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The Great Passion

James Runcie



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01 July 2022
'A masterpiece' SCOTSMAN
'A wise, refreshing novel, and a touching human story ... Runcie has an expert imagination' HILARY MANTEL

Love and Death. Grief and Joy. Music that lasts forever.

Leipzig, 1726. Eleven-year-old Stefan Silbermann, a humble organ-maker's son, has just lost his mother. Sent to Leipzig to train as a singer in the St Thomas Church choir, he struggles to stay afloat in a school where the teachers are as casually cruel as the students.

Stefan's talent draws the attention of the Cantor - Johann Sebastian Bach. Eccentric, obsessive and kind, he rescues Stefan from the miseries of school by bringing him into his home as an apprentice. Soon Stefan feels that this ferociously clever, chaotic family is his own. But when tragedy strikes, Stefan's period of sanctuary in their household comes to a close.

Something is happening, though. In the depths of his loss, the Cantor is writing a new work: the Saint Matthew Passion, to be performed for the first time on Good Friday. As Stefan watches the work rehearsed, he realises he is witness to the creation of one of the most extraordinary pieces of music that has ever been written.

'Brilliant ... Readers will be enriched by this novel and its glimpse at genius' The Times, Historical Fiction of the Month

'Warmly, reverently, Runcie brings alive what it is like to take part, for the very first time, in one of the most extraordinary pieces of music ever written' Daily Telegraph
Imprint:   Bloomsbury
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm, 
Weight:   532g
ISBN:   9781408885512
ISBN 10:   1408885514
Pages:   272
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

James Runcie is an award-winning film-maker, playwright and literary curator. He is the author of twelve novels that have been translated into twelve languages, including the seven books in the Grantchester Mysteries series. He has been Artistic Director of the Bath Literature Festival, Head of Literature and Spoken Word at the Southbank Centre, London, and Commissioning Editor for Arts on BBC Radio 4. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He lives in Scotland and London.

Reviews for The Great Passion

This wise, refreshing novel takes us to the heart of Bach's life and work. James Runcie's expert imagination makes his picture of Leipzig specific and convincing, and behind the music's echo lies a touching human story. It offers a glimpse into a world more faithful and attentive than our own, but not alien to us: we listen to music as survivors, the great Cantor says -- HILARY MANTEL A novel which deserves to last and will surely do so. It is surely James Runcie's masterwork, a novel written with love and understanding * SCOTSMAN * In this moving and fascinating portrait of a rare moment in musical history, Runcie turns a legend into a real man, compellingly unveiling the intricate connection between passion, grief and the greatest art. Careful research and beautiful writing make this a memorable and rewarding read -- LUCY JAGO The Great Passion is a novel revering the life and work of JS Bach, as told by a young boy soprano in Leipzig * IRISH INDEPENDENT, BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2022 * This is historical fiction of the highest order ... intricate and accessible * PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, starred review * A delightful novel filled with warmth, music, and an obvious love of Bach * KIRKUS * Praise for James Runcie: 'Runcie has the gift of the born storyteller * DAILY MAIL * Tremendous: shrewd, compelling and full of insight -- WILLIAM BOYD A triumph of inspired imagination * FINANCIAL TIMES * It's a warm, tender novel, brimful of emotion and empathy, as the fascinating characters grapple with faith, feelings and fellowship. But it's Runcie's description of the music that is truly marvellous. Intoxicating, insightful and revelatory, he brilliantly tackles the difficult task of using words to capture the intricacies of Bach's fervent work on the beautiful, groundbreaking masterpiece, St Matthew Passion * DAILY MAIL * Runcie ... has a gift for capturing the past * INDEPENDENT.CO.UK *

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