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Bach & God$
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Michael Marissen

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190606954

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190606954.001.0001

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The Theological Character of Bach’s Musical Offering

The Theological Character of Bach’s Musical Offering

(p.191) Chapter 7 The Theological Character of Bach’s Musical Offering
Bach & God

Michael Marissen

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that even the so-called pure instrumental music of Johann Sebastian Bach can share a great deal with his liturgical vocal music in projecting religiosity. Questions of meaning in his secular chamber music need not be deemed somehow fundamentally different from those in his church music. Both types of music warrant being viewed as religious, as opposed to the one being religious and the other secularistic (or, for that matter, to both types being at base no more than aesthetically oriented). This chapter puts forward the view, then, that Bach’s Musical Offering (BWV 1079) was not, as is often declared, a pro-Enlightenment homage of “abstract” chamber music (that is, of art for art’s sake), designed to honor its dedicatee, King Frederick the Great of Prussia, but was a carefully scored defense of anti-Enlightenment Lutheranism, designed primarily, as was all of Bach’s music, to honor God.

Keywords:   Enlightenment, Frederick the Great, Johann Sebastian Bach, Lutheranism, Musical Offering

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