February 18, 2005

More Book Blogging

The past day or two I've started ranting a bit here about Walter Isaacson's biography of Ben Franklin. Last evening, I realized that I had reached that event horizon where I was reading it because I thought I ought to rather than because I enjoy it.

Once I start reading a given book, I do everything I can to finish it, partly owing to the lingering hope that it will redeen itself towards the end, partly through an extreme dislike of giving up on something. There are plenty of very good arguments against this sort of behavior but hey, that's me. Mr. Vegas.

Well, anyway. Owing to the Missus skipping town for a couple of nights, I'll probably have time to finish up with Ol' Ben this weekend. And then I'm heading immediately into a real treat - Johann Sebastian Bach, The Learned Musician, by Christoph Wolff. I bought this a few years back after reading all sorts of good things about it, but have not yet cracked it. Now is the time. If I start doing an unusual amount of Bach-blogging in the next few weeks, you'll understand why (and hopefully tolerate my wallowing).

I noticed that the jacket-flap of this book contains a plug for a companion book, The New Bach Reader, A Life of Johann Sebastian Bach in Letters and Documents, edited by Hans T. David and Arthur Mendel and revised (surprise!) by Christoph Wolff. I'd very much like to get hold of a copy of this book as well. Peter Schikele of P.D.Q. Bach fame (I know I've misspelled his name) did a hilarious musical piece called the "Bach Portrait", a riff on Aaron Copeland's "Lincoln Portrait". Set to swelling, heroic Copelandesque music (interspersed with some of Bach's own compositions), Schikele read several of Bach's letters, most of which were crabby rants about money, how expensive everything was and how everyone around him was constantly trying to swindle him.

Schikele was being funny, but I think he was also making a point about Bach considering himself to be an artisan, as opposed to an artist. This notion often jars on people's sensibilities these days, conditioned as they are by the Romantic concept of the artiste. As I go through the Bach biography, I shall probably have much more to say on this topic, which is something that fascinates me to no end.

Posted by Robert at February 18, 2005 11:45 AM
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