Friday, March 15, 2013

Johann Sebastian Bach: A Man Tenacious for Excellence

Written by: Hannah DeLadurantey

He was a teacher, performer, and composer; father, husband and friend. But most importantly, Johann Sebastian Bach believed on and trusted in the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace; Jesus Christ, Savior of the universe.

J.S. Bach’s faith in God is typically, very willingly notated in many authors accounts of Bach’s work and life, but it is just simply that; notated. Quite frequently Bach’s faith is only mentioned as something to accompany his other various “hats” that he wore during his life, or just a little marchino cherry on top of the ice cream sundae. But was that all it was to him, a “hat” to take on and off depending on who he was working for. Maybe it was something he turned on and off depending on whether or not it suited his need for the moment? Or was Bach’s faith a scheme for money? Prestige? Was it only feigned humility before God that Bach’s began his scores with  JJ (Jesu Juva “ Jesus Help”)? And did he end the scores with SDG ( Soli Deo Gloria “To God alone the Glory”), just to cross his T’s and dot his I’s?

Indeed, it would be blasphemous if this was true, but I think we can safely know that it is not. Bach was not into “religion” for money or popularity. No, rather Bach had the most awesome fear for God,  a fear that drove him to strive for the utmost excellence in all he put his hand and mind to. Below are a few quotes that I believe will suffice in proving Bach’s honest, godly character.

1“Near 1 Chronicles 25 (a listing of Davidic musicians) Bach wrote, ‘This chapter is the true foundation of all God-pleasing music.’ At 2 Chronicles 5:13 (which speaks of temple musicians praising God), he noted, ‘At a reverent performance of music, God is always at hand with his gracious presence.’”

“ The final reason for music should be none else but the for the glory of God and the recreation of the mind ”

-J.S. Bach

"Just practice diligently, and it will go very well. You have five fingers on each hand just as healthy as mine."

-J.S. Bach

For Bach, music was written for the glory of God alone. The Cantata’s, Concertos, Arias, and Fugues were not written to puff up Bach’s own ego, but for the exaltation of God’s most precious and holy name; so that every knee would bow and every tongue would confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Bach revealed to us, through his diligent efforts, the “why” behind our various vocations, careers, and talents: They are for the glorification of God and the benefit of others, not for ourselves.
March 21st is Johann Sebastian Bach’s 328th birthday, so there are many opportunities for us to attend concerts dedicated to this genius. We can read many accounts of his astounding compositions as well as perform some of his breathtaking music. We must be on our guard that we are not being deceived by what the world tells us about Bach. It’s easy for us to fall into the trap of thinking that Bach’s gift was just natural and specific only to him. “There will never be anyone as good,” we say, or “he was just gifted”.

Yes, I must concur that Bach was very skillfully gifted (by the grace of God), but I also think that Bach was a very diligent and hard worker. He didn’t give up; he was persistent and tenacious for excellence. Nothing less then the best would do. Was he a perfectionist? I don’t think so, because if he were, we wouldn’t have half as many works of his as we do today. Is Bach the best to be had, and could there ever be another composer to surpass him? There may not ever be another “J.S. Bach”, but that doesn’t mean we settle for less. The key to Bach’s greatness wasn’t his teachers, or instrument; it was/is his fear of God. Bach did his best; and left the rest up to God. Bach held to the standard of truth, God’s Word; and God blessed him for it. Let us pray that our legacy may be the same.

“The world does not need more Christian writers-it needs more good writers, and composers, who are Christians. And when we produce art that is really good, art that reflects a biblical world view, its richness will endure through the ages.”

-C.S. Lewis

1 Johann Sebastian Bach from

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