- Baroque Piety: Religion, Society, and Music in Leipzig, 1650–1750
A valuable contribution to Ashgate's growing catalogue of interdisciplinary studies, Tanya Kevorkian's Baroque Piety concurrently explores three main themes in relation to Leipzig during the years 1650–1750: religion as public arena in which social, cultural, and political changes were reproduced and contested; the crucial role of music in religious culture; and the conflict between Pietists and non-Pietists that shook the entire religious system. In addressing these themes throughout the book, Kevorkian defends her thesis that "religion was the arena where social and cultural change, relations among status groups, and interactions between the authorities and the governed were negotiated" (123). Baroque Piety is meticulously researched, drawing extensively upon archival sources in Leipzig, Dresden, and Halle. Kevorkian's approach is also deliberately interdisciplinary, grounded in the fields of social history of religion, musicology, and Pietist history. She further treats themes of agency and negotiations of power, particularly in relation to gender and to social and economic status.
Particularly interesting are the book's first two chapters, in which Kevorkian unveils the rich and complex tapestry of public religious life from the perspective of the congregants. In addressing congregants' involvement in and reception of the main Sunday service (particularly the music and the sermon), Kevorkian demonstrates that those attending were not passive recipients, but active agents, in religious life. She further reveals the high value Leipzig's residents placed on church attendance, as evidenced through patterns of pew ownership. Pews were highly valued commodities and important objects in the negotiation of social status. In exploring the complex relationships revealed by pew-holding records, Kevorkian concludes that "how people 'listened to the Word of God' depended on their social status and gender" (73).
Chapters 3–5 address Leipzig's religious life from the perspective of those responsible for producing it: the city council and the clergy; the Dresden court and its consistories; and the cantors. In exploring the roles of the city council and the clergy, Kevorkian demonstrates not only their expectations and duties, but also how their roles made them reliant on and accountable to congregants. She further examines the social processes by which individuals became clerics, as well as the everyday lives of theology students and the means by which "future clerics became an integral part of the social and cultural fabric of Leipzig" (78). In addition to city council members and clerics, the other primary producers of religious culture in Leipzig were the cantors responsible for music in the city's churches. Kevorkian particularly explores how Johann Kuhnau (cantor 1701–22) and J. S. Bach (cantor 1723–50) "negotiated a working environment rich in opportunity as well as conflict" (123).
Kevorkian's discussion of the Dresden court and its consistories in relation to religious life (chapter 4) is not as convincing as the surrounding chapters. While [End Page 991] much of the information is valuable, the connection with Leipzig is only briefly made, and the relation between the court's actions and larger trends in Saxony is not clarified until the chapter's conclusion. A similar criticism may be made of "The Pietist Alternative" (chapters 6–7): while this section includes much fascinating information, its content does not always clearly relate to the book's earlier chapters. However, taken within the context of the entire volume, these three chapters do serve to broaden our understanding of the many facets of religion in Leipzig.
In the book's final chapter, Kevorkian considers how the various agents in Leipzig's religious culture —congregants, council members, clerics, the court, consistories, cantors, and Pietists —interacted during a period of rapid social and economic change in the early eighteenth century. She particularly explores the various contributions of, and negotiations among, these groups in relation to changes in public religious life, notably through the opening of new churches and the major construction projects related to them.
Baroque Piety provides new insight into how we consider the religious...