Bach, like Shakespeare, is known largely by his works, exceptional in quantity as well as quality, and only a few original documents convey any idea of his life and character. Peter William's thoroughly new look at Bach's biography asks many questions about the so-called evidence. What was he like as a young man, as a father, as an aging church servant? What were his preoccupations? What music did he know and how did he compose and perfom such an amazing amount of music? Was he a disappointed man? Reading the available documentation critically, especially from the viewpoint of a performer, and going back to the first substantial 'biography' of Bach, namely his obituary, Williams suggests new interpretations of the composer's life and his work. In particular he asks if our understanding of Bach has been hindered by the unremitting deference displayed towards him since his death.
"It keeps up a guard against excessive reverence, and it encourages readers not only to reconsider ideas about the composer but also to rehear his music." The New York Review of Books, Peter Williams, Mystery Man
Peter Williams is former Professor and Dean of Music at the University of Edinburgh and is Emeritus Arts and Science Professor of Music at Duke University. His books include A New History of the Organ (1980), The Organ Music of J S Bach (3 vols, Cambridge University Press,1981–1984), Bach, Handel, Scarlatti 1685–1985 (Cambridge University Press, 1985), and Bach: The Goldbert Variations (Cambridge University Press, 2001).
Introduction; 1. Early years 1685–1703; 2. First appointments 1703–8; 3. Weimar 1708–17; 4. Cöthen 1717–23; 5. Leipzig, the first decade; 6. Leipzig, the second decade; 7. Leipzig, the final years and the first personal descriptions; Appendix 1. A sample hypothesis; Appendix 2. Some terms; References; BWV Index; Name index.