Albert Schweitzer was an expert on J.S. Bach. I am not a musician, bur love Bach and Dr Schweitzer. Can you summarize, for an educated layperson, what Schweitzer's contribution was and how it is relevant for today?
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Albert Schweitzer was such a brilliant person of varied academic interests that his musical background has long, and understandably given his missionary, theologian and medical contributions, been given short-shrift. He was, however, trained as a musician, specifically, as an organist, at a young age and emerged as a serious student of music as well as a musician. His particular passion was for the compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach, and video records of Schweitzer’s performance of the works of Bach are, in fact, available on YouTube, a link to which is provided below. A link is also provided to audio recordings of Schweitzer performing Bach.
Schweitzer’s love of music, the organ and the compositions of Bach constitute a major theme of his life. His interest in the organ extended beyond its playing. He was also fascinated by the instrument’s physical construction, and studied organ building. His 1906 study The Art of Organ-Building and Organ- Playing in Germany and France was influential in redirecting classical productions towards Baroque and away from the influences of Romanticism. Schweitzer’s love of music, and of the organ, transcended disciplines. In The Art of Organ-Building and Organ-Playing, he wrote the following:
"Good tuners should be paid like ministers, and should occupy such a place in the rank of artists that one artistic tuner should be considered equal to six average virtuosi, since a half-dozen of the latter are easier to find than one artistic tuner. Only the mistakes of ministers concern posterity; of the virtuosi it cherishes perhaps the names; the work of the tuners, however, just as it leaves their hand, edifies generation after generation."
Coming from a noted theologian and philosopher, such a statement speaks to the importance Schweitzer placed on music. While he is known today more for his missionary work in current-day Gabon, his contributions to the world of music deserve to be recognized as well.
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