JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH Johann Sebastian Bach was born in 1685 in the town of Thuringia, Germany where he was raised and spent most of his life. Due to a shortage of expenses, he was confined to a very limited geographical space, as was his career. This greatly affected his, in that his music was not as wiley known as other composers of the time. On traveling he never went farther north than Hamburg or farther south than Carlsbad.
To look back on the life of Bach many have referred to him as "one of the greatest and most productive geniuses in the history of Western music", particularly of the baroque era. Born to a family that produced at least 53 prominent musicians within seven generations, Bach received his first musical instrument from his father. Johann studied music with his father until his father's death in 1695, at which point he moved to Ohrdrufto study with his brother, Johann Christoph. In the early 1700's Bach began working as a chorister at a church in Lunenburg. In 1703, he became a violinist in the chamber orchestra of Prince Johann Ernst of Weimar, but later that year he moved to Arn stadt where he became church organist.
In 1705, Bach took a one month leave to study with the renowned Danish-born German organist and composer Dietrich Buxtehude who was staying in Lubeck. Later, Buxtehude's organ music would greatly influence that of Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach " stay was so rewarding that he overstayed his leave by two months to be greatly criticized for his breach of contract by the church authorities. Fortunately, Bach was too highly respected to be dismissed from his position.
In 1707, Bach married his second cousin, Maria Barbara Bach, he also moved toMulhausen as organist for a church there, but, 1708 brought him back to Weimer. Became back as an organist and violinist at the court of Duke Wilhelm Ernst, where he stayed for the following nine years to become concertmaster of the court orchestra in 1714. In Weimer he composed about 30 cantatas, including his well-known funeral cantata "God's time is the best", and also wrote organ and harpsichord works. Bach also began traveling throughout Germany as an organ virtuoso and a consultant to organ builders.
1717 found Bach beginning a six year employment as chapel master and director of chamber music at the court of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Ko then. During this period he primarily wrote secular music for ensembles and solo instruments, he also prepared music books (including: Well-Tempered Clavier, Inventions, and the Little Organ Book) for his wife and children with a purpose of teaching them keyboard technique and musicianship. In 1720 Bach's first wife died, a year later he married Anna MagdalenaWilcken a singer and daughter of a court musician. Anna bore him 13 children in addition to the 7 had to him by his first wife, and helped him by copying the scores of music for his performers. In his later years, Bach moved to Leipzig and spent the rest of his life there. Hew as positioned as musical director and choirmaster of Saint Thomas's church and church school, this position was unsatisfactory to him.
He continuously argued with the town council, and neither the council nor the town people appreciated his musical genius. Tothe m all Bach was, was a stuffy old man who clung stubbornly to an obsolete form of music. Nonetheless, the two-hundred and two cantatas surviving from the 295 that he wrote while in Leipzig are still played today, where as much that was new at the time has long since been forgotten. Most of Bach's cantatas open with a section with chorus and orchestra, continue with alternating recitatives and areas for solo voices and, and conclude with chorale based on a simple Lutheran hymn.
The music is at all times closely bound to the text, ennobling the latter immeasurably with its expressiveness and spiritual intensity. Among these works are the Ascension Cantata and the Christmas Oratorio, the latter consisting of six cantatas. The Passion of St. John and The Passion of St. Matthew also were written in Leipzig, as was the epic Mass in B Minor. Among the works written for keyboard during this period are the famous Goldberg Variations; Part II of the Well-Tempered Clavier; and the Art of the Fugue, a magnificent demonstration of his contrapuntal skill in the form of 16 fugues and 4 canons, all on a single theme. Bach's sight began to fail in the last year of his life, and he died on July 28, 1750, after undergoing an unsuccessful eye operation. After Bach's death, he was remembered less as a composer, and more as an organist and harpsichord player.
His frequent tours had ensured his redemption as the greatest organist of the time, but his contrapuntal style of writing sounded old-fashioned to his contemporaries, most of whom preferred the styles then coming into fashion, which were more homophonic in texture and less contrapuntal than Bach's music. Consequentially, for the next 80 years his music was neglected by the public. Although a few musicians admired it, among them were Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig Van Beethoven. A revival of interest in Bach's music occurred in the mid-19th century. The German composer Felix Mendelssohn arranged a performance of the Passion of St. Matthew in 1829, which did much to awaken popular interest in Bach.
The Bach Gesellschaft, formed in 1850, devoted itself assiduously to finding, editing and publishing Bach's work. Because the "Bach Revival" coincided with the flowering of the romantic movement in music, performance styles were frequently gross distortions of Bach's intentions. Twentieth-century scholarship, inspired by the early enthusiasm of the French Protestant, medical missionary, organist and musicologist Albert Schweitzer, gradually has unearthed principals of performance that are truer to Bach's era and his music. Bach was largely self-taught in musical composition.
His principal study method, following the custom of his day, was to copy in his workbooks of the French, German and Italian composers of his own time and earlier. He did this throughout his life and often made arrangements of other composers' works. The significance of Bach's music is due in large part to the scope of his intellect. He is perhaps best known as a supreme master of counterpoint. He was able to understand and use resource every of musical language that was available in the baroque era.
Thus, if he chose, he could combine the rhythmic patterns of French dances, the gracefulness of Italian melody, and the intricacy of German counterpoint all in one composition. At the same time he could write for voice and the various instruments so as to take advantage of the unique properties of construction and tone quality in each. In addition when a text was associated with music, Bach could write musical equivalents of verbal ideas, such as an undulating melody to represent the sea, of a canon to describe the Christians following Jesus. Bach's ability to assess and exploit the media, styles and genre of his day enabled him to achieve many remarkable transfers of idiom. For instance, he could take an Italian ensemble composition, such as a violin concerto, and transform it into a convincing work for a single instrument, the harpsichord. By devising intricate melodic lines, he could convey the complex texture of a multi voiced fugue on a single-melody instrument, such as the violin or cello.
The controversial rhythms and sparse textures of operatic recitatives can be found in some of his own works for solo keyboard. Technical facility alone of course was not the source of some of Bach's greatness. It is the expressiveness of his music, particularly as manifested in the vocal works, that conveys his humanity and touches listeners everywhere. That is why Johann Sebastian Bach was considered one of the greatest musical composers, but more specifically one of the greatest baroque composers of all time.