As Bach neared the end of his life, he continued to compose some of his most famous and most challenging works
Johann Sebastian Bach
Who was Bach? A Fast and Friendly Guide
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was music's most sublime creative genius. Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist of the Baroque Era.
- Johann Sebastian Bach was born on March 21st 1685 in Eisenach, Germany.
- The young Bach was offered a choral scholarship to the prestigious St Michael's School in 1699.
- 1703 saw Bach become the organist at St Boniface's Church in Arnstadt - a role that saw him on a regular salary and expanding his skills at the keyboard.
- Bach composed the cantata Gott ist mein König in 1708 - he was paid handsomely, and it helped him cement his early career.
- The Brandenburg Concertos were composed in 1721 as a sort-of musical job application for the Margrave Ludwig of Brandenburg - it was unsuccessful.
- In his later years Bach faced harsh criticism. During the 1720s and 1730s when he was composing his most important works - the Passions and the Goldberg Variations among them - a new Italian style invaded Germany, making his work appear outdated.
- The Well Tempered Clavier, a quintessential student text, was finished in 1744 and comprised two volumes of piano music in every musical key.
- With the notable exception of opera, Bach composed towering masterpieces in every major Baroque genre: sonatas, concertos, suites and cantatas, as well as innumerable keyboard, organ and choral works.
- Bach died on July 28th 1750 in Leipzig. It is still disputed whether it was a botched eye operation or a stroke caused by pneumonia were to blame for his death.
- Bach's popularity was decaying until 1829, when Mendelssohn performed the St Matthew Passion and rescued Bach from oblivion.
Did you know?
Bach once walked two hundred and thirteen miles to hear a performance by an organist whom he admired. Once he had heard the concert, he turned round and walked the same distance home again.
Bach: 15 facts about the great composer
Johann Sebastian Bach's music lives on today thanks to his amazing catalogue of concertos, choral, organ and keyboard works - but what happened during his lifetime?
After finding his feet in Leipzig, Bach made the most of his responsibilities in church to compose a huge amount of sacred music - as well as writing secular music for the Collegium Musicum
J.S. Bach: "I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well."
"All Bach's last movements are like the running of a sewing machine." Bax on Bach
One of the most famous movements from J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, this prelude has become a standard piece not only for students but for concert pianists as well. But what's the story behind it?
Find out more about Bach's Cantata No. 140. Watch and listen to different recordings and download your favourite.
The renowned Bach conductor's complete recordings of Bach's cantatas is now available for the first time in a limited edition 56 CD box set
Pop legend cites classical composers as biggest influences, slams 'autotuned' modern singers
Janine Jansen and friends share their passion for Bach's chamber music. Album of the Weekend, 2-3 November 2013.
A lively new take on Bach's timeless concertos. Classic FM Drive Featured Album, 2 September 2013.
Top Bach Pieces
- Conductor: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
- Ensemble: Concentus Musicus Vienna;Vienna Boy's Choir
- Record Label: Teldec
- Catalog: 4509 917622
St Matthew Passion- 'Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder'
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