On-line Book Review

Assistant Editor, The Bach Bibliography

Dimension 23.5 x 15.8 x 2.2 cm
TITLE Music and Theology: Essays in Honor of Robin A. Leaver. Edited by Daniel Zager.
PUBL. DETAILS Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press, Inc. (2007) vii, 281p. Hardback. US$100.00
ISBN 0-8108-5414-7
TO ORDER Scarecrow Press, Inc. 4720 Boston Way, Lenham, Maryland 10706, USA
DESCRIPTION A Festschrift consisting of twelve scholarly essays in the field of music and theology with particular emphasis on the music of J. S. Bach.
WORKS COVERED BWV 4, 12, 28, 31, 34, 36, 39, 56, 60-2, 65, 78, 93, 98, 107, 122, 152, 182, 190-1, 198, 227, 232, 244, 245, 248, 547, 590, 599, 615, 651, 659-61, 677, 681, 699, 769, 988, 1035, 1056, 1076, 1080, 1087
READERSHIP Scholars and students interested in Bach’s cantatas, passions, organ works and canons.
RESEARCH CONTRIBUTION All of the essays have individual significance.

R obin A. Leaver needs little or no introduction to Bach scholars, having made a considerable number of valuable and stimulating contributions to the study of Bach’s life and works from a theological perspective.
Perhaps some will be less familiar with Leaver’s published work on aspects of music and theology outside the realm of Bach studies: these are suitably reflected in the chapters by Flynn, Crist, Pilkington and Saliers. This review, however, will focus on the essays that deal specifically with the activities and compositions of Bach.

Unsurprisingly, five chapters are devoted to Bach’s cantatas and passions. Particular reference should be made to Kerala Snyder’s essay as it contains an informative discussion of the hymnody sources available in Lübeck at the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth centuries, and to Michael Marissen’s chapter which offers alternative translations, based on contemporaneous Lutheran theology, of individual words and phrases from the librettos of the following sacred cantatas: BWV 12, 28, 31, 39, 60, 80, 98, 122, 152 and 190. Although it is slightly disappointing that Marissen does not indicate whether or not these examples are merely selective illustrations or the result of an exhaustive survey, the task of accurately interpreting old language and not distorting the original meaning or context is of vital importance for scholars.




"The Soul Is Symphonic": Meditation on Luke 15:25 and Hildegard of Bringen's Letter 23

William T. Flynn


Early Lutheran Hymnals and Other Musical Sources in the Kessler Reformation Collection at Emory University

Stephen A. Crist


Tradition with Variations: Chorale Settings per omnes versus by Buxtehude and Bach

Kerala J. Snyder


Bach's Preluding for a Leipzig Academic CeremonyGregory Butler


Bach's Setting of the Hymn Tune "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" in His Cantatas and Organ Works

Anne Leahy


Historically Informed Rendering of the Librettos from Bach's Church Cantatas

Michael Marissen


The Role of the "Actus Structure" in the Libretto of J. S. Bach's Matthew Passion

Don O. Franklin


Two Unusual Cues in J. S. Bach's Performing Parts

Daniel R. Melamed


Johann Sebastian Bach and the Praise of God: Some Thoughts on the Canon Triplex (BWV 1076)

Albert Clement


Bach and Dresden: A New Hypothesis on the Origin of the Goldberg Variations (BWV 988)

Yo Tomita


A Is for Apple: The Search for an American Church Music; or the ABCs of American Church Music: A Is for Apple, B Is for Billings, and C Is for Chapman

Steve Pilkington


Beauty and Terror: What Have We to Sing; What Has Worship to Pray?

D. E. Saliers


Robin A. Leaver: A Bibliography of His Writings

Sherry L. Vellucci


About the Contributors

Music and Theology: Essays in Honor of Robin A. Leaver. Edited by Daniel Zager.
Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press, Inc. (2007) vii, 281p. Hardback. US$100.00
An impressive and appropriate anthology

Gregory Butler’s logical reconstruction of the organ works Bach may have performed at the Peace Ceremony of 25 December 1745 is one of the most intriguing chapters in this book. Despite the fact, as Butler himself recognises, that his theories are speculative, the careful piecing together of various strands of documentary, theological and musical evidence lends a persuasive credibility to his conjectures.

Equally fascinating is Albert Clement’s contribution, which develops a theory initially suggested in his PhD dissertation. Considering the various connections that exist between the Canon triplex à 6 Voc (BWV 1076) and the Canonic Variations on Vom Himmel hoch (BWV 769), Clement proposes that the Canon triplex à 6 Vocdepicts the fifteenth and final verse of the hymn Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her, thereby ‘completing’ the Canonic Variations which set the preceding verses. Such a perspective provides an interesting explanation for Bach’s decision to submit both of these works to the Corresponding Society of Musical Sciences in 1747, although it is unfortunate that Clement does not acknowledge the link between the Society and the Musical Offering (BWV 1079). Clement also applies his theological interpretation of the Canon triplex à 6 Vocto the Haußmann portrait, constructing a religious motto that could be incorporated according to the historical tradition of canon portraits. While this suggestion is a logical extension of his hypothesis, there are two questions that should be taken into account: can it be assumed that the religious symbolism of this particular canon was already in Bach’s mind in 1746, and if Bach similarly wished to express his faith, why did he not do so explicitly?

Yo Tomita’s thought provoking chapter suggests that Dresden may have significantly influenced the composition of the Goldberg Variations (BWV 988) as Bach seems to have incorporated various elements from Dresden sources in the first secular work published after his appointment as Hof Compositeur to the Dresden Court. Amongst the compelling evidence is a manuscript belonging to Jan Dismas Zelenka that contains two sets of interval canons which are thoughtfully reproduced for the reader in full; this contextual insight substantially aids our understanding of Bach’s canons, providing a striking precedent for the series which he included in the Goldberg Variations.

In conclusion, it is fitting to mention the elegant design of the book’s cover – featuring ornate organ pipes flanked by two angels, it neatly encapsulates the title of the volume and indeed mirrors the richness of its content. Music and Theology is an impressive and appropriate anthology that successfully pays tribute to the achievements of Robin A. Leaver.

Published online on 5 May 2008