My Only Comfort: Death, Deliverance, and Discipleship in the Music of Bach
by Calvin R. Stapert
Eerdmans, 232 pages

Calvin Stapert, Professor of Music at Calvin College, argues that moreattention should be paid to Bach's richest but least known works, his cantatas. Stapert argues that Bach's religiosity has beeneclipsed by the secularism of his "canonical" works, a marginalization that reflects the biasof contemporary society more than it describes the great composer. The cantata was Bach's form of choice during his early years, when he wrote pieces for the services of his various church employers. Whilethey don't necessarily match the glory his later works, such as the Goldberg Variations, the cantatas are "essential" because they tell us about the faith of Bachthe man. Stapert, countering scholars who say that Bach abruptly stopped writing cantatas in 1725 becauseof a lapse of faith, describes Bach as a devout Lutheran whose faith never wavered. The latter half of the book is a litany of close readings of compositions, a hard trail fornon-musicologists. But one need notbe an expert to find solace--and inspiration--in "My Only Comfort."

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