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?
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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by Harper Collins,
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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