BBC - Sacred Music - Bach and the Lutheran Legacy - Part 1/6

Uploaded by jormundgard on 27.08.2009

The "Toccata and Fugue in D minor",
attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach,
is one of the most iconic and dramatic pieces of music ever written.
Today, Bach..
is considered by many to be one of the greatest composers in history.
Yet in reality,
he spent most his life working diligently for the church,
unknown to anyone outside a small part of Germany.
Bach was in many ways,
a one-man music factory.
He must often have felt undervalued because for many years he produced for the church,
worked with the very highest quality,
week after week after week..
Bach spent most of his career writing sacred music for the Lutheran church,
just a hundred and fifty years earlier,
by another composer.
Martin Luther,
the monk who started the Protestant Reformation.
This is the story of how Martin Luther and a century and a half of German music that followed him
would shape..
Bach's world,
and inspire him to create some of the most beautiful music ever written.
In the past when people thought about Bach's choral music, they usually imagined pieces written for massed
and dozens of players.
In reality, of course, Bach was severely restricted in the resources he had to play with,
he even drafted in friends to perform for free,
no 80-strong orchestras, and a 100+ choirs for him.
At the very most, he had a handful of players and instrumentalist to work with.
This is St. George's Lutheran Church in London.
It opened in 1763, just thirteen years after Bach's death.
Bach has become such a hugely important figure in our musical landscape, his work has been...
performed an adapted in such a variety of ways. It is good to remind ourselves...
...of what his music sounded like to him.
And it's in that style,
with just eight singers and a handful of period instruments,
that Harry Christophers and The Sixteen play his music today.
During his lifetime,
Bach wrote over a thousand pieces of music,
and nearly two-thirds of these were works he produced for the Lutheran church.
And this is where Bach worked during
the latter part of his life. At the Thomaskirche,
in Leipzig, in East Germany.
150 years earlier,
another composer came to this same church.
His ideas would not only have a radical impact on sacred music, but would also ultimately change the course
of western civilization.
Martin Luther, the catholic monk who kick started the Protestant Reformation,
redefined the role of congregational singing,
even the part played by organ music,
within Christian worship.
Allowing the congregation to sing hymns in their own language...
...was also a hugely significant tradition established by him.
This is Eisenach, in Thuringia, East Germany.
In 1685, Bach was born here.
And today, Eisenach attracts scores of Bach enthusiasts from all over the world.
This is the Bachhaus which is the world's first museum dedicated to the composer. It was opened... 1907.
The apricot-coloured house behind me is close to where Bach was born and brought up which
...somewhere around here, probably...
...behind the beer garden, we really don't know.
But Eisenach is famous for something else as well.
For nearly a thousand years, the town has been dominated... the impressive Wartburg castle.
And it was here...
...that Martin Luther decided to do something that would change the Christian faith forever.
At the start of the 16th century, the Catholic church...
...was by far the most powerful force in western Europe.
At this time,
the German nation as such did not exist.
It was a series of independent principalities and feudal states.
However, the real power lay in Rome...
...from where the Pope not only ruled on religious matters,
but wielded huge influence over virtually every aspect of political and cultural life.
In the beginning,
it was never Luther's intention to upset this balance of power.
Luther was a Catholic monk who set out merely
to reform the church.
He ended up, however,
challenging the authority of the Pope himself.
In fact he ended up challenging pretty much everything that the Catholic church stood for.
Not surprisingly,
Luther was excommunicated,
and when he came here to Wartburg in 1521,
he was in hiding.
And it was in this very room,
that he began the huge task of translating the New Testament into German.
This was the first step to creating a standard version of the German language.
Up until then, with the odd exception...
...all Bibles were written in either Greek or Latin,
...which have made them beyond the reach of the ordinary people.
And although Luther wasn't the first to translate the Bible,
...his version was to be the most significant.
Whilst he was working, Luther...
became convinced that the devil was in the room with him and apparently he threw an inkwell at him.
But his translation was to prove revolutionary, not just because now anyone who spoke German...
could read the Bible, the because it represented a huge step...
towards the establishment of a single,
German identity.