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 more attention should be paid to Bach's richest but least known works, his cantatas. Stapert argues that Bach's religiosity has been eclipsed by the secularism of his "canonical" works, a marginalization that reflects the bias of 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. While they 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 Bach the man. Stapert, countering scholars who say that Bach abruptly stopped writing cantatas in 1725 because of 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 for non-musicologists. But one need not be an expert to find solace--and inspiration--in "My Only Comfort."

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