Rick Marschall offers readers a glimpse of the society and heritage of Johan Sebastian Bach. The composer came from a long line of musicians, and his sons followed in his footsteps. His whole life was dedicated to music. In fact, one could say that, according to the author, his whole life was dedicated to God through his music.
Lutheran German culture of Bach's day - he died in 1750 - was highly musical and literate. Again and again the author weaves this culture into the storyline, showing how Bach was the crowning achievement, even the personification, of this wonderful culture.
While non-musical readers will not get lost, at times the book can be challenging, with musical terms that classical music lovers will know, and the rest won't. Yet Marschall is careful not to drown us in such technicalities - too much.
Bach was a musical virtuoso, which means that he was a technical virtuoso. With these musical terms, we have glimpse of the challenges, such as with polyphony and counterpoint.
Even readers familiar with Bach might enjoy the discussion that Bach was a real theologian. With an impressive theological library, he had a deep understanding of Luther and Lutheranism. He preached the gospel, through the Lutheran tradition, with his music.
Marschall's book is a success because, after reading it, one wants to dig a bit deeper into Bach and his culture.