“If I Look at Bach, I Cannot Be An Atheist”

One of the most widely revered figures among contemporary European composers, György Kurtág, recently confessed:

‘Consciously, I am certainly an atheist, but I do not say it out loud, because if I look at Bach, I cannot be an atheist. Then I have to accept the way he believed. His music never stops praying. And how can I get closer if I look at him from the outside? I do not believe in the Gospels in a literal fashion, but a Bach fugue has the Crucifixion in it–as the nails are being driven in. In music, I am always looking for the hammering of the nails. … That is a dual vision. My brain rejects it all. But my brain isn’t worth much.’

— John Eliot Gardiner, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven, emphasis added


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