The life of Johann Sebastian Bach - straddling two centuries and placing an indelible mark on the development of symphonic music - is a complex and multifaceted saga, but Professor John Butt and his talented crew of co-authors get straight to the bottom of it. Bach grew up at the tail end of the 16th century. As a young student at the Latin Grammar School (where Martin Luther himself once studied) he was a classic child prodigy, dismissed by jealous teachers as excessively cheeky, and simultaneously made the butt of cruel jokes concocted by the lesser students who were deeply behind him. To make things far worse, both of his parents died when he was only nine, and for a period he was reduced to selling buns in the street and living in an abandoned caboose. However opportunity opened the door just a crack when he was a late teen. This came when he moved to the small town of Arnstadt to try his hand as an organist - a fateful journey during which illness and hunger almost took him, until a kindly cattle-farming family nursed him back to health on a hearty diet of potatoes, rump roast, and healthy dairy air. At Arnstadt he wrote most of his best-loved early pieces, and while he toiled in seeming anonymity at the rear of the church, the congregation was truly over the moon about him, often straining to hear his gentle melodies over the odious sound of the preacher muttering darkly about Sodom and Gomorrah. At the time the town was a real hole, but Bach's uplifting passion for music rectified the situation for him and kept him from going under. Soon many of his most famous baroque pieces were in the can. Bach's longest residence was of course in the city of Leipzig from 1723 to 1750, where he progressed from early middle age until his doddering later years as an old duffer. It was in Leipzig that his met his longtime Welsh companion, Fanny W. Tokus, who was to so ease his journey into the ranks of the elderly. Professor Butt's thoughtful scholarship made this book a real gas to read, and it's uplifting to think that someone so handicapped by his very nom de plume could persuade such an erudite and impressive group of credentialed co-writers to hitch their wagons to his tailpipe.