J. S. Bach's 'Leipzig' Chorale Preludes: Music, Text, Theology (Contextual Bach Studies)

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9780810881815: J. S. Bach's 'Leipzig' Chorale Preludes: Music, Text, Theology (Contextual Bach Studies)

In 2007, the great Bach scholar Anne Leahy died at the age of 46. She was a leading light in Bach studies and lecturer at the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) Conservatory of Music and Drama. Posthumously edited by renowned Bach scholar Robin A. Leaver, Leahy's dissertation research forms the basis for this original study of the preludes to Bach's Leipzig chorales.

Originally composed in Weimar and later revised in Leipzig, Bach's compositions have been a source of some puzzlement. As Leahy notes, "the original intentions of Bach and the possible purpose of this collection might be regarded as speculative." Working from available sources, however, she argues that through the careful examination of the links among the music, hymn texts, and theological sources some answers may be had. From Bach's personal and deep interest in Lutheran theology to his enormous musical passion, Leahy considers closely a series of critical questions: does the original manuscript for the chorales simply reflect a random gathering of compositions or is there a common theme in setting? How critical is the order of the chorales and what is the theological significance of that order? Were the chorales a unified collection, and if so, which parts were to be included and which not? Indeed, were the chorales themselves part of a possibly larger corpus?

As Leahy makes evident, there are no simple answers, which is why she considers critical the relationship the texts of the hymns to the chorales and to one another, outlining a theological pattern that is vital to fully grasping the guiding philosophy of these compositions.

J. S. Bach's "Leipzig" Chorale Preludes: Music, Text, Theology is ideally suited for Bach scholars and those with a general interest in the intricate connections between text and music in the composition of religious music.

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About the Author:

Anne Leahy (1961-2007) was a leading light in Bach studies and lecturer at the Dublin Institute of Technology Conservatory of Music and Drama. She was the first Gerhard Herz Visiting Professor of Bach Studies at Louisville University in the Fall of 2003.

Robin A. Leaver is a renowned musicologist and theologian. Leaver is the author of many works, including A Communion Sunday in Scotland ca. 1780: Liturgies and Sermons (Scarecrow, 2010). He is also series editor of Contextual Bach Studies from Scarecrow Press.

Review:

J.S. Bach’s 'Leipzig' chorale preludes include some of his most intensely beautiful works for organ as well as some of the most challenging for the performer to interpret. While these eighteen chorale preludes have received much scholarly attention, they continue to inspire new ideas. The late Anne Leahy’s monograph explores their liturgical purpose and theological meaning in the context of Bach’s Lutheran world. Leahy bases her observations on the chorale texts, detailed analysis of the music, and writings by Luther and his followers. Her analysis includes discussion of other music by Bach, mostly vocal works with similar subjects and approaches to setting the text. As background, she highlights commentary from other Bach scholars from Spitta forward. Leahy’s comprehensive approach adds another resource for the organist to enrich performance. ... The book. . . serves as a valuable resource for the organist and student of Bach. . . . Leahy’s observations are thoughtful and often original. (The American Organist)

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