Instructor: Nathan Shields
Goethe-Institut New York
30 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003

For many listeners, Johann Sebastian Bach is the authoritative standard by which all other composers are judged. His music is often considered both timeless and universal. But Bach’s very preeminence has made it hard to see him clearly—to discern the human face behind the “face of classical music.” The purpose of this course is to explore the particular beliefs and passions that drove Bach, shaping and animating his music. Through a study of the “St. John” and “St. Matthew” Passions, church cantatas, and major instrumental works, coupled with readings by Christoph Wolff, Eric Chafe, and Jaroslav Pelikan, we will seek to understand the enigmatic individual behind the works: a man of convulsive emotions, profound terrors, and passionate religious convictions. And we will consider the impact that the great philosophical and religious conflicts of Bach’s time had on his music—a music of stark contradictions and contrasts, in which the rationalism of the nascent Enlightenment dances side by side with a Lutheranism steeped in the consciousness of death and sin, while visions of transcendent order illuminate a landscape in which God and the Devil do battle for the human soul.

The Goethe-Institut New York is pleased to host Bach , a class presented in collaboration with the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research as part of an ongoing partnership.

Course Schedule

Monday, 6:30-9:30pm
November 23 — December 14, 2015
4 weeks

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