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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
On Bach
By Hector Berlioz (1803–1869)
 
From Berlioz’s Autobiography

YOU will not, my dear Demarest, expect an analysis from me of Bach’s great work: such a task would quite exceed my prescribed limits. Indeed, the movement performed at the Conservatoire three years ago may be considered the type of the author’s style throughout the work. The Germans profess an unlimited admiration for Bach’s recitatives; but their peculiar characteristic necessarily escaped me, as I did not understand the language and was unable to appreciate their expression. Whoever is familiar with our musical customs in Paris must witness, in order to believe, the attention, respect, and even reverence with which a German public listens to such a composition. Every one follows the words on the book with his eyes; not a movement among the audience, not a murmur of praise or blame, not a sound of applause; they are listening to a solemn discourse, they are hearing the gospel sung, they are attending divine service rather than a concert. And really such music ought to be thus listened to. They adore Bach, and believe in him, without supposing for a moment that his divinity could ever be called into question. A heretic would horrify them, he is forbidden even to speak of him. God is God and Bach is Bach.  1
  Some days after the performance of Bach’s chef d’œuvre, the Singing Academy announced Graun’s ‘Tod Jesu.’ This is another sacred work, a holy book; the worshipers of which are, however, mainly to be found in Berlin, whereas the religion of Bach is professed throughout the north of Germany.  2
 
 
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