Contact Info

J. S. Bach. The Voice of God

GENER GONZALVO i BOU (historian, 1958-2017)

Published in Catalan in the magazine Culturàlia,  edited by the “Centre Cultural de Tàrrega”, number 14, January 2000, page 8.

This year start the 250th anniversary of the death of the German composer and musician Johann Sebastian Bach, born in Eisenach in 1685, the same year as Händel. Throughout the world the event will be worthily commemorated, with a multitude of concerts and editions of books and CDs of his music. In 65 years of life, Bach, an eminent organist, composed hundreds of works of all genres. As a young man, he walked hundreds of miles to listen to famous organists, such as Buxtehude. Unlike his contemporaries who triumphed in life – such as Händel – J. S. Bach suffered hardships of all kinds, burdened as he was with children and family. Surrounded by mediocre musicians, surely now he would be amazed at how his compositions are interpreted.

Bach wrote numerous secular works, both instrumental (his unspeakable six Brandenburg Concerts, the Suites for cello, or the concerts for harpsichord or violin) and vocals (let’s remember The Cafe Cantata). However, with a firmly religious upbringing, he himself said that his music served to praise God. Hence, his most universal works are the monumental religious compositions: the passions (Saint Matthew, Saint John), the masses (The mass in B minor), the oratorios and the hundreds of cantatas that Bach composed for each Sunday holiday, all different.

Johann Sebastian Bach was a keyboard prodigy. His organ improvisations -explained his contemporaries- were memorable, and all the students know the unspeakable 24 preludes and fugues of the Well-tempered harpsichord, now adopted by pianists (it must be said that the first pianos didn’t like it to Bach. In fact, they were very rudimentary).

All musicians know that there is a point before and after Bach’s music. Surpassing his Baroque predecessors, the German composer perfectly mastered the art of fugue, harmony and composed highly inspired melodies. In life – we have already said it – he didn’t have the deserved success, and in his death, in Leipzig, his music was forgotten, until in the 19th century it was rediscovered. The music lovers we are lucky. This year 2000 we will properly celebrate the anniversary of the «Master of Saint Thomas of Leipzig», a man devoted to praising God with music. Without a doubt, no musician in all of the Christian history has been able to approach us to God with musical notes. The emotion that his works arouse brings us closer to the purest mystique, as well as a musical quality that believers and non-believers have made Bach qualify as “The father of musicians”. That’s why we have dared to describe Johann Sebastian Bach as the voice of God. There is no doubt that, if the Catholic Church were more open-minded than it’s, it would sanctify this pious and humble Lutheran, as one of the men who has done the most to bring God closer to the hearts of men.