You probably know that Eerdmans publishes fantastic Bible commentaries. You’re likely aware of our respected theological monographs, our groundbreaking ethics texts, and our library of ministry resources. You may even have heard about our award-winning line of international children’s books in translation.

But did you know that we also publish regional interest titlesArt booksFilm discussion guidesPoetry? Books on Celtic prayer? . . . physics? . . . Fokker airplanes?

Throughout the month of July, we’re celebrating some of the eclectic titles at the fringes of the Eerdmans list as we highlight a different niche collection each Wednesday.

This week we turn our gaze to classical music and musicians. Read on to discover five great books . . .

Visions of Amen

Visions of Amen

Visions of Amen: The Early Life and Music of Olivier Messiaen
Stephen Schloesser

French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) is probably best known for his Quartet for the End of Time, premiered in a German prisoner-of-war camp in 1941. However, Messiaen was a remarkably complex, intelligent person with a sometimes tragic domestic life who composed a wide range of music. This book explores the enormous web of influences in the early part of Messiaen’s long life.

The first section of the book provides an intellectual biography of Messiaen’s early life in order to make his (difficult) music more accessible to the general listener. The second section offers an analysis of and thematic commentaries on Messiaen’s pivotal work for two pianos, Visions of Amen, composed in 1943. Schloesser’s analysis includes timing indications corresponding to a downloadable performance of the work by accomplished pianists Stéphane Lemelin and Hyesook Kim.

Playing Before the Lord

Playing Before the Lord

Playing Before the Lord: The Life and Work of Joseph Haydn
Calvin R. Stapert

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) has been called the father of the symphony and the string quartet. A friend of Mozart and a teacher of Beethoven, “Papa” Haydn composed an amazing variety of music — symphonies, string quartets, concerti, masses, operas, oratorios, keyboard works — and his prolific output celebrates both the heights and depths of life.

In this fascinating book Calvin Stapert combines his skills as a biographer and a musicologist to recount Haydn’s steady rise from humble origins to true musical greatness. Unlike other biographers, Stapert argues that Haydn’s work was a product of his devout Catholic faith, even though he worked mainly as a court musician and the bulk of his output was in popular genres. In addition to telling Haydn’s life story, Stapert includes accessible listening guides to The Creation and portions of other well-known works to help Haydn listeners more fully appreciate the brilliance behind his music.

Read a guest post by Calvin Stapert (“Why Haydn?“) here on EerdWord. 

I, Vivaldi

I, Vivaldi

I, Vivaldi
Written by Janice Shefelman
Illustrated by Tom Shefelman

In this dynamic picture-book biography, told as if by Vivaldi himself, the famous musician’s energetic personality and steadfast dedication to music come alive.

Despite his mother’s vow for him to become a priest, young Vivaldi is only interested in music. He soon grows from a feisty boy who wants to play the violin into a stubborn young man who puts his musical training ahead of his studies for priesthood.

Beautiful, ornate artwork portrays the spirit and splendor of Vivaldi’s hometown, Venice. A historical note, musical score, and glossary will help readers more fully appreciate Vivaldi’s life and musical genius.

Handel's Messiah

Handel’s Messiah

Handel’s Messiah: Comfort for God’s People
Calvin R. Stapert

If you want to enjoy and appreciate Handel’s beloved Messiah more deeply, this informed yet accessible guide is the book to read.

Here you will find fascinating historical background to Messiah, including its unlikely inception, and learn about its reception and impact from Handel’s day to our own. Calvin Stapert devotes most of his book to scene-by-scene musical and theological commentary on the entire score, demonstrating how the music of Messiah beautifully intertwines with and illuminates its biblical text. Through these pages Handel’s popular and much-loved masterpiece will be greatly enhanced for listeners old and new alike.

Read two guest posts by Calvin Stapert (“Messiah: An Oratorio for All Seasons” and “Early Messiah Reviews“) here on EerdWord.

My Only Comfort

My Only Comfort

My Only Comfort: Death, Deliverance, and Discipleship in the Music of J. S. Bach
Calvin R. Stapert

In the history of Western music, J. S. Bach is unsurpassed in mastery of technique and profundity of thought. He was also a devout Lutheran with a broad knowledge of Scripture and theology. Given Bach’s combination of musical prowess, personal devotion, and theological depth, it is not surprising that his music stands unexcelled among artistic expressions of the Christian faith. With the passage of time, however, many of the essential keys to understanding Bach’s music have been lost. My Only Comfort uniquely reconnects modern listeners with Bach’s music, enabling them to listen to Bach with renewed understanding and appreciation.

After an introduction to Bach, his theological knowledge, his musical language, and the various genres of sacred music in his output, Calvin Stapert leads readers through specific works by Bach that express, interpret, and vivify some of the principal doctrines of the Christian faith. For each work discussed, Stapert provides relevant quotations from the Heidelberg Catechism (a novel and provocative approach to the study of Bach), a literal translation of the text set beside the German original, and textual and musical commentary meant to contribute to a more perceptive and devotional listening to the work.