Bach’s Universalism and the Lessons of Munich


I studied in Munich. I learned to love the town and its people. So many funny souvenirs. A great academic experience. So many people I met there; they quickly became friends and most of them still are friends. My thoughts are with the victims, their relatives and the traumatized citizen who witnessed directly or through the media the shooting yesterday at Olympia-Einkaufszentrum. It is not the first time that the Olympic arena becomes sullied by blood. In 1972, during the Summer Olympics, Palestinian terrorists killed several Jewish athletes during a brutal kidnapping action. 44 years later, a murderer, born and raised in Germany, leaves again a trail of devastation on the ground.

Is society falling apart?

I am worried. Not frightened, but worried – about the state of our society. Is our society failing in its prime objective i.e. providing a secure environment for every person to live in freedom? Long ago, we agreed to bind our fate to the one of our neighbor to become strong through unity. This does not seem to work anymore.

Why are so many young lured to the Middle East to fight a war that is not theirs? Perhaps because society here does not give their life a meaning? Why does a young citizen go on a shooting rampage in a shopping mall? Apparently because that seemed the only way to get the attention of society. Why did that guy recently kill dancers in gay bar? It would seem that for some reason he felt excluded and sought revenge for what he considered a rejection by society. I am not justifying these violent acts. But I feel that our society excludes too many and those excluded sooner or later become a liability.

A requiem for all of us

My worries, my sadness have somewhat been balanced by a requiem I discovered by chance this morning. Johann Christian Bach, the youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach, wrote it around 1757 in Italy while serving a nobleman, the marquis Argostino Lutti. The youngest Bach had converted to the Catholic faith and followed the footsteps of the Italian masters, we have met already: Giovanni Palestrina and Giovanni Pergolesi. The “Missa da Requiem” has been recorded by the Rias Kammerchor and the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin under Hans-Christoph Rademann. The piece blends Gregorian chants with the style of the Italian Renaissance and elements from the cantatas of Bach senior. As such, it has a dimension that goes beyond the specific faith of the composer or his patron. It becomes a universal piece of music focusing on the human being as such, regardless of his religion. It includes.

Perhaps it is time for each of us to reflect on how often we exclude people in our daily life. Perhaps it is time for a change in our society. But society won’t change if we don’t change it.

© Charles Thibo

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de Chareli

Writer, photographer, piano student, music enthusiast. And a lot more. You are welcome to follow my blog.

2 thoughts on “Bach’s Universalism and the Lessons of Munich”

  1. Dear de Chareli,

    We live in a scary world. The forces of evil seem to be running rampant in places we thought were safe. In Israel we have learned from bitter experience to have our bags checked at the entrance to shopping malls, cinemas, even restaurants and cafes on occasions.

    Coming to Israel from England in the 1960s I had a very different mindset, and in those days security’ wasn’t so high, but over the years I have learned to be on my guard at all times. The problem is not that one person or another feels excluded, it is that certain individuals with criminal or psychopathic tendencies are taught by their religion that it is good to kill people who don’t share your religion, or who don’t share your particular version of your religion. In the past this happened with regard to different versions of Christianity, too.

    Sadly, we all have to adopt the dictum of Andy Grove, the founder of Intel: “only the paranoid survive.”

    1. The guy in Munich had no affiliation to whatever religion. And many of the foreign fighters in Syria and Irak have no knowledge of Islam, they mostly want to boost their self-esteem through whatever cause they might stumble upon. And no, I do not want to accept the paranoid society model as unavoidable. There is so much more we can do for young people and we regularly fail them from early age on – even in a country as rich as Luxembourg.

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