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Notes on Bach

Monthly conversations with scholars about the life, times, legacy, and music of J.S. Bach. Sponsored by Bach Society Houston.
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Mar 29, 2017

This month, Dr. Richard Viladesau, Professor of Theology at Fordham University, helps us understand Baroque Lutheran Passion settings in a broader artistic and cultural context. In this episode, Dr. Viladesau discusses his book book The Pathos of the Cross, which examines how the Passion story was represented in Baroque theology, art, and music, in both Catholic and Protestant contexts. Fans of Bach’s Passions will enjoy hearing about the much larger historical and theological traditions in which these and similar pieces were composed and heard.

Mar 10, 2017

In J.S. Bach's time, Lutherans marked Good Friday--which falls in mid-April this year--with musical settings of the Passion, the story of Jesus's trial and crucifixion drawn from the New Testament gospels. Musical retellings of the Passion are still common in much of the world during Holy Week; as part of this tradition, Bach Society Houston will perform Bach's St. John Passion in April 2017. On this month's episode, Dr. Daniel R. Melamed (click name for bio), Professor of Musicology at Indiana University, joins us to discuss his book Hearing Bach’s Passions (click title to order), focusing especially on St. John. Melamed's book aims to help non-academics better understand the many complicated historical and musical dimensions surrounding the performance and reception of Bach’s Passions. It was recently released by Oxford University Press in an updated paperback edition. 

Jan 28, 2017

Guest: Dr. Ruth Tatlow, Independent Scholar (Sweden): co-founder of Bach Network UK, designer and founder of the open-access journal Understanding Bach, and frequent visiting researcher at the Leipzig Bach Archive.  

 Every year in January, many people attribute deep importance to the notion of a fresh start, triggered by the first day of the first month of a new year—an example of how some cultures still impute psychological significance to numbers. It’s a good time to think about the role that numbers can play in human society, a topic that certainly occupied the scientific, artistic, and theological minds of J.S. Bach’s time. Hear Dr. Tatlow discuss these themes in her book, Bach’s Numbers: Compositional Proportion and Significance, recently released in paperback. In January 2017, the book was given a prestigious CHOICE award by the American Libraries Association.

 To order the book, visit http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/music/eighteenth-century-music/bachs-numbers-compositional-proportion-and-significance.

Dec 12, 2016

Guest: Dr. Markus Rathey, Assoc. Prof. of Music, Yale University

Bio: http://music.yale.edu/faculty/rathey-markus/

 This month's "Notes on Bach" episode features Dr. Rathey discussing Bach’s Advent music in its liturgical and historical context, focusing on Advent pieces mentioned in his latest book. Aimed at general audiences, Bach’s Major Vocal Works: Music, Drama, and Liturgy provides musical interpretation drawn from historical and liturgical contexts of some of Bach’s most well-known works. To order go to http://yalebooks.com/book/9780300217209/bachs-major-vocal-works. We also briefly mention his newer book on the Christmas Oratorio, available from Oxford University Press at https://global.oup.com/academic/product/johann-sebastian-bachs-christmas-oratorio-9780190275259?cc=us&lang=en&

Special note to listeners: Markus and I agreed prior to recording that I would use the Anglicized/Americanized pronunciation of his surname, instead of the German pronunciation, to help listeners who might search online for more information on his books to be able to spell his name accurately. 

Nov 9, 2016

November: “Death and J.S. Bach”

As we pass Halloween and All Saints Day and move into the waning of the church year and the calendar year, we’ll hear from Dr. Stephen Crist, Associate Professor of Music at Emory University and Immediate Past President of the American Bach Society, about the many ways that experiences with death saturated the personal life and shaped the professional endeavors of J.S. Bach, perhaps even impacting how we interpret some of his music. View Dr. Crist's bio at  http://music.emory.edu/home/people/faculty/crist-stephen.html

Oct 14, 2016

This October marks the 499th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, a historical event so broad and sweeping in its implications that when assessing it in hindsight, we often find it hard to discern historical fact from popular fiction. Listen as Dr. Joseph Herl, Professor of Music at Concordia University, discusses the sometimes-surprising history of Lutheran worship in the two centuries following the Reformation. In the pilot episode of Notes on Bach, he discusses popular misconceptions addressed in his book Worship Wars: Choir, Congregation, and Three Centuries of Conflict

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