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Bach, Luther, and the Magnificat By Michael Linton University of Bridgeport Bridgeport, Connecticut JL THER’ importance in. Bach’s life and, by extrapolation, the role of ‘Christianity in it, has become a matter of controversy since the 1960's. Building upon the improved chronology of Bach's works by Georg von Dadelsen and Alfred Dir, Friedrich Blume delivered a paper titled “Outlines of a New Picture of Bach” at the International Bach Society’s Mainz meeting in 1962. Pointing first to Bach's lack of activity in liturgical composition after his first three years in Leipzig, second, to his apparently growing interest in ‘composition not directly related to his church duties, and third, to several ‘documents dating from 1730 in which Bach expressed a growing discontent with his position 2s cantor, Blume attacked the traditional icon of Bach, the ‘church musician, Did Bach have a special liking for church work? Was it a spiritual necessity for him? Hardly. There is at any rate no evidence that it ‘was. Bach the supreme cantor, the creative servant of the Word of God, the staunch Lutheran, isa legend. It will have to be buried along, with all the other traditional and beloved romantic illusions." Blume went on to draw a portrait of Bach which might not unfairly be call: ‘ed “'Bach the Opportunist.” Ambitious, Bach moved from job to job, always ‘eager to improve his position and gain recognition. This pilgrimage of upward. mobility was cursed by one disastrous decision, his acceptance of the cantor- ship at Leipzig, a position he came to loathe and which he tried to leave for the luxurious and worldly courts of Dresden and Warsaw. Bach wrote the kind of music he was paid to write: organ works for the instrument in Weimar, ‘chamber music for his Calvinist prince in Cdthen, cantatas and passions for Leipzig. When left to his own devices, Bach wrote esoteric counterpoint, his primary interest being the “disinterested transmission of a purely abstract theory.""* ‘While Blume’s new picture of Bach certainly made the man more palatable to modern materialists, many Bach scholars were troubled by Blume’s myopic interpretation of current research. Their responses were quick in coming. In 1969, Christoph Trautman published a description of Bach’s Bible, pur- chased by the composer no later than 1733, In 1970 and 1971, Gerhard Herz published two articles which rehearsed the evidence for Blume’s attack, add- ed his own and Trautmann’s findings concerning the Calov Bible, and refuted Blume's conclusions.* Between 1975 and 1978, Robin Leaver published a series Of articles investigating Bach's library.* But the most extensive examination of both Blume’s new portrait of Bach and the findings of twentieth-century research was published in West Germany in 1970: Giinther Stiller's Jobann This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Mar 2018 15:06:57 UTC All use subject to htpabout stor orgterms