Book Review

Courtly
Culture War

Evening In The Palace Of Reason
by James R. Gaines

HarperCollins, 2005
(336 pages, $23.95, hardcover)

reviewed by Timothy A. Smith

In a later, more liberated age, Frederick (1712–1786) might have been sympathetically known as ‘Frederick the Gay’,” wrote the New York Times reviewer of Evening in the Palace of Reason, implying that Prussia’s Philosopher King and apostle of Enlightenment was, by the standards of our own liberated and enlightened age, repressed. The truth is that Fédéric (as he preferred) was in the modern sense both liberated and enlightened—more than most moderns could imagine.

Which makes of Frederick the Great’s 1747 meeting with Johann Sebastian Bach, pious Lutheran, church musician, faithful husband, and father of twenty, perhaps the opening salvo in the . . .

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Timothy A. Smith is a professor of music theory at Northern Arizona University and the author of the Canons and Fugues of J. S. Bach website. He lives with his wife and the youngest of their three daughters in Flagstaff, where they are members of the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany.

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