Johann Sebastian Bach – The Great German Composer


Johann Sebastian Bach

(March 21, 1685, Eisenach, Thuringia, Ernestine Saxon Duchies (now Germany)  – July 28, 1750, Leipzig, Germany) (Age 65)
Nationality: Germany
Category: Art workers
Occupation:  Composers, Organist
Specification: Baroque
Unique distinction: One of the greatest composers in history, outstanding supreme Baroque composer.
Gender: Male

Quotes: 1. Music is an agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delights of the soul. 2. I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music. 3. I worked hard. Anyone who works as hard as I did can achieve the same results. 4. The final aim and reason of all music is nothing other than the glorification of God and the refreshment of the spirit. 5. There’s nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself. 6. What I have achieved by industry and practice, anyone else with tolerable natural gift and ability can also achieve. 7. Harmony is next to Godliness. 8. Face to the reality.

Achievements and contributions:

Social and professional position: Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and an organist.
The main contribution to (what is known): Bach is regarded as the greatest composer of the Baroque era, and as the greatest composer of all time. Among his famous compositions and masterpieces: “Toccata and Fugue in D minor.” “Mass in B Minor,” the “Brandenburg Concertos” and “The Well-Tempered Clavier.”
Contributions: Johann Sebastian Bach, was a German composer and an organist, is considered one of the greatest and most influential composers in history. He was one of the greatest representatives of the world of humanistic culture
He wrote Choral & Vocal Music, Organ Music, Chamber Music, Orchestral Music and music for Concertos.  His output was enormous and includes more than 1000 pieces:  cantatas, concertos, oratorios, organ pieces, masses, chorale preludes and fugues, passions, magnificats, sonatas and suites for solo instruments.
During his lifetime, Bach was better known as an organist than as a composer,  but in the 19th cent. his genius came to be recognized, particularly by romantic composers such as Mendelssohn and Schumann. Since that time his reputation has grown steadily.
The vast artistic heritage of Bach, can be conditionally divided into three areas:  organ (Weimar period), instrumental (Köthen period), vocal and dramatic, mostly related to Leipzig.
Today Bach is regarded as the greatest composer of the Baroque era, and, by many, as the greatest composer of all time.
Creative style: The formation of Bach’s a creative style occured through the absorption and organic melding of different musical styles, schools and genres. Bach copied works of many French and Italian composers to realize their musical language. He enriched the prevailing northern German contrapuntal style, an rhythms, forms and textures from Italian and French music and Lutheran liturgy. The interpenetration of different genres and styles in his works in harmony with the universal and cosmic musical thought, with the depth and the piercing of human experiences. Bach’s musical style is characterized by his extraordinary fluency in motivic control, in which a single music idea is explored cogently throughout a movement and his extraordinary fluency in contrapuntal technique, allowing two or more melodies interact simultaneously Bach was an unsurpassed master of polyphony, he has distinguished by his flair for improvisation at the keyboard, a brilliant virtuoso style, including the use of all fingers of both hands.
Major works: The Brandenburg concertos, the Goldberg Variations, the Well-Tempered Clavier, the English and French Suitesthe,  Mass in B Minor, the St. Matthew Passion, the St. John Passion, the Magnificat, The Musical Offering, The Art of Fugue, , the Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, the Cello Suites.

Career and Personal life:

Origin: Bach was born at Eisenach in Thuringia, on March 21, 1685, the same year which gave birth to his great contemporary Handel. He was the eighth and  youngest child of Johann Ambrosius Bach, the town musicians, and Maria Elisabeth Lämmerhirt. Born into a gifted musical family, J. S. Bach was devoted to music from childhood.
Education: He was taught by his father to play violin and harpsichord. His uncles were all professional musicians and  one Johann Christoph Bach  was especially famous and introduced him to the art of organ playing. At this time he was a boy soprano in Lüneberg.
Career highlights:
Since 1703 at Arnstadt and Mühlhausen Bach was embarking on the serious composition of organ preludes. He wrote an elaborate, festive cantata —Gott ist mein König, BWV 71— for the inauguration of the new council in 1708.
At Weimar (1708-1717) Bach wrote most of his composes for the organ:   the Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, most of the great preludes and fugues, and the 45 chorale-preludes gathered in the little organ book Das Orgelbüchlein.
In 1717 at Köthen he concentrated on instrumental compositions, especially keyboard works: the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue; the English Suites; the French Suites; the Two-Part and Three-Part Inventions, written for the education of his son Wilhelm Friedemann; and Book I of the celebrated Well-Tempered Clavier (1722). The well-known Brandenburg concertos (2,4,5) (1711–20),  recognized as the best concerti grossi ever composed.
So-called Brandenburg Concertos were not written all at once, nor for the same ensemble. Scholars suspect that nos. 1, 3, and 6 may have been written much earlier than the others, perhaps dating from Bach’s Weimar period (1708-1717), while 2, 4, and 5 most likely came from Cöthen. Bach later put the 6 concertos together and dedicated them to the margrave of Brandenburg, hoping to get a new job out of it.
At Leipzig (1723-1750) he wrote The St. John Passion (1723) and more than 200 church cantatas. His orchestral works include four orchestral suites, and many harpsichord concertos, a genre he invented. His Magnificat (1723)   was presented shortly after he assumed that post.
Many more of his superb religious compositions followed: the St. Matthew Passion (1729), “The  High Mass, h-moll, “B Minor (1733-1738, 1749),the Christmas Oratorio (1734), and the six motets.
The principal keyboard works of this period were Book II of The Well-Tempered Clavier (1744). His last notable compositions were the Musical Offering composed (1747) for Frederick the Great and The Art of the Fugue (1749).
Personal life: When he was nine he lost his mother, and a year later his father, so he was living with his oldest brother.
He had an insatiable curiosity about music and sometimes walked great distances to hear the organists Johann Adam Reinken (at Hamburg) and Buxtehude (at Lübeck).
During his life he lived in different places and work there, theye are Eisenach 1685-1695, Ohrdruf 1695-1700, Lüneburg 1700-1702,  Weimar 1703,  Arnstadt 1703-1707,  Mühlhausen 1707-1708, Weimar 1708-1717,  Köthen 1717-1723,   Leipzig 1723-1750.
Main reasons for relocation include: poor working conditions, dependent status, lack of creative freedom. Once in 1717, when Bach decided to take another job, the duke of Weimar had him arrested and jailed for a month.
He lived in Eisenach from 1685 to 1695 and in   1695  he moved in Ohrdruf where began to learn about organ building.
For a short time he lived in Lüneburg 1700-1702 and in 1703 he became violinist in the private orchestra of the prince at Weimar.
He left within a year to become organist at Arnstadt where he worked from 1703 to 1707.   Bach went to Mühlhausen,  where he was offered a more lucrative post as organist in 1707.
There he married his cousin Maria Barbara Bach, who was to bear him seven children, three of whom died in childhood.
In 1708 he was made court organist and chamber musician at Weimar. It was his first major appointment and in 1714 he became there concert master.
Prince Leopold of Anhalt engaged him as musical director at Köthen in 1717.
This was followed by a six-year stay (1717 – 23) as kapellmeister at the princely court of Köthen.
In 1720 his wife died and in 1721 he married Anna Magdalena Wülken, 19 years old girl. She regularly helped him transcribe his music. Together they had 13 kids, six of whom survived into adulthood.
Bach fathered 20 children. His first wife Maria Barbara Bach to bear him seven children, three of whom died in childhood.  Second wife was Anna Magdalena Wülken,  and together they had 13 kids, six of whom survived into adulthood.
Some of his were also celebrated musicians. Four of Bach’s sons were extremely musically gifted. The eldest of them, Wilhelm Friedemann (1710-1784), was an outstanding organist, a virtuoso not inferior to his father. Bach was the grandfather of noted composer Johann Christian Bach (1735-82). The name of Bach has become synonymous with urban musician in Germany. In 1723 made his final move to Leipzig, where he took the important post of music director of the church of St. Thomas,  and of its choir school, with responsibility for music in the five principal city churches.
Despite the fact that Bach lived hard life full of hardships and losses, he remained a simple and kind person. He was smoking a pipe and liked beer.
“Coffee Cantata” was composed in a Zimmerman’s Coffee House. He wrote: “Without my morning coffee I’m just like a dried up piece of roast goat”.
During the last year, his eyesight began to decline and  in 1749 he had two operations to help his vision. He remained in Leipzig until his death on July 28, 1750.
Buried, Thomaskirche, Leipzig, Germany.
Bach’s name and works were soon forgotten. His wife, Anna Magdalena, and youngest daughter Regina died in poverty.
Zest: Georg Friedrich Handel, Bach’s toddler, lived in Halle, only 50 kilometers from Leipzig and the great composers have never met. For decades after his death his works were neglected, but in the 19th centure his genius came to be recognized. Each of the Bach’s known works  assigned number BWV (an abbreviation of Bach Werke Verzeichnis – Bach Works Catalogue) Bach’s (der Bach – Germ. stream) music – an inexhaustible source of the highest aspirations and the deepest experiences of the human spirit.
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