The great passion : a novel

by Runcie, James, 1959-

Format: Print Book 2022
Availability: Available at 5 Libraries 5 of 10 copies
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From acclaimed bestselling author James Runcie, a meditation on grief and music, told through the story of Bach's writing of the St. Matthew Passion .

In 1727, Stefan Silbermann is a grief-stricken thirteen-year-old, struggling with the death of his mother and his removal to a school in distant Leipzig. Despite his father's insistence that he try not to think of his mother too much, Stefan is haunted by her absence, and, to make matters worse, he's bullied by his new classmates. But when the school's cantor, Johann Sebastian Bach, takes notice of his new pupil's beautiful singing voice and draws him from the choir to be a soloist, Stefan's life is permanently changed.

Over the course of the next several months, and under Bach's careful tutelage, Stefan's musical skill progresses, and he is allowed to work as a copyist for Bach's many musical works. But mainly, drawn into Bach's family life and away from the cruelty in the dorms and the lonely hours of his mourning, Stefan begins to feel at home. When another tragedy strikes, this time in the Bach family, Stefan bears witness to the depths of grief, the horrors of death, the solace of religion, and the beauty that can spring from even the most profound losses.

Joyous, revelatory, and deeply moving, The Great Passion is an imaginative tour de force that tells the story of what it was like to sing, play, and hear Bach's music for the very first time.

Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "Runcie, author of the popular Granchester Mysteries series, vividly imagines a young chorister as witness to the creation of J. S. Bach's renowned St. Matthew Passion. After Stefan's mother dies, his grieving father sends him away to the choir school of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig. Stefan's singing attracts the attention of Bach, the school cantor, who takes in the lonely, bullied boy. Stefan matures musically and emotionally in the embrace of Bach's large, loving household, where "singing [is] as familiar as speech." Until tragedy strikes. Variations on themes of love, loss, and grief run throughout the novel, culminating in the composition of a musical masterpiece that finds understanding in the certainty of "the fact of death and the love of God." Runcie beautifully renders each character's humanity and convincingly portrays a creative environment, grounded in faith, where "music-making [is] a mixture of rules and invention, discipline and playfulness." Knowledgeable readers will appreciate the author's extensive use of music history and technical detail balanced with notes of poetic imagery, such as a flute line "skipping and quicksilver.""
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Runcie, best known for his empathic Grantchester mystery series, displays the same gifts for characterization in this account of Johann Sebastian Bach's composition of the "St Matthew Passion" in 1727. Stefan Silbermann, a former pupil of Bach's, learns of the composer's death in 1750, before Runcie flashes back to Silbermann and Bach's time together. After Silbermann's mother died when he was 13, he was sent by his father to Leipzig to study music; the elder Silbermann, who made and serviced church organs, believed that such an education would enhance his son's ability to work for the family business. The other students bully Silbermann relentlessly, but his vocal talent attracts the attention of Bach, the school's cantor, and Bach's family offers the boy emotional support. The evolving relationship between teacher and student culminates in the composer's best-known vocal piece, inspired in part by witnessing a gory execution. Runcie pulls off an intricate and accessible description of the innovative piece and its composition, which was designed to make the death of Jesus feel immediate, so that listeners of the "Passion" would understand "how people crucify Christ every day." Runcie captures, as well as anyone could with words, how Bach realized his aim of making music accompanying lyrics about Christ's suffering "as shocking and unpredictable as grief itself." This is historical fiction of the highest order. (Mar.)"
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Additional Information
Subjects Bach, Johann Sebastian, -- 1685-1750 -- Fiction.
Bach, Johann Sebastian, -- 1685-1750 -- Family -- Fiction.
Bach, Johann Sebastian, -- 1685-1750. -- Mattha╠łuspassion -- Fiction.
Cantors (Church music) -- Fiction.
Teenage boys -- Fiction.
Children's choirs -- Fiction.
Teacher-student relationships -- Fiction.
Grief -- Fiction.
Leipzig (Germany) -- Fiction.
Germany -- History -- Charles VI, 1711-1740 -- Fiction.
Biographical fiction.
Historical fiction.
Publisher New York :Bloomsbury Publishing,2022
Language English
Description 260 pages ; 25 cm
ISBN 9781635570670
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