Johann Sebastian Bach - celebrated pipe organist, court composer and master of sacred music - was also a technical pioneer. Working in Germany in the early eighteenth century, he invented new instruments and carried out experiments in tuning, the effects of which are still with us today. Two hundred years later, a number of extraordinary musicians have utilised the music of Bach to thrilling effect through the art of recording, furthering their own virtuosity and reinventing the composer for our time. In Reinventing Bach, Paul Elie brilliantly blends the stories of modern musicians with a polyphonic account of our most celebrated composer's life to create a spellbinding narrative of the changing place of music in our lives.
We see the sainted organist Albert Schweitzer playing to a mobile recording unit set up at London's Church of All Hallows in order to spread Bach's organ works to the world beyond the churches, and Pablo Casals's Abbey Road recordings of Bach's cello suites transform the middle-class sitting room into a hotbed of existentialism; we watch Leopold Stokowski persuade Walt Disney to feature his own grand orchestrations of Bach in the animated classical-music movie Fantasia - which made Bach the sound of children's playtime and Hollywood grandeur alike - and we witness how Glenn Gould's Goldberg Variations made Bach the byword for postwar cool. Through the Beatles and Switched-on Bach and Godel, Escher, Bach - through film, rock music, the Walkman, the CD and up to Yo-Yo Ma and the iPod - Elie shows us how dozens of gifted musicians searched, experimented and collaborated with one another in the service of a composer who emerged as the prototype of the spiritualised, technically savvy artist.