional and theological beliefs and practices of Orthodox Lutheranism.

Of course, and I'll say this again, one does not have to agree with any of it.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 23, 2008):
[To Paul T. McCain] I think you have incidentally or deliberately hit upon a point here as to the original sources, and I have added all of the books you've recommended to a list I printed out this evening. I will be getting to these sources as time allows. I thought Ed's last post made a good point, however, and that is that some knowledge is discovered almost accidentally by people who are not professionals, or by professionals on their way to another type of discovery. I have no problem with reading the original sources the way Lutherans with generations of tradition have received them. I am curious to know if the Missouri Synod traces its roots specifically to any group of churches or movements in Germany? I really do not know the answer. You probably know the old joke the Scandinavians used to tell...young folks were not supposed to marry Catholics, or worse yet another kind of Lutheran. So I believe our narrowness in relating to each other has limited our knowledge...for the little I know I do not know these facts, and our descendency came through the Augustana Synod...I know about it--and basically we loved Bach, even though some preferred simpler hymns.

And, I have no problem with reading the observations of folks who might be considered to be 'outside' of the flock--this because the process itself reveals new knowledge for me. I do hear what you are saying about sources that have gone untapped, and I will be diligent in time about making sure I excavate the treasure that can be found there. I believe I know Niccoli best from hymn texts if my senior memory is functioning properly this evening.

While living in California I knew folks from the so-called fundamentalist side of Christianity who thought those in the main stream were pretty dry. I learned a few things from them that enriched my life. That's why I am from experience open to testing the waters of other thinkers. In the end I may 'land' pretty much where I started, but I am sure due to this list and your efforts and those of other writers that I will be able to validate my thinking in a new and better way.

I'm glad so many people have brought out their thoughts on these matters, and you know--I really would love it if people like you and Uri would each eventually compile a list of books you think are particularly relevant from your experience and put it up off topic. Then those of us who wish to explore would have not only the details offered so far, but lists that would help us to draw comparisons for discussion in the future. Do you think this idea is a possibility?

Peter Petzling wrote (February 23, 2008):
Some of you, who are trying to sort out the dynamics of pietism and enlightenment in Leipzig during Bach's time, may quickly want to lay their hands on Tanya Kevorkian's newly published work:

BAROQUE PIETY: Religion, Society and Music in Leipzig, 1650-1750
Ashgate, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-7546-5490-2

This is an incisive piece of work. Professor Kevorkian did a very fine job in tracking through mountains of German "Pietismus Forschung". Fortunately, she has emerged unhurt from the adventure. But above all, she has worked her way through archives in Leipzig, Dresden and Halle and has marvellously widened our grasp of the working environment of J. S. Bach. One can only say 'Thumbs Up' after reading this volume.

FWIW

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 23, 2008):
[To Peter Petzling] Thank you for making our readers aware of what looks to be a potentially very interesting text. I will check on it, myself.

Jean-Pierre Grivois wrote (February 23, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] Does anybody know where and how it is possible to read the books about religion quoted in Bach's Librairy after his death ?

Peter Smaill wrote (February 23, 2008):
[To Jean-Pierre Grivois] The best introduction to the content of Bach's library is Robin A. Leaver's "Bach's Theological Library". Nearly all of its contents can be found in libraries scattered across Europe, though not alas Bach's own copies of theological books; we solely have the Calov Bible (Concordia Library, St.Louis USA, available in reproduction) and the Weisse Hymnbook (now in Glasgow University) (Wolff, pp 334-335). Some of the other texts can be accessed by Google.

Apart from Leaver's fine work, the necrology quoted at the end of Spitta lists all the recorded books at Bach's death; but as Wolff suggests, much may have been removed beyond these materials. Perhaps someone keen on this topic could prepare the known list and edit it for the BCW? (Apologies if it already exists in the site).

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 23, 2008):
[To Peter Smaill] Thanks, Peter, for these off topic additions.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 23, 2008):
[To Paul T. McCain] Thanks Paul, for sharing these details below. I can now understand based on history and the experience of your body of Lutheranism why you stick staunchly to your views regarding the topics we have been discussing off-list. This is helpful.

Paul T. McCain wrote (February 23, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] Thank you for your questions.

The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod traces its roots directly, and quite immediately, straight back to Saxony, Germany, to the very heart of Luther land. Our forefathers struggled personally through Pietism and made their way back to the sturdier foundation of Lutheranism located in Luther and the Reformation era and Lutheran Orthodoxy. That's our church's background. And, interestingly, Leipzig itself was one of the last bastions (if I may be allowed to use that term) of Lutheran Orthodox, an island of Lutheran orthodox after Pietism had taken hold elsewhere.

Our "founding fathers" came out of a context where they did not receive comfort from the tenets of Pietism, which emphasizes the person's own internal spiritual struggles, and striving to achieve a certain level of personal spiritual sanctity and awareness. They found instead that the more objectively satisfying answers to their deepest spiritual questions were to be found in the more objective proclamation of the comforts of Christ the Crucified and Risen, and the treasures of forgiveness, love, life ansalvation that are mediated objecively, from outside of ourselves, through the Gospel and Sacraments. They latched on to this.

They knew of Pietism from the inside out and found it ultimately lacking in objective comfort for their spiritual struggles.

They were part of a general revival of confessional Lutheranism in 19th century Germany. They were forced out of their congregations in Germany after the Prussian Union in 1817, which legally mandated them to use a "union" theology combining, by force of arms in many cases, a combination of Calvinism and Lutheranism.

And so, long story short, they went back to the Lutheran sources of Luther, the Lutheran Confessions and Lutheran Orthodoxy, etc. and on that basis came to the USA and in 1848, our particular Synod was started.

Hope that is helpful, and thanks for asking.

Paul T. McCain wrote (February 23, 2008):
One more thing...it is not a coincidence that the Bach Bible was preserved by and owned by members of our Synod, and now has pride of place in the huge rare book holdings of one of our two seminaries in Saint Louis, Missouri.

I've had the personal privilege of paging through it, wearing protective gloves, of course.

To see and read Bach's scribblings and scratchings and underlinings throughout it, is quite a moving experience.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 24, 2008):
[To Paul T. McCain] What an awesome experience. Thanks for sharing.

 

Bach and religion

Gabriël G. Smit wrote (March 7, 2011):
[To Aryeh Oron] Thank you for this great depository of facts and the wonderful way facilitating discussions of the great bach!

my 'comment' re 'bach and religion' is as follows:

Regardless of our opinions we have to look at Bach as the conduit used by Jesus Christ to bestow unto us music of supernatural quality. Bach’s compositions should never be seen apart from the parenthesis he placed them in, to wit Jesus juva (Jesus help me) and Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone all glory).
Whenever Bach created, he created to the glory of God with the help of Jesus Christ. Bach’s dependence on his Creator can clearly be deducted from the contents of his work and the singular value he placed upon what could arguably be the guiding paragraph re his music to be found in his Calov Bible:

2 Chronicles 5:13-14
(13) It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD;
(14) So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.

(KJV)

 

Was Bach Orthodox, Rationalist, or Pietist?

Bruce Simonson wrote (May 8, 2011):
Peter Smaill wrote:
<< However in the course of my efforts to analyse all the Bach texts theologically they are also odd in that Lutheran doctrines of justification by faith alone and the Anselmian substitution take back seat to expressions of salvation through good conduct >>
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I hope I made it clear in previous posts, that I found this point striking in the text for BWV 39, compared to the previous two works for Trinity 1: BWV 75 and BWV 20.
Jaroslav Pelikan, Bach Among the Theologians, p. 57, in the chapter titled <Pietism, Piety, and Devotion in Bachs Cantatas>:
<All the attempts by Orthodox Lutheran confessionalists, in his time or in ours, to lay claim to Bach as a member of their theological party will shatter on the texts of the cantatas and the Passions, many (though by no means all) of which are permeated by the spirit of Pietism.> (end quote) >
Reading on, in Pelikan, as he concludes the paragraph from which the above quote is taken:

<Yet it would be, if anything, an even more uncritical oversimplification to interpret Bach as a party-line Lutheran Pietist, for he repeatedly showed, by his revisions and by his musical settings of those very texts, that he was not to be confined by the categories of Pietism any more than he was by those of Rationalism and Confessional Orthodoxy.>

Pelikan's main point on the question of Bach's "allegiance" to the Orthodox, Rationalist, or Pietist camps, seems to be that none of these wins categorically.

That being said, you know what would help me? Can anyone on the list provide a simple summary of each of these perspectives? Any lurking religious historians out there willing to take a stab at this?

Evan Cortens wrote (May 8, 2011):
Bruce Simonson wrote:
< Pelikan's main point on the question of Bach's "allegiance" to the Orthodox, Rationalist, or Pietist camps, seems to be that none of these wins categorically. >
It's worth noting, furthermore, that Pelikan's comments in this context refer entirely to the texts Bach set. It's difficult, I think, to make any conclusions about what Bach himself believed based on this, given how little we know about how he came to set them. It's entirely possible that the texts were either assigned, or at least approved, by the clergy. Even if not, we can, I think, be sure that Bach himself at least wasn't writing them.

To oversimplify, the Pietists preferred simple, individual expressions of belief, i.e., they eschewed the cantata in favour of congregational singing, and the like. Erdmann Neumeister, who (to oversimplify again a bit) basically invented the German "operatic" (a la Bach in Leipzig) liturgical cantata, was a vehement anti-Pietist. It's worth noting, however, that this observation has very little to do with religious dogma, and again, is hard to attach to Bach specifically. If his Leipzig employers wanted "operatic" cantatas, he was obliged to write them, or else find other employment.

Peter Smaill wrote (May 8, 2011):
[To Bruce Simonson & Evan Cortens] I'm rather in agreement with the view that it is difficult to pin down Bach to any narrow theological position, while at the same time sensing that he was a committed Lutheran. The overall picture is that Leipzig was emerging was a period of vey strict Lutheranism under Abraham Calov's influence to a point where some heterodox emphases were being assimilated, including Pietist and, I argue, Calvinist ideas. Bach wittingly or otherwise plays his part in setting some quite unusual emphases in the texts, which (then and now) are the preachers' way of waking up the congregation to another way of seeing the faith. The difference between Bach's time and now is that such variations would have been immediately identified as belonging to a heretical thought pattern by the highly educated worshippers and even councillors (many had doctorates), whereas the typical congregation nowadays IMHO has little idea (not being as doctrinally schooled) that some outdated heresy is being re-presented!

But Bach was emphatically not a Pietist, as Robin Leaver has demonstrated. If a Rationalist then only in the loosest sense of open to modernity in musical expression and close in time to the general influence of Leibniz, Spinoza, and Gottsched (rarely set his texts).

Certainly Bach's time was full of heretical sects which were a threat to orthodoxy, but it would have been risking the end of his career openly to embrace them in the Lutheran fortress of Leipzig, as was nearly the case for Fasch in out-of-the-way Zerbst: http://www.bachnetwork.co.uk/ub4/smaill.pdf

We also nevertheless have the peculiarity that the only surviving hymnbook from Bach's library is from the outlawed Moravian (Bohemian) brotherhood, that by Michael Weisse now in Glasgow (but coming to Edinburgh, it is hoped, this August).

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 8, 2011):
Bruce Simonson wrote:
EM:
< Jaroslav Pelikan, Bach Among the Theologians, p. 57, in the chapter titled <Pietism, Piety, and Devotion in Bachs Cantatas>:
<All the attempts by Orthodox Lutheran confessionalists, in his time or in ours, to lay claim to Bach as a member of their theological party will shatter on the texts of the cantatas and the Passions, many (though by no means all) of which are permeated by the spirit of Pietism.> (end quote) >
BS:
< Reading on, in Pelikan, as he concludes the paragraph from which the above quote is taken:
<Yet it would be, if anything, an even more uncritical oversimplification to interpret Bach as a party-line Lutheran Pietist, for he repeatedly showed, by his revisions and by his musical settings of those very texts, that he was not to be confined by the categories of Pietism any more than he was by those of Rationalism and Confessional Orthodoxy.>
Pelikan's main point on the question of Bach's "allegiance" to the Orthodox, Rationalist, or Pietist camps, seems to be that none of these wins categorically. >
Yes, I agree. I trust I did not distort Pelikans point by being concise. See also Evans reply, emphasizing the necesssary distinction between Bachs personal beliefs (unproven), and the texts he set (professional obligation).

I was mostly interested in stressing the change in viewpoint apparent in BWV 39. See also the reference pages for chorale text and melody, accessible via the BWV 39 main page. The same melody has a variety of different texts, mostly of Orthodox Lutheran leaning, as I read them, and many of which Bach used in different places. Only that chosen for BWV 39 is specifically humanist (not to say Pietist). Not necessarily JSBachs choice, but the overlap with a series of texts shared with cousin JLBach seems to suggest at least the possibility that JSB had some influence in that choice.

A side point is the traditional assumption that these chorales were so standardized and well-known that a snatch of melody was enough to trigger a uniform theologic interpretation in the Leipzig audience. I certainly question that assumption.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 8, 2011):
The End of Bach's World

Peter Smaill wrote:
< I'm rather in agreement with the view that it is difficult to pin down Bach to any narrow theological position, while at the same time sensing that he was a committed Lutheran. >
The larger musical issue for us on this list is that Pietism was part of a wider social and artistic transition which radically changed the world that Bach knew. Bach's tenure in Leipzig is really the farewell to Luther's high-church "Formula Missae" tradition which became all but extinct in the second half of the 18th century.

Luther envisioned two orthodox traditions:

1) The German Mass: a simple mass entirely in the vernacular with no elaborate choir or organ music and with all the Ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, etc) and the Proper (Introit, Gradual) replaced with congregational singing.

2) The Formula Missae: an elaborate mass which retained much Latin, chanted readings, large-scale organ music, and polyphonic and concerted music performed by professional choirs and instrumentalists attached to a residential choir school.

Even in Bach's time, the German Mass tradition held sway in the vast majority of parishes, especially in rural and small towns without an historic choral institution attached to them. Bach never served in a German Mass parish and probably had little experience of its worship. He was educated and served in Formula Missae parishes or chapels. It was the German Mass tradition that immigrant Lutherans brought to North America in the 18th century. As far as I've been able to discover, Bach's Formula Missae liturgy did not cross the Atlantic.

Pietism was part of a movement in the second half of the 18th century to make worship more personally engaging and emotional. Its musical expression was active participation in hymn-singing. That produced a growing reaction against the Formula Missae liturgy. People were simply not prepared to sit passively for 40 minutes and listen to musicians sing a Latin Kyrie and Gloria such as Bach's Mass in F Major or an extended cantata. The days of his four-hour mass were numbered.

The performing institutions were changing as well. Cities were no longer interested in paying professional musicians for church work, and the choir schools shifted their priorities away from the daily performance of the liturgy to become preparatory academies for universities. "Early Music" like Bach's passed out of the churches and into the new symphonic and choral societies which performed in concert halls before paying customers. As early as 1768, CPE Bach performed the Credo of the B Minor Mass in a public concert not a church service. By the time we get to Mendelssohn, the principal purveyors of Bach are secular, self-governing, self-supporting orchestras and choral societies with men and women. That is how we hear Bach today. His Formula Missae liturgy which inspired his sacred music and provided its context must have faded away to a distant memory by the time Mendelssohn began his revival.

Ironically, it was the Mendelssohn revival in the concert hall which brought Bach partially back into the churches. Bach hamonizations of hymns begin to appear in hymnals across the ecumenical spectrum, and single movements are extracted as "anthems" for choirs: "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" is probably the most frequently performed music of Bach because of the choral revival. Organists begin to play Bach's organ music before and after services but rarely as the liturgical introductions which Bach intended. Churches begin to perform the cantatas but not as integral parts of the service: rather they are presented as "Bach Vespers", essentially concert recitals bookended with a couple of hymns, prayers and "reflection".

This is the way in which Bach's music is presented today even in Bach's own church, St. Thomas. The occasional cantata is performed during the morning service, but the major Bach events are afternoon and evening concerts. Last year on Ascension Day, the choir sang a cantata and a concerted setting of the Sanctus as part of the liturgy. That was perhaps the closest we will get to hearing a bit of Bach's now extinct "Formula Missae" service.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 8, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Even in Bach's time, the German Mass tradition held sway in the vast majority of parishes, especially in rural and small towns without an historic choral institution attached to them. Bach never served in a German Mass parish and probably had little experience of its worship. He was educated and served in Formula Missae parishes or chapels. It was the German Mass tradition that immigrant Lutherans brought to North America in the 18th century. As far as I've been able to discover, Bach's Formula Missae liturgy did not cross the Atlantic.
Pietism was part of a movement in the second half of the 18th century to make worship more personally engaging and emotional. Its musical expression was active participation in hymn-singing. That produced a growing reaction against the Formula Missae liturgy. People were simply not prepared to sit passively for 40 minutes and listen to musicians sing a Latin Kyrie and Gloria such as Bach's Mass in F Major or an extended cantata. The days of his four-hour mass were numbered. >
While there is probably NO direct connection, the rise of the Cecilian movement within Catholicism during this period seems to match what was going on in Germany, albeit for some different reasons. While technically the movement started in the mid 19th century Germany, I think the roots of it were starting much earlier in the 18th century, with the fascination for polyphonic music of the renaissance, etc. There were stops and starts on instrumental settings of the mass, including the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna forbidding the use of trumpets and timpani in the cathedral with a few exceptions. Even in official documents of the period, the Catholic church made understanding of the text a key importance, and while what actually happened was another matter: historically on an official level, it encouraged particiby the congregation. That got some political muscle when Emperor Joseph II in the late 1780s enforced a reform on liturgical music within his realms, and of course, that had a major impact on Mozart and his good friend Michael Haydn who was still working in Salzburg. And of course the tension that was so active in the 18th century is STILL present in some congregations. I've sat on many a parish council meeting. and see extremely reasonable people have some rather heated debates about the role of music in the liturgy. I can't imagine it was any less heated 200 plus years ago.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 8, 2011):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< Even in official documents of the period, the Catholic church madeunderstanding of the text a key importance, and while what actually happened was another matter: historically on an official level, it encouraged participation by the congregation. That got some political muscle when Emperor Joseph II in the late 1780s enforced a reform on liturgical music within his realms, and of course, that had a major impact on Mozart and his good friend Michael Haydn who was still working in Salzburg. >
The polemic of Reformation and Counter-Reformation has clouded the musical history. Luther did not invent congregational singing during mass. German-speaking Catholics had been singing vernacular hymns in place of the Ordinary and Proper since the 14th century. Luther reorganized and augmented the tradition but did not invent it (Leaver and Herll's historical work is a real eye-opener).

Even more astonishing is that this congregational tradition continued among German-speaking Catholics even after the Reformation. It was a immense surprise to me to see examples of German Catholic hymnbooks from the 17th and 18th centuries. The "Singmesse" tradition was extremely popular in Austria especially under the Josephist reforms. Michael Haydn wrote several "German" masses which are essentially metrical hymns to replace the Latin Ordinary and Proper. Mozart must have known this repertoire with its wind-band "harmonie" accompaniment. I have long suspected that this tradition influenced the priests' choruses in the "Magic Flute,"

The most famous example of the Catholic German Mass is Schubert's 1826 "Deutsche Messe". Far from being an anomaly, it is the culmination of a 500 year tradition. The Singmesse tradition was a strong influence when the Second Vatican Council introduced the vernacular mass in the 1970's. The conflict between concerted "high mass" and congregational "German Mass" mirrors the contrast between the two Lutheran orders in Bach's era.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 8, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Even more astonishing is that this congregational tradition continued among German-speaking Catholics even after the Reformation. It was a immense surprise to me to see examples of German Catholic hymnbooks from the 17th and 18th centuries. The "Singmesse" tradition was extremely popular in Austria especially under the Josephist reforms. Michael Haydn wrote several "German" masses which are essentially metrical hymns to replace the Latin Ordinary and Proper. Mozart must have known this repertoire with its wind-band "harmonie" accompaniment. I have long suspected that this tradition influenced the priests' choruses in the "Magic Flute," >
Michael Haydn (as did Wanhal) wrote hundreds of graduals and hymns and offertories after Joseph's reforms.

A Complete Edition of Michael Haydn and Wanhal's music is apparently underway, and in the planning stages, long overdue I think.

William Hoffman wrote (May 8, 2011):
Three recent books to read:

1. <Bach's Changing World: Voices in the Community>, ed. Carol K. Baron (Univ. of Rochester Press, 2006), especially these essays:
A. Baron's "Tumultuous Philosophers, Pious Rebels, Revolutionary Teachers, Pedantic Clerics, Vengeful Bureaucrats, Threatened Tyrants, Worldly Mystics: The Religious World Bach Inherited";
B. Joyce Irvin's "Bach in the Midst of Religious Transition."

2. Calvinist Connection: <My Only Comfort: Death, Deliverance and Discipleship in the Music of Bach> by Calvin R. Stapfert (Wm. B. Eerdman's Publishing, 2000 (ref. Heidelberg Catechism)

3. <Baroque Piety: Religion, Society, and Music in Leipzig, 1650-1750> by Tanya Kevorkian (Ashgate, 2007): Contents: Introduction; Part I Congregants' Everyday Practices: The experience of the service; Seating the religious public: church pews and society. Part II The Producers: The clergy, the city council, and Leipzig inhabitants; Elites in and beyond Leipzig: the Dresden court and the consistories; Leipzig's cantors: status, politics and the adiaphora. Part III The Pietist Alternative: Sociability and religious protest: the collegia pietatatis of 1689-1690; The Pietist shadow network. Part IV The Construction Boom and Beyond: Social change and religious life; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

If these aren't sufficient, also see:

<Bach's Dialogue With Modernity: Perspective on the Passions> (Matthew and John only) by John Butt (Camrbidge Univ. Press, 2010)

My conclusion: Bach was at a unique crossroads and his music is not only the culmination of an era (Geiringer) but also a magnificent synthesis of technique and understanding.

 

Continue on Part 8

Bach & Religion: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8
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