Johann Sebastian Bach, who followed Martin Luther’s mandate for “music to deliver sermons in sound,” always has been regarded as the quintessential Lutheran composer. A recent book analyzes this assessment in a fresh and helpful way. Evening in the Palace of Reason by James R. Gaines (Fourth Estate/Harper Collins, 2005) compares Bach (1685-1750)—his music and his attitude toward that art—with the view of King Frederick II, “the Great” (1712-86).
Frederick, who ruled Prussia during Bach’s later years as a musician in neighboring Saxony, represented the new order, the Age of Enlightenment. He saw the arts as an expression of individual creativity and a source of pleasure for listeners. Deeply devoted to music, he was a composer and a respectable flautist.
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