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A Bach A to Z

A to Z - Q
Q is for 'Quotations'


Schumann: 'Play conscientiously the fugues of good masters, above all those of Sebastian Bach. Let The Well-Tempered Clavier be your daily bread.Then you will certainly become a solid musician' ('Maxims for Home and Life' Haus und Lebensregdn, 1848)

Hector Berlioz: 'There is one God - Bach - and Mendelssohn is his prophet'

Paul Hindemith: 'I don't know how, with no vibrato, Bach could have so many sons.'

A village organist on finding Bach playing his organ: 'This can only be the devil or Bach himself'.
A member of the Arnstadt Council in 1705: 'If Bach continues to play in this way, the organ will be ruined in two years, or most of the congregation will be deaf.'

Goethe: 'It is as though eternal harmony were conversing with itself, as it may have happened in God's bosom shortly before He created the world.'

Beethoven: 'Not brook but sea should be his name'.

Schubert: 'Johann Sebastian Bach has done everything completely, he was a man through and through.'

George Bernard Shaw: 'Bach belongs not to the past, but to the future - perhaps the near future.'

Debussy: 'A benevolent god, to whom musicians should offer a prayer before setting to work so that they may be preserved from mediocrity'.

Thomas Beecham: 'Too much counterpoint - and what is worse, Protestant counterpoint'.

Chopin: 'Bach is like an astronomer who, with the help of ciphers, finds the most wonderful stars...Beethoven embraced the universe with the power of his spirit...I do not climb so high. A long time ago I decided that my universe will be the soul and heart of man.'

Schumann: 'Music owes as much to Bach as religion to its founder'.

Saint-Saens: 'What gives Sebastian Bach and Mozart a place apart is that these two great expressive composers never sacrificed form to expression. As high as their expresson may soar, their musical form remains supreme and all-sufficient.'

Michael Torke: 'Why waste money on psychotherapy when you can listen to the B Minor Mass?'

Nina Simone: 'Once I understood Bach's music, I wanted to be a concert pianist. Bach made me dedicate my life to music.'

Brahms: 'Study Bach, there you will find everything'.

Gounod: 'If all the music written since Bach's time should be lost, it could be reconstructed on the foundation which Bach laid'.

Mahler: 'In Bach the vital cells of music are united as the world is in God.'

Wagner: '...the most stupendous miracle in all music!'

Douglas Adams: 'I don't think a greater genius has walked the earth. Of the 3 great composers Mozart tells us what it's like to be human, Beethoven tells us what it's like to be Beethoven and Bach tells us what it's like to be the universe.'

    Read what others have said..

    Hugh Magee - Bournemouth
    Many years ago, when I was an undergraduate at Yale University, I took a course in the History of Music. As I am still (more so than ever, in fact), I was hooked on Bach. Accordingly, I chose Bach as the subject of a term paper. In the course of writing the paper in question, I came across a quotation which I can only now paraphrase; but I think the following is a reasonably accurate rendering: "NOT SINCE THE LAST WORDS OF THE DYING SAVIOUR HAVE SUCH SOUNDS BEEN HEARD ON EARTH." Enough said. Thank you, Radio 3, for already making this the best Christmas my wife (also a Bach junkie) and I have known, and for giving us this marvelous time of Advent preparation by means of the works of the greatest composer -- to my mind, the greatest creator --who ever lived. HUGH MAGEE (The Reverend)

    Dr John Pike, Bristol
    Here is an edited account of Mozart's response on hearing a Bach motet performed in Leipzig, written by an eyewitness. "Hardly had the choir sang a few measures when Mozart sat up, startled; a few measures more and he called out "What is this?" And now his whole soul seemed to be in his ears. When the singing was finished he cried out full of joy "Now there is something one can learn from!" When told that the Thomas school preserved the complete collection of motets of Bach as a sort of sacred relic, Mozart said "That's the spirit! That's fine! let's see them!"

    Dr John Pike, Bristol
    The account of Mozart hearing Bach's music in Leipzig for the first time, described in "The New Bach Reader" and elsewhere. It's long, but an important one to add to this otherwise comprehensive list.

    Esmé Muchgoddery, Regents Park
    In 1946, in an essay on "New Music", Arnold Schoenberg wrote: "Bach sometimes operated with the twelve tones in such a manner that one would be inclined to call him the first twelve-tone composer."

    Patrick Vaughan, Sheffield
    Christian Gottlob Neefe (Beethoven's first music teacher)writing in 1783: "Louis van Beethoven...a boy of eleven years and of most promising talent... He plays chiefly The Well-Tempered Clavichord of Sebastian Bach... Whoever knows this collection of preludes and fugues in all the keys - which might almost be called the non plus ultra of our art - will know what this means."

    Mark Audus, Nottingham
    When eminent biologist and author Lewis Thomas was asked what message he would want sent from Earth into outer space, he answered, "I would send the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach." After a pause, he added, "But that would be boasting."

    Tim Robinson, RIPON
    No quote, just a thought. Since A Bach Christmas started yesterday we have had Radio 3 on for much of the time. I feel a dance like quality entering my thinking and things which are difficult to resolve present themselves easily - with no doubt that there can be a satisfactory outcome.

    A Bach Blog

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