Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
1685 Born 21 March at Eisenach in
North Germany, the son of
Johann Ambrosius Bach, court
1700 Chorister at St. Michael`s
church Luneburg, taught by
organist Georg Bohm.
1703 Appointed organist at the New
Church at Arnstadt.
1707 Marries his cousin Maria
Barbara Bach; they have seven
children, including later
composers Wilhelm Friedemann
Carl Philipp Emanuel.
1708 Becomes organist to the Duke of
1717 Appointed Kapellmeister to
court of Anhalt-Cothen.
1720 Maria Barbara dies; Bach
marries Anna Magdalena
Wilcken; 13 children follow,
including Johann Christian (later
1723 Appointed Kantor at the
1740 Eyesight begins to fail.
1750 Dies in Leipzig, 28 July.
Johann Sebastian Bach was born 21st March 1685 at Eisenach in North Germany and died 28th July 1750 in Leipzig. He was born into a great musical family. His father Johann Ambrosius Bach was director of the towns musicians, and all his uncles were professional musicians. Bach learned to play the violin and harpsichord and learnt the basics of musical theory before the age of 10. His mother died in 1694 and his father died 8 months later. At this time, aged 10 he moved in with his older brother Johann Christoph Bach who taught him how to play the clavichord. At his own initiative, Bach attended St. Michael`s school in Luneburg for two years. After graduating he held several music posts across Germany : he served as director of music to Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Kothen, Cantor of the Thomasschule in Leipzig and Royal Court Composer to Augustus III. Bach``s health and sight declined in 1749 and he died the following year probably by a combination of pneumonia and a stroke. Bach`s abilities as an organist were 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 10th century. He is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time. .
(Read more ...).....(Biographical video - Life and Works 1/2).........(Biographical video - Life and Works 2/2)
Bach and Buxtehude.
In 1705, Bach took four weeks leave from his job as organist at Arnstadt to visit St. Mary`s Church in Lubeck - home to the great organist Dietrich Buxtehude. Bach was captivated by the music and by the splendour of the place, its 40-piece orchestra and fine choir being in sharp contrast to his own humble church.
When he returned to Arnstadt, worshippers were confused by the sudden key changes and elaborations which Bach now incorporated into his organ playing. A letter of complaint duly arrived from the church authorities, which he ignored. But the writing was on the wall: Bach knew the time had come to move on, and within a year he gave in his notice while he still had the choice....
MOST FAMOUS WORK.
St. Matthew Passion
The Passion is a type of oratorio, setting music to the Gospel accounts of the events leading up to Christ`s crucifixion. Bach`s St. Matthew Passion is one of the grandest in scale, and most moving, of all the choral setting of the Passion story.
Bach wrote over 200 religious cantatas, most of which were composed while he was at Leipzig from 1723 to 1750. As the Kantor, he was expected to produce choral works almost on a weekly basis. Bach was a member of the Lutheran church, and there is no doubt that he drew a great deal of inspiration from his faith. He also produced numerous anthems. motets, oratorios and sacred songs, not to mention a wealth of organ music. Bach`s greatest sacred offerings. however, are undoubtedly the B minor Mass and the Passions - St. Matthew and St. John. It remains a mystery why, although Bach`s work was admired in his day by many, including Handel, it took almost two centuries after his death for his true greatness to be universally recognised.