Heaven’s Playlist

Reinventing Bach
Paul Elie
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30, 498 pp.

When Gregory XIX came to Rome after the papal election, he brought with him from his Burgundian monastery the violin on which he was accustomed to play Bach’s partitas and sonatas, and when he sought to canonize the composer as St. Jean-Sébastien, he deemed it a matter of courtesy first to gain the approbation of Lutheran leaders. He sought to do so by inviting a group of them to a weeklong Bach festival at Castel Gandolfo. Bishop Hammerschmied of Hamburg...

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About the Author

Nicholas Clifford, a professor emeritus of Middlebury College, has written about Shanghai history in the early twentieth century.