Portrait of JS Bach

An introduction to:

Johann Sebastian Bach

His History, Music, & his Famous Sons.


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Johann Sebastian Bach

A history of music.

J. S. Bach's seal

Johann Sebastian Bach (born: 31st of March, 1685 – died: 28th of July, 1750) is considered by many to have been the greatest composer in the history of western music. Bach's life was pivotal in the history of music, and his innovation and mastery of new musical concepts drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity. His works demonstrated the potential of musical invention for all generations to follow. He was able to successfully integrate and expand upon the harmonic and formal frameworks of the national schools of the time: German, French, Italian and English, while retaining a personal identity and spirit in his large output. Bach is also known for the numerical symbolism and mathematical exactitude which many people have found in his music – for these unique features, he is often regarded as one of the pinnacle geniuses of western civilization.

Born into a very musical family, Bach was the youngest son of eight children. He was born in Eisenach, Germany, to Johann Ambrosius Bach (the local town musician) and Maria Elisabetha Bach. Both of Bach’s parents died within a year of each other, making him an orphan at the young age of ten.

Throughout his life, Bach lived in Germany in the region of Thuringia. He spent a large portion of his life in three places: Weimar, Cothen, and Leipzig. In Weimar he was employed as a church organist and he composed many of his organ works during that time. He later moved to Cothen where he directed a court orchestra and during this period he composed much of his chamber music and instrumental music. Finally, Bach spent the last 25 years of his life in Leipzig, where he was music director of the local church. During this time, he composed many of his church cantatas, other religious music including the Mass in B Minor, and his late works, such as the Art of the Fugue.

For a great part of his life, Bach composed and performed music for the church. His complete works consist of over 1000 choral and instrumental works, including almost 200 cantatas. One of his greatest choral works is the Mass in B Minor, one of the few pieces in which Bach set the Latin mass to music. He composed the Kyrie and Gloria in 1733 and added the other sections, which were mostly revisions of earlier works, in 1748 only 2 years before his death. It is a mystery why Bach bothered to complete the mass, knowing it would not be performed in its entirety in Lutheran church services.

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J.S. Bach, his works and music.

Revered for their intellectual depth, technical command and artistic beauty, Bach's works include the Brandenburg concertos, the Goldberg Variations, The Well-Tempered Clavier, the Mass in B Minor, the St Matthew Passion, the St John Passion, the Magnificat, the Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, more than 200 surviving cantatas, and a similar number of organ works, including the celebrated Toccata and Fugue and Passacaglia and Fugue.

Bach's abilities as an organist were highly respected throughout Europe during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now regarded as the supreme composer of the Baroque, and as one of the greatest of all time.

J.S. Bach's works are indexed with BWV numbers, an initialism for Bach Werke Verzeichnis (Bach Works Catalogue). The catalogue, published in 1950, was compiled by Wolfgang Schmieder. The catalogue is organised thematically, rather than chronologically. In compiling the catalogue, Schmieder largely followed the Bach Gesellschaft Ausgabe, a comprehensive edition of the composer's works that was produced between 1850 and 1905.

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Many thanks.

I want to thank all of the many authors of the content that has gone into these webpages, without their efforts this site would not have been possible. It is important to me to give praise and acknowledgment, and to provide attribution and referral for their works and efforts in creating the content that is replicated in this website. Thanks to:
Jan Koster, Professor of Linguistics, University of Groningen, The Netherlands. (Email)
Jan Hanford, Fine Artist and Musician, San Francisco, California. (Email)
Tim Smith, Professor of Music Studies, Northern Arizona University. (Email)
Xinh Lee, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California. (Email)
And many thanks to all of the contributing authors at the Wikipedia website; Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization. (Email)

 

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