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Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach

Lived: 1685-1750
Country: Germany
Most Famous Works:
Too many to list!

Listening Links:

Toccata & Fugue in D Minor

E. Power Biggs - Bach: Works for Organ - Toccata and Fugue, for Organ in D Minor, BWV 565: Toccata

Prelude & Fugue in C Major (from The Well-Tempered Clavier)

Christiane Jaccottet - 100 Classical Essentials - Well Tempered Clavier, Book I, BWV 846, Prelude and Fugue In C Major

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (from Cantata 147)

Drew Minter, Jan Opalach, Jane Bryden, Jeffrey Thomas, Joshua Rifkin & The Bach Ensemble - J.S. Bach: 6 Favourite Cantatas - Cantata 147 "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben", BWV 147: I. Coro: "Herz Und Mund Und Tat Und Leben"

Suite for Cello Solo No. 1 in G

János Starker - Bach, J.S.: Suites for Solo Cello & 2 Cello Sonatas - Suite for Cello Solo No. 1 in G, BWV 1007: I. Prélude

Johann Sebastian Bach was a Baroque composer, organist, singer and violinist. He was a master of counterpoint, and is particularly renowned for his church music, including the famous St. John Passion and Mass in B Minor. Bach's music was "rediscovered" in the 19th century care of the "Bach revival" promoted by Felix Mendelssohn. J.S. Bach is now universally acclaimed as the unequaled giant of Baroque music, and one of the greatest musicians to ever live.

Early Life of Johann Sebastian Bach

J.S. Bach, was born in Eisenach, Germany on 21 March 1685. Orphaned at age 10, he went to live with his older brother Johann Christoph who gave him musical instruction on the clavichord.

Bach came from a distinguished family of musicians and composers, dating as far back as the 16th century. In his own immediate family, only a few were not musicians.

He married twice and had over 20 children, although several died in infancy. After his first wife, Maria Barbara died, he re-married, to Anna M. Wulkens, a singer. Among his many children, the ones who gained musical acclaim were: Wilhelm Friedemann, Carl Philipp Emanuel (C.P.E.), Johann Christoph Friederich Bach, and Johann Christian Bach (J.C.).

German Protestant Musician

Bach was a devoted German Protestant. All of his compositions were dedicated with the inscription: ‘To the Greater Glory of God’. His sacred music includes about 200 church cantatas, the Easter and Christmas oratorios, masses and magnificat, canons, chorales, and his two great passions, St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion. These last two represent the culmination of his work in church choral music.

Orchestral Music

J.S. Bach's orchestral music includes his 6 Brandenburg Concertos written in 1721. These comprise a group of six instrumental works dedicated to Christina Ludwig, the Margrave of Brandenburg. Additionally, he composed 4 instrumental suites.

Keyboard Music

His keyboard music for pianoforte and organ, fugues, and choral music are of equal importance in his canon. These include a collection of 48 preludes and fugues, compiles under the title "The Well-Tempered Clavier", and the Toccata and Fugue in D minor for Organ (the “haunted house” music made famous by the original Phantom of the Opera). Among his organ music some of the finest works are the chorale preludes.

Other Compositions

J.S. Bach also wrote sonatas, partitas, chamber music and songs, and The Italian Concerto, a spectacular work for harpsichord, other concertos for keyboard and violin, and the collections of instrumental music from his final years at Leipzig.

Last Years

Bach had eye surgery twice in 1749 and became totally blind for a period. Miraculously, his eyesight returned for a while but during this same period, he died of a brain hemorrhage. He died in Leipzig on July 28, 1750 at the age of 65.

Johann Sebastian Bach composed music for every genre of Baroque music except opera. His work has proved extremely influential on the composers who followed him. J.S. Bach may not have revolutionized musical forms, but he gave the musical world models to follow. His ceaseless creativity and tireless work ethic left a vast trove of music that is worthy of our continued appreciation.

J.S. Bach's Most Famous Works

  • Toccata and Fugue in d Minor, for organ 1705
  • Cantata No.208 'Where Sheep May Safely Graze' 1713
  • Brandenburg Concertos 1721
  • The Well-Tempered Clavier, first book 1722
  • St. John Passion; Cantata No.147 (including 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring') 1723
  • Easter Oratorio, 1725
  • St. Matthew Passion, oratorio 1727
  • Suite No.3 in D (including 'Air on the G string') 1729
  • Magnificat in D major 1731
  • Christmas Oratorio 1734
  • Italian Concerto 1735
  • The Goldberg Variations 1741-42
  • The Well-Tempered Clavier, second book 1742
  • Musical Offering for Flute and Violin with Continuo 1747
  • Mass in B minor 1749


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