☀ You can borrow and read Bach, Beethoven and the Boys free below. ☀
We appreciate that David W. Barber*, in this ebook about music history, brings a light touch to the usually serious business of writing about famous musicians. He tries to be pretty much constantly amusing, which leads to a fair amount of lame funniness in the book along with the truly funny stuff. However, the information in this book is consistently mindblowing enough to get past the groans (pleasurable in their own way, aren’t they?) and learn some seriously strange stuff about everyone from Gregorian chanters to John Cage.
One thing that will quickly become apparent in reading this book about the lives of great musicians and their contributions to the shaping of music is that being famous is no guarantee that one’s personal life won’t be appalling, or that one can pay the rent.
Bach spent nearly ten years at Weimar, but then found it was time to move on. The old duke was having a family quarrel with his nephew and Bach was sort of caught in the middle. So he accepted a job at the court of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen. Bach didn’t leave on the best of terms. He spent nearly a month in jail “for too obstinately requesting his dismissal.” While he was under arrest he composed 46 choral preludes, so the time wasn’t completely wasted….
In his last years, Bach was nearly blind and his health was declining. It was all he could do to jot down the first 239 bars of the last fugue of The Art of Fugue, the most amazingly complicated fugal composition ever written. An English oculist, John Taylor, attempted surgery on Bach’s eyes but it did no good. The operation left him completely blind. Suddenly, on July 18, 1750, Bach’s eyesight was miraculously restored, but he suffered a stroke and died ten days later.
If you borrow the book, we recommend reading it on your computer via the Internet Archive site or as a pdf, since it has a LOT of entertaining footnotes that didn’t survive the conversion into the epub file very well. So in the epub version, you can be sure that the text of any particular footnote will be pages away from the in-text reference to it. Since there are so many footnotes, they fill up a small screen such that, with the epub file, at times it gets tedious to even find the main text.
Handel composed the opera Rinaldo for this first London visit and the crowds loved it. Whole chunks of Rinaldo are made up of music Handel took from his earlier opera Agrippina and some other oratorios, but the audiences didn’t know that. And Handel wasn’t about to tell them.12 One of the highlights of Rinaldo is his use of recorders to represent singing birds. And in case that didn’t get the point across, at every performance there were a few live sparrows released on stage. This sort of thing is all right as long as it doesn’t get out of hand.13
12 Handel often borrowed from his own music. Later he got a little carried away and started stealing from other composers too.
13 One of his later operas included live bears.
You can borrow and read the ebook Bach, Beethoven and the Boys free via the nonprofit Internet Archive (we recommend you read it on their site using the built-in BookReader, or download the pdf; see our note re OCR-ravaged footnotes, above) or buy* it from Amazon (free with Kindle Unlimited).
more ebooks by david w. barber you can borrow for free
- When the Fat Lady Sings: Opera History As It Ought to Be Taught
Buy* (free with Kindle Unlimited)
- Tutus, Tights and Tiptoes: Ballet History As It Ought to Be Taught
Buy* (free with Kindle Unlimited)
*As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.