Because Johann Sebastian Bach appeared in 1970, well before the publication of a wealth of new scholarship produced during the years approaching the tricentennial celebration of Bach’s birth, a number of the text’s factual inaccuracies are unavoidable. A greatly revised chronology of the Leipzig church cantatas contributes most significantly to the antiquated information contained in the biography. Several additional examples also bear mention: A photograph of the Bach museum in Eisenach is wrongly labeled as the birthplace; whether the choirboy Bach actually had access to the important music library of St. Michael’s Church in Lüneburg is now thought unlikely; the St. John Passion had its premiere not in 1723 as an audition piece for Bach’s post in Leipzig, but rather on Good Friday of the following year after he had already secured the appointment; and the location of Bach’s remains is no longer a matter of speculation. Less understandable is the historical map showing the Germany of Bach’s time. For example, Czechoslovakia is indicated even though that country did not come into existence until after World War I.

Although some of these errors are not inconsequential, they should not distract from the genuine value of the biography. The strength of Reingold’s presentation lies above all in her ability to evoke the atmosphere of eighteenth century Germany, which she accomplishes by skillfully incorporating into her narrative...

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