Johann Sebastian Bach

The Learned Musician
Narrated by: John Pruden
Length: 21 hrs and 29 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (9 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Finalist for the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in Biography, this landmark book was revised in 2013 to include new knowledge discovered after its initial publication.  

Although we have heard the music of J. S. Bach in countless performances and recordings, the composer himself still comes across only as an enigmatic figure in a single familiar portrait. As we mark the 250th anniversary of Bach's death, author Christoph Wolff presents a new picture that brings to life this towering figure of the Baroque era. This engaging new biography portrays Bach as the living, breathing, and sometimes imperfect human being that he was, while bringing to bear all the advances of the last half-century of Bach scholarship. Wolff demonstrates the intimate connection between the composer's life and his music, showing how Bach's superb inventiveness pervaded his career as musician, composer, performer, scholar, and teacher. And throughout, we see Bach in the broader context of his time: its institutions, traditions, and influences. With this highly listenable book, Wolff sets a new standard for Bach biography.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2000, 2013 Christoph Wolff (P)2019 Tantor

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Has all the boring details...

If you want to know all the boring details of Bach's life, this is the biography for you. I will say it is very well researched and written and the reader is one of the best I've heard, but I found it at times difficult to listen to because it was quite often just uninteresting. For example. the author details the textbooks that Bach's school teachers likely used when he was a schoolboy, talks about possible numbers of chorus members at the church where Bach directed based on the number of chairs ordered (and possibly re-upholstered) by the church, analysis of the delivery paper to Bach's home, a run down of every recorded instance of every groschen, thaler, and pfennig Bach earned in his entire life, etc., etc. I suppose this information is valuable in some way, but to me it is just extraneous details that don't need to be shared for the reader to understand Bach's life. I'd rather hear the "meat" of his life and significant moments rather than the details of his firewood allowance.

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Exhausting

Certainly comprehensive and no wonder it is 21 hours plus in length.
Unfortunately, in many parts and for mind numbing periods it is a collection of statistics being read out to the listener.
And then there is the pronunciation of the frequent essential german names, towns, etc., - just awful.
I am fluent in german but could not understand what the narrator was trying to articulate.
Gave up after 2 hours of listening.

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Tiring

I love long biographies, but this book seems to be an exposition of the authors exactitude and ability in looking up minor details and fact checking suspicions. I understand this is a challenging element to telling Bach’s story, but leave them in a footnote somewhere for the footnote guys! A biography is see the story strained from the mud of details! I don’t recommend this as an audio book, it’s almost like listening to a phone book.

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  • Duncan
  • 03-01-19

Loved it - very interesting and detailed insight

A comprehensive and detailed biography. Organists would enjoy this book too as there is much information given on the various organs Bach played on - in those days a bellows operator was needed whenever one wished to play or practice the organ!
I also thought the narrator did a wonderful job - a clear measured voice without being too slow. Perfect!

1 person found this helpful