Happy Birthday, Johann Sebastian Bach!

“Bach, the immortal God of harmony” (Ludwig van Beethoven)     

“Now there is music from which one can learn something!” (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – on hearing Bach choral motets in Leipzig)   

“Bach is thus a terminal point. Nothing comes from him; everything merely leads to him.” (Albert Schweitzer)  

“In Bach, the vital cells of music are united as the world is in God.” (Gustav Mahler)   

“Music owes as much to Bach as religion to its founder.” (Robert Schumann)  

“Bach is Bach, as God is God.” (Hector Berlioz)  

“Not Brook, but Ocean should be his name.”   – Ludwig Van Beethoven (“Bach” is the German word for “brook”) 

“Oh, you happy sons of the North who have been reared at the bosom of Bach, how I envy you!” (Giuseppe Verdi)  

“You can’t have Bach, Mozart and Beethoven as your favorite composers. They simply define what music is!” (Michael Tilson Thomas)  

“And if we look at the works of JS Bach – a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity – on each page we discover things which we thought were born only yesterday, from delightful arabesques to an overflowing of religious feeling greater than anything we have since discovered. And in his works we will search in vain for anything the least lacking in good taste.” (Claude Debussy)  

“Bach is a colossus of Rhodes, beneath whom all musicians pass and will continue to pass. Mozart is the most beautiful, but Bach is the most comprehensive: he has said all there is to say. If all the music written since Bach’s time should be lost, it could be reconstructed on the foundation which Bach laid.”  (Charles Gounod)  

“If Bach is not in Heaven…..I am not going!” (William F. Buckley)   

“Bach opens a vista to the universe. After experiencing him, people feel there is meaning to life after all.” (Helmut Walcha)  

“Study Bach. There you will find everything.” (Johannes Brahms)  

“Why waste money on psychotherapy when you can listen to the B Minor Mass?” (Michael Torke) 

“The poetry, the atmosphere, the intensity of expression, the beauty of the preludes and fugues grip, overwhelm, and stimulate us. Let us not be afraid of the supreme contrapuntal science of the fugues, nor be overawed by the stern appearance and heavy wig of Father Bach. Let us gather around him, feel the love, the noble goodness that flow from each one of his phrases and that invigorate and bind us by ties strong and warm.” 

    – Carl Friedrich Zelter, the teacher of Felix Mendelssohn (letter to Goethe, 9 June 1827) 

“There was a time when silence was heard, when trees were in harmony with the grass and the song of flowers, when the afternoons were gardens of fragrances and twilights threaded their velvety harps near to the weary eyelids of the day, when the moment lasted an eternity and the longing, the reverie, the melancholy would subdue the impassioned gestures of love…

There was the realm of the preclassical, of the sensibility touched by the music of spheres, of the perfect, unaffected hearing, at whose gate sublime inspirations would turn up…

Then lived on earth an Albinoni, a Pergolesi, a Marcello, a Corelli, a Haendel, a Vivaldi, a Bach. They lived, they composed, they accomplished, meeting the universal stillness with the  whispers of the genius dressed in transparency and serenity, and from a certain moment they disappeared in the turmoil of a world who had begun moving its armors.

Never again will there be a servant more modest and humble than the composer of paradisiac callings which we can hear – graceful blessings for the spirit – in the four seasons of perfect music…”  

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH (21 March 1685 – 28 July 1750): 

“Harmony is next to Godliness.”      

 “I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music.” 

“Music is an agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delights of the soul.” 

“Where there is devotional music, God is always at hand with His gracious presence.”   

“The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.” 

“There’s nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument will play itself.”  

“I was obliged to work hard. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed just as well.” 

“My masters are strange folk with very little care for music in them.” 

“For the glory of the most high God alone,  

 And for my neighbour to learn from.” (Johann Sebastian Bach, epigraph to Little Organ Book, 1717)  





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