Our beloved fifth evangelist was born on this day in 1685. Since many male relatives in Bach time shared a common first name: fathers, grand-fathers, uncles, cousins it was common to use a man’s more unique middle name to address them personally, and so, if we were to sing “Happy Birthday” to Bach, we would probably sing it “dear Sebastian.”
What a precious treasure and gift J.S. Bach is to the world. His music is the most influential ever written. When scientists were discussing what should be beamed into outer space to reach potential alien cultures, biologist Lewis Thomas said, “I would vote for Bach, all of Bach, streamed out into space. We would be bragging, of course.” And so we did. When the Voyager space craft was launched, it carried with it recordings from earth, the first being the first movement of Bach’s Brandenberg Concerto No. 2 in F.
To celebrate let’s watch and listen as the incomparable Glenn Gould plays a piano version of Bach’s Cantata BWV 1058, followed by his interpretation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, 1-7, concluding with a movement from one of the Brandenburg Concertos. By the way, you might wonder what Gould is doing while he is playing. He was famous for singing in a low voice along while playing, often vocally harmonizing with the music.