Picks and Pans Review: Basically Bach

UPDATED 04/22/1985 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 04/22/1985 at 01:00 AM EST

by Herbert Kupferberg

"He engages every single faculty," concert pianist Rosalyn Tureck told the author. "He's never easy. But he's never boring. No other composer compares with him in holding your interest concert after concert. I believe Bach is part of the texture of our world just as James Joyce is." This year marks the 300th anniversary of Johann Sebastian Bach's birth, and this joyful little book is a concise tribute to the "genius who produced a music that has not been surpassed in three centuries." The author seems to have distilled everything that is known about Bach, plus everything that has been surmised. Kupferberg, a journalist, music critic and author of books on other musical subjects, has organized his information into brief chapters with titles such as "Bach's Lost Childhood," "Two Wives and Twenty Children," "Bach at the Table" (he lived well), "Bach as a Plagiarist," "Bach and Women." Among the few quotes from the composer not lost through the years is a remark he made to one of his pupils: "Just practice diligently, and it will go very well. You have five fingers on each hand just as healthy as mine." Kupferberg's research—and genial wit—bring Bach and his time to life. For maximum effect read this book while listening to the composer's genius on Glenn Gould's Goldberg Variations. (McGraw-Hill, $12.95)

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