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Evening in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment (P.S.)

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Evening in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment (P.S.) Cover

ISBN13: 9780007156610
ISBN10: 0007156618
Condition: Student Owned
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Synopses & Reviews

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Publisher Comments:

One Sunday evening in the spring of his seventh year as king, as his musicians were gathering for the evening concert, a courtier brought Frederick the Great his usual list of arrivals at the town gate. As he looked down the list of names, he gave a start.

Gentlemen, he said, old Bach is here. Those who heard him said there was a kind of agitation in his voice.

So begins James R. Gaines's Evening in the Palace of Reason, setting up what seems to be the ultimate mismatch: a young, glamorously triumphant warrior-king, heralded by Voltaire as the very It Boy of the Enlightenment, pitted against a devout, bad-tempered composer of outdated music, a scorned genius in his last years, symbol of a bygone world. The sparks from their brief conflict illuminate a pivotal moment in history.

Behind the pomp and flash, Prussia's Frederick the Great was a tormented man. His father, Frederick William I, was most likely mad; he had been known to chase frightened subjects down the street, brandishing a cane and roaring, Love me, scum! Frederick adored playing his flute as much as his father despised him for it, and he was beaten mercilessly for this and other perceived flaws. After an unsuccessful attempt to escape, Frederick was forced to watch as his best friend and coconspirator was brutally executed.

Twenty years later, Frederick's personality having congealed into a love of war and a taste for manhandling the great and near-great, he worked hard and long to draw old Bach into his celebrity menagerie. He was aided by the composer's own son, C. P. E. Bach, chief keyboardist in the king's private chamber music group. The king had prepared a cruel practical joke for his honoredguest, asking him to improvise a six-part fugue on a theme so fiendishly difficult some believe only Bach's son could have devised it. Bach left the court fuming. In a fever of composition, he used the coded, alchemical language of counterpoint to write A Musical Offering in response. A stirring declaration of everything Bach had stood for all his life, it represented as stark a rebuke of his beliefs and worldview as an absolute monarch has ever received. It is also one of the great works of art in the history of music.

Set at the tipping point between the ancient and the modern world, the triumphant story of Bach's victory expands to take in the tumult of the eighteenth century: the legacy of the Reformation, wars and conquest, and the birth of the Enlightenment. Most important, it tells the story of that historic moment when Belief — the quintessentially human conviction that behind mundane appearances lies something mysterious and awesome — came face to face with the cold certainty of Reason. Brimming with originality and wit, Evening in the Palace of Reason is history of the best kind, intimate in scale and broad in its vision.

Synopsis:

Johann Sebastian Bach created what may be the most celestial and profound body of music in history; Frederick the Great built the colossus we now know as Germany, and along with it a template for modern warfare. Their fleeting encounter in 1757 signals a unique moment in history where belief collided with the cold certainty of reason. Set at the tipping point between the ancient and modern world, Evening in the Palace of Reason captures the tumult of the eighteenth century, the legacy of the Reformation, and the birth of the Enlightenment in this extraordinary tale of two men.

About the Author

A longtime journalist and the former editor of several magazines, including Time and People, James R. Gaines lives with his family in Paris.

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

hdwstudio, January 2, 2011 (view all comments by hdwstudio)
Deep insight into the malaise we live in today. Will we allow Bach to lead us out of the quagmire into the refreshing freedom of discipline and devotion to the truth?
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Gypsi, June 5, 2010 (view all comments by Gypsi)
Evening in the Palace of Reason is a joint biography of J. S. Bach and Frederick the Great-two prominent, and very different, historical figures. Gaines begins his tale with their first and only meeting. Frederick, the Enlightenment's poster child, scorns Bach and his music as old fashioned, unsightly and-worst of all- religious. He presents Bach with two musical challenges, which Bach responds to in his typical fashion.

After this initial introduction, Gaines begins the biographies of these two great men, recording their extreme dissimilarities and showing how these would culminate into Fredrick's difficult test, and Bach's equally difficult rejoinder. Into their stories, Gaines weaves many different threads-musical history, musical theory, theology, religious history, philosophy and the basic history of their time and place-to create a complex background on which to place the two, making for a detailed and fascinating story.

There were few "dull" places, though I did find some of the music theory hard-going, due to my lack of pre-knowledge. However, I came away from reading Evening in the Palace of Reason with a firmer grasp of not only Bach and Frederick, but counterpoint, Lutheranism, the 18th century, Prussian history and many more things I knew nothing about before I picked up the book!Though this is a scholarly work, Gaines did not target a purely scholarly audience, and as a result it can be enjoyed by layperson or historian alike.

I did find a few faults with this work, the most aggrieving being the lack of dates. Though I am a history enthusiast myself, I still need solid, concrete dates to place an incident within the framework of what was occurring in other parts of the world. Despite knowing when the Enlightenment "occurred", I would have preferred dates on the essential issues, such as the year of their births, the year in which they met, the year in which anything occurred. I found this lack of dates to be a continual frustration.

Otherwise, except for a few passages that were simply not well written, Gaines has done an admirable job with Evening in the Palace of Reason. This is a great read for amateur social or music historians, or biography aficionados. I thoroughly enjoyed it and rate it a solid four out of five.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780007156610
Subtitle:
Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment
Author:
Gaines, James R.
Author:
A Musical Offering
Author:
A Musical Offering
Publisher:
Harper Perennial
Subject:
Europe - Germany
Subject:
History & Criticism - By Composer
Subject:
Genres & Styles - Classical
Subject:
Individual Composer & Musician
Subject:
General History
Subject:
Bach, Johann Sebastian
Subject:
Frederick
Subject:
World History-Germany
Edition Description:
Trade PB
Series:
P.S.
Publication Date:
20060228
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
7.875 x 5.75 in 34.32 oz

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Music » Genres and Styles » Classical
Arts and Entertainment » Music » History and Criticism
Arts and Entertainment » Music » Individual Composer and Musician
History and Social Science » Europe » Germany » Early Germany
History and Social Science » Western Civilization » Early Modern
History and Social Science » World History » 1650 to Present
History and Social Science » World History » Germany » General

Evening in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment (P.S.) Used Trade Paper
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Product details 368 pages Harper Perennial - English 9780007156610 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Johann Sebastian Bach created what may be the most celestial and profound body of music in history; Frederick the Great built the colossus we now know as Germany, and along with it a template for modern warfare. Their fleeting encounter in 1757 signals a unique moment in history where belief collided with the cold certainty of reason. Set at the tipping point between the ancient and modern world, Evening in the Palace of Reason captures the tumult of the eighteenth century, the legacy of the Reformation, and the birth of the Enlightenment in this extraordinary tale of two men.
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