Early December 1634
Johann Bach stepped into the room. He saw Lady Beth Haygood glance toward the door, notice him, and immediately begin moving in his direction even as she continued her conversation with a woman Johann did not know.
“Master Bach, so good of you to come.” Frau Haygood held out her hand.
Johann knew enough not to bow over her hand; up-timers by and large were rather egalitarian, he had found. Instead, he simply gave her the warm handshake he would have given another master musician. “Thank you for inviting me,” he replied. He looked around, then looked down at his plain coat. “I fear that I may be out of place.”
“Nonsense.” Lady Beth gave a lady-like snort, if there was such a thing. “You were invited, you came, therefore you are exactly in your place. Everyone knows the rules by now, but if anyone sneers at you, feel free to sneer right back at him—or her, as the case may be.” The expression on her face could only be described as a grin, and a large one at that. Johann returned a smile to her grin, and nodded. “Now, find yourself a glass and join the throng. There must be someone here you know.” She turned away with another grin.
The invitation to attend one of Frau Haygood’s salons had been unexpected. Twice a month or so she would gather an eclectic mix of people from Magdeburg and its growing exurb for an evening of conversation, sometime collaboration, and occasional confrontation. The practice had actually been started by Mary Simpson early in 1634 in order to bring together people that she felt should know each other, and had been continued by Lady Beth after Mary had begun her travels. The attendees included some of the most influential, important, prominent, and accomplished people in the land, drawn from all manner of disciplines and offices.
Johann was aware that his being issued an invitation marked his arrival in the highest levels of Magdeburg society, and his approval by its guardians. It was flattering, and for all that he had dealt with influential patrons several times in his past, a bit daunting as well. He squared his shoulders and straightened his spine, looked around once more, and stepped into the current.
“Would you care for wine, sir?”
Johann looked toward the voice and saw a youth dressed in a short white jacket and up-timer style long pants balancing a tray. He nodded. “What do you have?”
The youth pointed to various glasses as he spoke. “Black Muskat, Riesling, and Elbling.”
Johann fingered his chin, read the name on the young man’s pewter badge, and said, “What do you suggest, Barnabas?”
The young man looked around, turned slightly and leaned his head close to Johann’s. “The Muskat is barely drinkable,” he murmured, “and the Riesling and Elbling are not much better than okay.” There was that American slang again, Johann thought. “The war, you know. But my friend Jacob is at the bar in the corner, and he has a couple of bottles of a good Hungarian Aszú under the bar. Tell him I sent you and he’ll fix you up.”
Barnabas straightened, and continued in a normal voice. “The bar also has coffee and purified water, sir.” He pointed in the direction of the bar.
Johann nodded his thanks and made his way to the bar, which looked like nothing so much as a wide board laid over two barrels and draped with a table cloth. He knocked once on the bar. At the sound, the young man behind the bar straightened. In dress he was the twin of Barnabas, except that his badge read “Jacob.” Physically, however, he was shorter and stockier, but looked to be about the same age as his friend.
“May I help you, Master Bach?”
Johann was taken a bit aback. “How do you know me?”
Jacob grinned. “Frau Haygood always makes sure we know who was invited, and usually sees to it that we have a description. Besides, I heard her greet you when you entered.” He pointed to a couple of small kegs on stands. “I do have some schnapps and Weinbrand, as well as some fresh coffee if you desire it.”
Johann nodded, impressed by the organization and attention to detail this implied. “Barnabas said you had some Aszú.” He kept his voice low.
“Yes, Master Bach.” Jacob busied himself, selecting a yellow wine glass, holding it below the level of the counter as he pulled a decanter from under the counter to fill it. He placed it in front of Johann. “Here you are, sir.” He glanced at a clear glass jar at the end of the counter which contained several coins and a few of the Grantville bills. Johann took his meaning and felt in his pocket. He pulled a single one dollar bill from the money clip he was now carrying and placed it in the jar. Jacob smiled at him in return. “Thank you, sir.”
The Aszú was good, Johann decided after taking a sample of the wine. In fact, from his limited experience, it was better than good; well worth his contribution to the “tip” jar—another innovation from the up-timers. It was not the kind of wine that an assistant small town music master was offered very often, and he decided that he would savor every drop.
With another nod to Jacob, Johann turned away from the bar and began a slow stroll around the perimeter of the salon. Frau Haygood, as had Frau Simpson before her, varied the locales of her gatherings. One night might be at the house of a prosperous burgher; another in the town home of one of the Adel. He had heard that an early salon had even been held at the newly rebuilt Rathaus. The salon before this one had been held at the Duchess Elisabeth Sofie Secondary School for Girls, where Frau Haygood was headmistress.
Tonight—Johann grinned for a moment—tonight was held at the guild house of the Brewer’s Guild. He knew that the up-timers had a pronounced taste for beer over wine, so it didn’t surprise him that Frau Haygood had chosen to favor this particular guild. Too, from what he could tell, the way the guild would license anyone to brew beer, from the largest brewery to the youngest housefrau who wanted to brew for her husband and his brothers, would appeal to the open-mindedness of the up-timers.
But the reality of it, he decided, was that the weightiest factor of the choice of the guild house as tonight’s venue was the simple fact that it was one of the few spaces in Magdeburg, outside of the churches, that was with purpose designed for gatherings of people. There were rooms of various sizes in the building, and he knew from experience that the guild made more than a bit of coin from renting those rooms to families and groups for celebrations and meetings. He’d made a bit of coin himself playing with other members of the Magdeburg Symphony Orchestra at wedding celebrations and other parties.
Johann looked into the various side rooms as he strolled past them. Here and there through his promenade he noticed people that he knew, most of whom were engaged in conversation with others. One or two who caught his eye nodded to him, but none offered to bring him into their immediate circles. But before long he heard the sound of a piano cutting through the hum of voices.
His attention firmly attracted, Johann followed the sound to a corner of the room. Where before he had drifted on the currents of conversation, now he was as a vessel driven by the wind to his destination where he found Marla Linder seated at the keyboard of a piano. It was not a grand piano; not of a length that would compare to the Zenti piano that had been gifted to the emperor by that famed Italian craftsman. Rather, it was of the type called a baby grand by the up-timers. For all that it was smaller, he decided, it had a nice tone.
Frau Marla was playing something very slow, not quite a largo tempo, but not far from it either, with a slow arpeggio in the right and plain chords in the bass, over all of which was a melody that almost sang. It was a simple piece, really; a child’s piece, almost. Yet in her charge it was an offering of lyrical beauty; not exactly understated but a work so bare of disguising adornment that Johann knew that the composer had to have been an up-timer of superlative skill, for no down-timer could have written the harmonies in the piece—not yet, anyway.
Johann’s steps had carried him to stand behind the young woman as she drew the piece to a close with a series of quiet chords in the bass. She finished the last one, and let the resonances of the strings ring out and gradually fade away. At length she lifted her hands from the keyboard and let the strings damp.
“Brava, Marla.” Someone spoke before Johann was able to open his mouth. He focused on the area just to the right of the piano, and saw what looked for all the world to him to be a musical tribunal: Maestro Giacomo Carissimi, master of the Royal and Imperial Academy of Music, was seated in the center, flanked on the right by Master Heinrich Schütz, Kappellmeister to the Vasa court in Magdeburg and on the left by Master Andrea Abati, the noted gentilhuomo from Rome, now a teacher and producer here in Magdeburg.
“Brava,” Maestro Carissimi repeated. His fellow “judges” nodded in agreement.
“Bellissima,” Abati added. His soprano voice never failed to take Johann by surprise. Abati was his first contact with a castrato, and whenever he thought of what had been done to the young boy who grew into Andrea Abati, Johann wanted to fold his hands over his groin in protection. But he had to admit the man had a superlative voice of a most beautiful, almost haunting timbre.
Master Schütz looked beyond Marla. “Ah, there you are, Bach. Come, pull up a chair and join us. Frau Marla has been arguing for some little time now that all arts, but most particularly music, need no reason for their existence but their existence. It seems to become a topic of discussion every time we are at one of these little gatherings. And she has just played this . . . what was the name again, my dear?”
“‘Sonata Quasi Una Fantasia’, otherwise known as the ‘Mondschein‘ or ‘Moonlight’ Sonata, by Ludwig van Beethoven.”
“And when was it written?”
“I believe it was in 1801,” Marla replied with a bit of a grin on her face. Johann had learned that Marla loved to tweak down-time musicians with the thought that so much of this new music that so many of them were having to adjust to came from times that were well beyond their life spans. In truth, his own mind still spun from time to time with the thought.
“So, Master Bach,” Schütz continued, “let us hear your thoughts on the idea.”
Johann started to beg off, but the others encouraged him to join them. At length he settled himself into the chair brought forward from the wall by Franz Sylwester, Frau Marla’s husband.
“Since I have come in in media res, so to speak,” Johann began, “I think it only fair to ask Frau Marla to restate her case.” He gestured with his wine glass—carefully, so as not to spill a drop of what he was coming to think was really an excellent vintage of Aszú. He watched as the young woman straightened on the piano bench and squared her shoulders. She took an obvious deep breath, and began.
“You all know how much I love the music brought back in the Ring of Fire. And you know that I’ve made it my life’s work to spread that music throughout Europe. So I obviously feel some passion about music. I believe that music is its own reward. It used to be called ‘Art for Art’s sake’ in the up-time. There should be no constraints on what can be written or performed, that whatever the mind of a composer can conceive of should be expressed.”
Marla paused for a moment. Johann heard the sound of murmurs, and looked around to see several other guests gathering behind the others. His attention returned to the young woman as she continued. “Music should be performed just because it’s music. It has no function other than to be music, to provide that avenue of enjoyment, to be a balm for the soul. And all things musical should be free, unhampered by requirements to justify their existence. Composers should be able to write what is in their minds and hearts without restrictions from a patron. All people—men, women, boys, girls—should be allowed to perform—to sing or play or dance to the best of their abilities. Music requires no justification. It simply is.”
The murmuring was a little louder now. Johann did not turn his head, but he could see more people gathering behind the Schütz/Carissimi/Abati line.
“So, Master Bach,” Schütz gathered the thread of conversation to himself, and the surrounding eyes as well. “So. How would you respond to that?”
Johann postponed his response, sipping at his wine almost in panic. How to address this question—ah, it must be done with care.
He lowered his glass from his mouth and held it with both hands. “Masters,” he nodded to Carissimi, Schütz and Abati. “Frau Linder,” he nodded to Marla with equal gravity. “It is not a new proposition, I believe. I know my own grandfather said words somewhat like those at least once, and I daresay that if one could call King David, the greatest singer of old, to the witness bar, he would say something alike that. Especially after King Saul threw the spear at him.” A chuckle sounded round the group that was observing. “All those who create beauty feel that beauty is all that is needed. But ‘Quodcumque potest manus tua facere instanter operare,’ as the great preacher said—’Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might.'”
Johann raised his glass again and moistened his lips. “I submit to you that music is a created thing, as indeed are all things called art. And as such we as musicians are addressed by that scriptural ordinance. It is not enough that we make music, for in truth we can be lazy and careless and slothful and reckless and devil-may-care about how we do it, just as a farmer or a joiner or a seamstress may be. But when we are, we are guilty of disregarding this stricture: that whatever we do, we should do to the best of our ability.”
Heads nodded around the circle that had gathered as Johann took a slow breath, which he then released just as slowly.
“But, Johann,” Marla turned on the piano bench to face him, “you didn’t talk about why the music should be made. You only talked about how we should make it. That’s not the same thing.” She faced back to the other men. “I still stand by what I said.”
Carissimi looked to Abati, who smiled and shrugged before nodding back toward Carissimi’s right hand. The Italian master then looked to Schütz and made a gesture with a smile of his own. The German sat up straight and harrumphed. Amber Higham came up behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder. Schütz almost absently lifted his empty hand and laid it atop the hand that rested on his shoulder while he directed his gaze toward the up-timer woman.
“Let me attempt to build upon the foundation laid by our young Master Bach. It is indeed true that we who make music should take most seriously that instruction from Ecclesiastes which he mentioned. But you rightly point out that your issue is not about the crafting of music, but more about why music is made. And to discuss that, we must step even farther back; to first principles, as it were.
“Tell me, Frau Marla, who created music?” At her puzzled glance, Schütz smiled. “‘Tis obvious, child. Think back to your lessons: who created all things?”
“God.” Johann watched as Marla’s eyebrows drew down, as if she were suspicious about something.
“Indeed, yes,” Schütz replied as he raised a finger. “First point: the Holy Word says ‘And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it . . . ‘”
Johann nodded, and heard murmurs of agreement from around him.
“So, God created us as we are. Therefore there is nothing that we can do that is outside the boundary of God’s intent. We must assume this includes the ability to make music.” Schütz smiled as another finger was raised. “Second point: why would God do so?” He looked around the people grouped around the discussion. “No one has an answer?” A longer pause. “Oh, come now; one cannot read God’s Word without seeing the commands to praise God, to sing unto the Lord, to play instruments in His praise. So one is therefore forced to the conclusion that at least part of why God created man was for the creation to praise the Creator.”
Johann nodded in acknowledgment of the point, visually echoed by others in the crowd.
The Kappellmeister lifted another finger. “To the third point: is the making of music unique to man?”
Johann raised his eyebrows. He could think of birds making musical songs, but he was not going to interrupt the older master.
“Birds . . . whales . . . maybe wolves . . . ” Marla said thoughtfully.
“Angels,” Franz Sylwester spoke from behind his wife.
Schütz smiled again. “The natural and the supernatural together, eh? But let us first consider the natural.” He pointed a finger at Marla. “We have all of us heard birds making sounds that we call singing, particularly in the spring. But is that singing truly music, or only musical sounds? Is ‘birdsong’ truly music as you think of it, or is it just pleasantly tonal noise?”
Johann watched Marla’s eyebrows draw down again as she spent moments in obvious thought. At length her chin lifted and her brow smoothed. “I guess I have to say that when you look at it like that, it’s not music.”
“And can you say differently about your whales and wolves?”
“Err . . . no,” Marla admitted with obvious reluctance.
“I would agree with that statement,” the Kappellmeister nodded. “I have heard the CD of the ‘whale songs’ in Grantville, and I found it interesting but unmusical.”
“He should listen to John Cage,” someone muttered behind Johann. He turned his head to see a bland smile on the face of Isaac Fremdling.
“I heard that, young Isaac,” Schütz intoned. Johann looked back to see what could only be called a wicked grin on the master’s face, mirrored by the expressions on the faces of Maestros Carissimi and Abati. “And I have heard some of what that man created. I found him both uninteresting and unmusical; außer, to say the least.”
The Kappellmeister returned to his original subject. “Still on the third point, having disposed of the natural, let us turn to the supernatural. We are all of us, up-timers and down-timers alike, conditioned to think of choirs of angels in heaven. But have any of you ever looked at the original languages behind either our good Luther’s translation of the Holy Writ, or the more recent translation authorized by King James of England?”
Johann saw heads shake all around him.
“I am neither a Hebrew scholar nor one of Greek, but I know men who are. And when one fine day I asked them to help me scratch a curious itch about this matter, imagine my astonishment when I discovered that there are passages in Scripture that speak of angels praising God, but none that unequivocally speak of angels singing.”
An astonished murmur ran through the crowd, and Schütz’s wicked grin reappeared. “Doubt me? Then find your own scholars and prove me wrong.”
“I believe there is a verse in Job that might gainsay you, Master Schütz.” The speaker was a portly man dressed in sober clothing.
“Ah, good evening to you, Pastor Cuno. Master Bach, have you met the pastor of St. Peter’s Church? Pastor Tobias Cuno, this is Master Johann Bach, a musician with much promise. Master Bach, Pastor Tobias Cuno.” Johann stood to give a slight bow and shake the hand that was offered him. They exchanged murmured pleasantries. He resumed his seat as the pastor turned back to Schütz.
“Well, Master Schütz? What have you to say about my thesis?”
The older man sobered. “Is that the one that says something like ‘When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy’?”
“Indeed.” There was a note of surprise in the pastor’s voice, and Johann could see his eyebrows had raised.
“I did say that I had consulted scholars,” Schütz said with a smile. “As to the verse, I would say that although ‘the morning stars’ might be interpreted as meaning angels, it also very well may not. After all, the very God that could raise stones to be sons of Abraham and to praise Our Lord would doubtless have no trouble in arranging for stars and planets to sing.” The smile disappeared again, and then he was serious. “But if not outright undeniable truth, it is at least a matter of interpretation, and one can make a case that music is unique to mankind, something given to the descendants of Adam that not even Lucifer or Michael or Gabriel can possess.”
Franz stirred. “The last trump . . . “
“Is a battle call,” Schütz interjected, “not a fanfare. Read the context.”
Amber Higham stirred from behind her husband-to-be, lifting a glass of wine from the tray of one of the attendants and handing it to Heinrich. He cradled it in his hands and took a sip. “Ah, thank you, my dear.” He reached up and patted her hand where it rested on his shoulder, and the glance he gave her left no one in doubt as to the affection of their relationship. “Now then, where were we?”
“You had just finished point the third,” Johann said, leaning forward in the chair.
“Ah, yes. Thank you, Master Johann. Point the fourth,” and another finger was lifted in the air. “This one circles back to the words of Master Johann. Music is a creation, the product of craft and, sometimes, art. Young Isaac,” Schütz said as he directed his gaze past Johann. “Let us bring you into the discussion, since you have found your voice. Is the natural world the creation of God?”
“I believe it to be so,” Isaac returned in a strong voice.
“Is the natural world itself God?”
Johann shook his head as Isaac responded, “No. Although there are pagans who might say so, it strains the bounds of credulity to think so.”
Marla half-lifted a hand. “There were these ecology extremists in the up-time . . . “
Schütz shrugged. “There will be apostates in the future, why not pagans as well?” He looked back to Isaac. “May we then abstract a principle from this that the Creator is not the creation?”
“Aye,” Isaac voiced as murmurs of assent were heard around them.
Schütz sat back in his chair. “Let us pause there for a moment. Frau Marla, have you anything else for us tonight? Something else for piano, or perhaps a song?”
Marla said nothing, but looked down at where her hands rested on the keys of the piano. After a moment, they began to move as if by their own volition. Again, quiet chords, nothing the up-timers would have called flashy. Just as Johann began to wonder what Marla was doing, she smiled and said, “In honor of both the season and the discussion,” then opened her mouth and sang.
The angel Gabriel from Heaven came,
His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;
“All hail,” said he, “thou lowly maiden Mary,”
Most highly favored lady,
Johann was struck by the simple beauty of the melody. Anyone with a voice could have sung it. Any child, any mother, any deacon of the church.
“For known, a blessed Mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honor thee,
Thy Son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,”
Most highly favored lady,
Listening, Johann began to truly understand why Marla’s name was on the lips of everyone in Magdeburg who knew anything about music. Yes, anyone could sing the song; but how many could sing it with such purity? A tone that never wavered, every note absolutely on pitch, there were those who could do that—not least of whom was Signor Abati who was smiling and nodding his head. But the pure lack of ornamentation, the so simple rise and fall, ebb and flow, swell and fade of her voice, so simple and yet so hard. How many could make the song sing as she did?
Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,
“To me be as it pleaseth God,” she said;
“My soul shall laud and magnify His holy name,”
Most highly favored lady,
Marla’s voice and the piano faded away to an instant of pure stillness. Then the applause broke out from those standing in the circle. Johann gulped the last of his wine so he could set the glass down and join in.
The three masters were smiling; Abati’s face contained an expression that could only be called beatific.
“Oh, very nicely done, Frau Marla,” Schütz said after the applause died down, “very nicely done, indeed.” A brief smile crossed her face as she nodded in response. “Now, where were we?”
“The Creator is not the creation,” Isaac responded.
“Yes. Thank you, Isaac.” He shifted in his chair. “So, the Creator is not the creation. And inasmuch as man is created in the image of God, then the same principle must be held true for man and his works as well, must it not?”
Johann nodded with the others. Truly, the Kappellmeister was speaking well tonight. He hoped someone was making notes, as this discourse was enlightening and deserved to be made public in some manner.
Schütz took a sip of his own wine, then continued in a sober voice. “I have thought much on these things. My time in Grantville was . . . difficult . . . in some ways . . . “
Johann had heard that the master had suffered some form of crisis, but from the expression that he saw on Schütz’s face it must have been severe.
” . . . and it caused me to truly consider music,” Schütz continued, “what it is, and what purpose it serves. And to confirm this thought, what was the purpose of man in God’s creation?”
Johann looked around. No one was willing to answer. He mustered his courage, and said, “To have dominion.”
Schütz flashed a smile toward him. “I perhaps misspoke, in that there are more purposes than one in God’s design for man. Yet Master Bach has named the purpose I sought. Directly after God said ‘Let us make man in our image . . . ‘ He declared that man would be given dominion over all the earth. All the earth; others would say all of creation. Surely that includes music. And as proof, I offer this from the Holy Word: ‘The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in his love, He will joy over thee with singing.'”
“Zephaniah, the third chapter,” Pastor Cuno said thoughtfully. Schütz nodded. Johann pursed his lips and tugged on his beard. He would have to think about that one.
“So if the Lord sings, and we are created in his image, then one can infer that our music is an integral part of being made in the image of God. And here, Frau Marla, is where we perhaps begin to address your thesis—and the dangers contained therein.” Schütz was now sitting up straight, staring at the young woman. “If the purpose of man is to have dominion, and the purpose of music is to praise God the Creator, then we must be very careful.”
Marla was frowning now, Johann noted.
“In and of itself,” Schütz continued, “music is morally neutral. An A-flat is an A-flat, regardless of what produces it or what the type of music in which it is used. It is the words we attach to the music, it is the staging we accompany with it, it is the behavior of those associated with it, that provide a moral valuation. But setting that aside, considering music simply as music as you wish to do in your ideas, we must be very careful.”
He paused for a moment, then lifted one hand palm up. “Music is under dominion, under the control and shaping of man, of the musicians, yes?”
Marla slowly nodded, echoed by others in the group, including Johann.
“But music must never be allowed to have dominion.”
The crowd became absolutely still. Marla, still frowning, at length said, “I don’t understand, Master Heinrich.”
Schütz sighed. “In this time, my dear, and perhaps in your up-time as well, music is all too often considered to be a tool. We who write for the church consider it an aid to worship, something to shape people, to mold them into the appropriate state of mind and emotion.”
Johann nodded to himself. He had heard statements very like that from his old master Johann Hoffman, the Stadtpfeifer in Suhl.
“But there is a danger with that thinking, a danger most insidious. Music can progress from being under dominion to having dominion. When we credit to music capabilities that it, as a created thing, does not inherently possess, then we have crossed a line into idolatry.”
Johann saw an expression of shock on Marla’s face, and knew that its twin was on his own.
“I have spoken with Master Marcus Wendell and Master Atwood Cochran in Grantville at much length, and they have shared knowledge and wisdom with me, showing me how in their history-that-was musicians would turn their art and craft into idols.” A wry grin appeared on the Kappellmeister’s face as he reached up again to touch his Amber’s hands where they rested on his shoulders. “Of course, all the other arts and artists did as well: the painters, the actors . . . ” Amber’s low chuckle filled the space. ” . . . those who made the movies and DVDs. But the fact is, Frau Marla; young Isaac; and you, Master Bach who so strongly pursues the music of a descendant who will never live; when you take a created thing and give it dominion over its creator, when you surrender causality to the music, you have created an idol. And if you do so with music, you have made an idol of the very thing that we are commanded to use to praise God. And that should never be permitted.”
Schütz sat back, and tiredly waved a hand. “Or so this old man thinks.”
Silence reigned in their group. All eyes turned toward Marla, whose face had returned to a frown. “So are you saying that we should do nothing but church music? That only religious music should be performed, that . . . that . . . ” she stuttered, “that the only music acceptable is that which contains the name of God?”
Johann was wondering the same thing as he watched Master Schütz jerk up straight as if shocked by the up-timer’s electricity.
“By no means, child, or I would not be sitting here listening to you play the piano and having this delightful conversation. By no means.” He waved a hand. “Play your Beethoven and your Chopin on the piano. Play your flute. Sing your Irish folk songs with zest and vigor. Let your younger Grantvillers play trumpets and beat drums and march in the parades. Let some of your friends even learn jazz.” The older musician shuddered a little. “Enjoy it all; have fun with it all; but when you make music, make the best music you can make; not for the glory of the music, but for the glory of God. Anything less cheats God and cheapens you. And neither of those things ought be.”
Marla sat still, unmoving, for long moments. Johann watched as Franz at length reached out and touched a finger to her shoulder. She looked up, and Johann could see tears pooling in her eyes. “I have never considered that, Master Heinrich. I will think on what you have said.”
“Indeed,” Giacomo Carissimi said as he stood, followed by Andrea Abati. Johann almost lunged to his own feet, not to be caught sitting at this moment. “You are master of us all, Master Heinrich, and we will think on these things.” He bowed with respect, followed a split-second later by Andrea and Johann. Others in the group murmured support. Carissimi straightened with a wicked grin of his own. “But do not be surprised if the subject raises its head again, Master Heinrich. A good subject loves to be debated.”
“Ach,” Schütz said, waving his hand again. “Enough talk. Let tomorrow’s talk take care of itself. Tonight, make music! Make joyful music! Who has more music for us? Frau Marla?” She shook her head with a laugh, and pointed at Isaac. “Young Isaac! How fitting! What do you bring to us tonight?”
Isaac lifted the violin he had been holding all along, plucked the strings to test their tuning, and said, “With all joy, Master Heinrich, I offer up to you and to God the Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D minor, by Johann Sebastian Bach.”
Without another word, Isaac launched into the great work. Johann sat back, bemused by the fact that Isaac had brought such a work as that. The music poured out, and he soaked it up. Mein Gott, he thought. Such beauty, such power, as much with the violin as I had found in the organ works. This other Johann, who will never be, was so good I cannot even be jealous of him.
As he rose and fell with Isaac’s bow, Johann understood how close he had come to becoming idolatrous. But never again, he decided. I will celebrate the greatness of the music, and the greatness of the man, but most of all the greatness of God who by His grace gave us both the music and the man, and gave us the Ring of Fire by which both the music and the man will be made known.
A commitment formed in his mind, to be observed for the rest of his days.
Soli Deo Gloria.