Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach

Overview
Johann Sebastian Bach (21 March 1685, O.S.
Old Style and New Style dates
Old Style and New Style are used in English language historical studies either to indicate that the start of the Julian year has been adjusted to start on 1 January even though documents written at the time use a different start of year ; or to indicate that a date conforms to the Julian...

31 March 1685, N.S.
Old Style and New Style dates
Old Style and New Style are used in English language historical studies either to indicate that the start of the Julian year has been adjusted to start on 1 January even though documents written at the time use a different start of year ; or to indicate that a date conforms to the Julian...

– 28 July 1750, N.S.
Old Style and New Style dates
Old Style and New Style are used in English language historical studies either to indicate that the start of the Julian year has been adjusted to start on 1 January even though documents written at the time use a different start of year ; or to indicate that a date conforms to the Julian...

) was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque
Baroque music
Baroque music describes a style of Western Classical music approximately extending from 1600 to 1760. This era follows the Renaissance and was followed in turn by the Classical era...

 period and brought it to its ultimate maturity. Although he did not introduce new forms, he enriched the prevailing German style with a robust contrapuntal
Counterpoint
In music, counterpoint is the relationship between two or more voices that are independent in contour and rhythm and are harmonically interdependent . It has been most commonly identified in classical music, developing strongly during the Renaissance and in much of the common practice period,...

 technique, an unrivalled control of harmonic and motivic
Motif (music)
In music, a motif or motive is a short musical idea, a salient recurring figure, musical fragment or succession of notes that has some special importance in or is characteristic of a composition....

 organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France.

Revered for their intellectual depth, technical command and artistic beauty, Bach's works include the Brandenburg Concertos
Brandenburg concertos
The Brandenburg concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach are a collection of six instrumental works presented by Bach to Christian Ludwig, margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt, in 1721 . They are widely regarded as among the finest musical compositions of the Baroque era...

, the Goldberg Variations
Goldberg Variations
The Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, is a work for harpsichord by Johann Sebastian Bach, consisting of an aria and a set of 30 variations. First published in 1741, the work is considered to be one of the most important examples of variation form...

, the Partitas, The Well-Tempered Clavier
The Well-Tempered Clavier
The Well-Tempered Clavier , BWV 846–893, is a collection of solo keyboard music composed by Johann Sebastian Bach...

, the Mass in B minor, the St Matthew Passion, the St John Passion, the Magnificat
Magnificat (Bach)
The Magnificat in D major, BWV 243, is a major vocal work of Johann Sebastian Bach. It was composed for orchestra, a five-part choir and four or five soloists. The text is the canticle of Mary, mother of Jesus, as told by Luke the Evangelist .Bach composed an initial version in E flat major in 1723...

, the Musical Offering, The Art of Fugue
The Art of Fugue
The Art of Fugue , BWV 1080, is an incomplete work by Johann Sebastian Bach . It was most likely started at the beginning of the 1740s, if not earlier. The first known surviving version, which contained 12 fugues and 2 canons, was copied by the composer in 1745...

, the English and French Suites, the Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, the Cello Suites
Cello Suites (Bach)
The Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach are some of the most performed and recognizable solo compositions ever written for cello...

, more than 200 surviving cantatas
Bach cantata
Bach cantata became a term for a cantata of the German Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach who was a prolific writer of the genre. Although many of his works are lost, around 200 cantatas survived....

, and a similar number of organ
Pipe organ
The pipe organ is a musical instrument that produces sound by driving pressurized air through pipes selected via a keyboard. Because each organ pipe produces a single pitch, the pipes are provided in sets called ranks, each of which has a common timbre and volume throughout the keyboard compass...

 works, including the famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor
Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565
The Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, is a piece of organ music attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach. It is one of the most famous works in the organ repertoire, and has been used in a variety of popular media ranging from film, video games, to rock music, and ringtones...

and Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor is an organ piece by Johann Sebastian Bach. Presumably composed early in Bach's career, it is one of his most important and well-known works, and an important influence on 19th and 20th century passacaglias: Robert Schumann described the variations of the...

, and the Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes
Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes
The Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes, BWV 651–668, are a set of chorale preludes for organ prepared by Johann Sebastian Bach in Leipzig in his final decade 1740-1750, from earlier works composed in Weimar, where he was court organist...

and Organ Mass
Clavier-Übung III
The Clavier-Übung III, sometimes referred to as the German Organ Mass, is a collection of compositions for organ by Johann Sebastian Bach, started in 1735–6 and published in 1739. It is considered to be Bach's most significant and extensive work for organ, containing some of his musically most...

.

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.
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Johann Sebastian Bach (21 March 1685, O.S.
Old Style and New Style dates
Old Style and New Style are used in English language historical studies either to indicate that the start of the Julian year has been adjusted to start on 1 January even though documents written at the time use a different start of year ; or to indicate that a date conforms to the Julian...

31 March 1685, N.S.
Old Style and New Style dates
Old Style and New Style are used in English language historical studies either to indicate that the start of the Julian year has been adjusted to start on 1 January even though documents written at the time use a different start of year ; or to indicate that a date conforms to the Julian...

– 28 July 1750, N.S.
Old Style and New Style dates
Old Style and New Style are used in English language historical studies either to indicate that the start of the Julian year has been adjusted to start on 1 January even though documents written at the time use a different start of year ; or to indicate that a date conforms to the Julian...

) was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque
Baroque music
Baroque music describes a style of Western Classical music approximately extending from 1600 to 1760. This era follows the Renaissance and was followed in turn by the Classical era...

 period and brought it to its ultimate maturity. Although he did not introduce new forms, he enriched the prevailing German style with a robust contrapuntal
Counterpoint
In music, counterpoint is the relationship between two or more voices that are independent in contour and rhythm and are harmonically interdependent . It has been most commonly identified in classical music, developing strongly during the Renaissance and in much of the common practice period,...

 technique, an unrivalled control of harmonic and motivic
Motif (music)
In music, a motif or motive is a short musical idea, a salient recurring figure, musical fragment or succession of notes that has some special importance in or is characteristic of a composition....

 organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France.

Revered for their intellectual depth, technical command and artistic beauty, Bach's works include the Brandenburg Concertos
Brandenburg concertos
The Brandenburg concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach are a collection of six instrumental works presented by Bach to Christian Ludwig, margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt, in 1721 . They are widely regarded as among the finest musical compositions of the Baroque era...

, the Goldberg Variations
Goldberg Variations
The Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, is a work for harpsichord by Johann Sebastian Bach, consisting of an aria and a set of 30 variations. First published in 1741, the work is considered to be one of the most important examples of variation form...

, the Partitas, The Well-Tempered Clavier
The Well-Tempered Clavier
The Well-Tempered Clavier , BWV 846–893, is a collection of solo keyboard music composed by Johann Sebastian Bach...

, the Mass in B minor, the St Matthew Passion, the St John Passion, the Magnificat
Magnificat (Bach)
The Magnificat in D major, BWV 243, is a major vocal work of Johann Sebastian Bach. It was composed for orchestra, a five-part choir and four or five soloists. The text is the canticle of Mary, mother of Jesus, as told by Luke the Evangelist .Bach composed an initial version in E flat major in 1723...

, the Musical Offering, The Art of Fugue
The Art of Fugue
The Art of Fugue , BWV 1080, is an incomplete work by Johann Sebastian Bach . It was most likely started at the beginning of the 1740s, if not earlier. The first known surviving version, which contained 12 fugues and 2 canons, was copied by the composer in 1745...

, the English and French Suites, the Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, the Cello Suites
Cello Suites (Bach)
The Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach are some of the most performed and recognizable solo compositions ever written for cello...

, more than 200 surviving cantatas
Bach cantata
Bach cantata became a term for a cantata of the German Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach who was a prolific writer of the genre. Although many of his works are lost, around 200 cantatas survived....

, and a similar number of organ
Pipe organ
The pipe organ is a musical instrument that produces sound by driving pressurized air through pipes selected via a keyboard. Because each organ pipe produces a single pitch, the pipes are provided in sets called ranks, each of which has a common timbre and volume throughout the keyboard compass...

 works, including the famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor
Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565
The Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, is a piece of organ music attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach. It is one of the most famous works in the organ repertoire, and has been used in a variety of popular media ranging from film, video games, to rock music, and ringtones...

and Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor is an organ piece by Johann Sebastian Bach. Presumably composed early in Bach's career, it is one of his most important and well-known works, and an important influence on 19th and 20th century passacaglias: Robert Schumann described the variations of the...

, and the Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes
Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes
The Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes, BWV 651–668, are a set of chorale preludes for organ prepared by Johann Sebastian Bach in Leipzig in his final decade 1740-1750, from earlier works composed in Weimar, where he was court organist...

and Organ Mass
Clavier-Übung III
The Clavier-Übung III, sometimes referred to as the German Organ Mass, is a collection of compositions for organ by Johann Sebastian Bach, started in 1735–6 and published in 1739. It is considered to be Bach's most significant and extensive work for organ, containing some of his musically most...

.

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 generally regarded as one of the main composers of the Baroque style, and as one of the greatest composers of all time.

Childhood (1685–1703)




Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach
Eisenach
Eisenach is a city in Thuringia, Germany. It is situated between the northern foothills of the Thuringian Forest and the Hainich National Park. Its population in 2006 was 43,626.-History:...

, Saxe-Eisenach
Saxe-Eisenach
Saxe-Eisenach was the name of an Ernestine duchy ruled by the Saxon House of Wettin. The State intermittendly existed at three different times in the Thuringian region of the Holy Roman Empire...

, on 21 March 1685, O.S.
Old Style and New Style dates
Old Style and New Style are used in English language historical studies either to indicate that the start of the Julian year has been adjusted to start on 1 January even though documents written at the time use a different start of year ; or to indicate that a date conforms to the Julian...

31 March 1685, N.S.
Old Style and New Style dates
Old Style and New Style are used in English language historical studies either to indicate that the start of the Julian year has been adjusted to start on 1 January even though documents written at the time use a different start of year ; or to indicate that a date conforms to the Julian...

He was the youngest child of Johann Ambrosius Bach
Johann Ambrosius Bach
Johann Ambrosius Bach was a German composer, father to Johann Sebastian Bach.The son of Christoph Bach , Ambrosius was born in Erfurt, Germany as the twin brother of Johann Christoph Bach...

, the director of the town musicians, and Maria Elisabeth Lämmerhirt. His father taught him to play violin and harpsichord
Harpsichord
A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It produces sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed.In the narrow sense, "harpsichord" designates only the large wing-shaped instruments in which the strings are perpendicular to the keyboard...

. His uncles were all professional musicians, whose posts ranged from church organists and court chamber musicians to composers. One uncle, Johann Christoph Bach
Johann Christoph Bach (1645–93)
Johann Christoph Bach was a German musician of the Baroque period.A court and town musician in Arnstadt, he was the third son of Christoph Bach and the twin brother of Johann Ambrosius Bach. He was also the uncle of Johann Sebastian Bach...

 (1645–93), introduced him to the art of organ playing. Bach was proud of his family's musical achievements, and around 1735 he drafted a genealogy, "Origin of the musical Bach family".

Bach's mother died in 1694, and his father eight months later. The 10-year-old orphan moved in with his oldest brother, Johann Christoph Bach
Johann Christoph Bach (1671–1721)
Johann Christoph Bach , was a German musician and composer. He was the eldest brother of the more famous German musician and composer Johann Sebastian Bach. Johann Christoph studied at Erfurt under Johann Pachelbel, and his library of keyboard music included works by Pachelbel, Johann Jakob...

 (1671–1721), the organist at the Michaeliskirche
Michaeliskirche (Ohrdruf)
The Michaeliskirche in the Thuringian town of Ohrdruf was the site of Johann Sebastian Bach's first employment.J. S. Bach was orphaned at the age of 10 and went to live with his eldest brother, Johann Christoph Bach, who was the organist at the Michaeliskirche. It contained a three-manual German...

 in Ohrdruf
Ohrdruf
Ohrdruf is a small town in the German federal state of Thuringia. It lies some 30 km southwest of Erfurt.-Medieval settling:Ohrdruf was founded in 724–726 by Saint Boniface, as the site of the first monastery in Thuringia, dedicated to Saint Michael. It was the first of several religious...

, Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg
Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg
Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg was a duchy ruled by the Ernestine branch of the House of Wettin in today's Thuringia, Germany.It was nominally created in 1672 when Frederick William III, the last duke of Saxe-Altenburg, died and Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha , inherited the major part of his possessions...

. There, he copied, studied and performed music, and received valuable teaching from his brother, who instructed him on the clavichord
Clavichord
The clavichord is a European stringed keyboard instrument known from the late Medieval, through the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical eras. Historically, it was widely used as a practice instrument and as an aid to composition, not being loud enough for larger performances. The clavichord produces...

. J.C. Bach exposed him to the works of the great South German composers of the day, such as Johann Pachelbel
Johann Pachelbel
Johann Pachelbel was a German Baroque composer, organist and teacher, who brought the south German organ tradition to its peak. He composed a large body of sacred and secular music, and his contributions to the development of the chorale prelude and fugue have earned him a place among the most...

 (under whom Johann Christoph had studied) and Johann Jakob Froberger
Johann Jakob Froberger
Johann Jakob Froberger was a German Baroque composer, keyboard virtuoso, and organist. He was among the most famous composers of the era and influenced practically every major composer in Europe by developing the genre of keyboard suite and contributing greatly to the exchange of musical...

, to the music of North German composers; to Frenchmen, such as Jean-Baptiste Lully
Jean-Baptiste Lully
Jean-Baptiste de Lully was an Italian-born French composer who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis XIV of France. He is considered the chief master of the French Baroque style. Lully disavowed any Italian influence in French music of the period. He became a French subject in...

, Louis Marchand
Louis Marchand
Louis Marchand was a French Baroque organist, harpsichordist, and composer. Born into an organist's family, Marchand was a child prodigy and quickly established himself as one of the best known French virtuosi of his time. He worked as organist of numerous churches and, for a few years, at the...

, Marin Marais
Marin Marais
Marin Marais was a French composer and viol player. He studied composition with Jean-Baptiste Lully, often conducting his operas, and with master of the bass viol Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe for 6 months. He was hired as a musician in 1676 to the royal court of Versailles...

, and to the Italian clavierist Girolamo Frescobaldi
Girolamo Frescobaldi
Girolamo Frescobaldi was a musician from Ferrara, one of the most important composers of keyboard music in the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods. A child prodigy, Frescobaldi studied under Luzzasco Luzzaschi in Ferrara, but was influenced by a large number of composers, including Ascanio...

. The young Bach probably witnessed and assisted in the maintenance of the organ. Bach's obituary indicates that he copied music out of Johann Christoph's scores, but his brother had apparently forbidden him to do so, possibly because scores were valuable and private commodities at the time.

At the age of 14, Bach, along with his older school friend George Erdmann, was awarded a choral scholarship to study at the prestigious St. Michael's School in Lüneburg
Lüneburg
Lüneburg is a town in the German state of Lower Saxony. It is located about southeast of fellow Hanseatic city Hamburg. It is part of the Hamburg Metropolitan Region, and one of Hamburg's inner suburbs...

 in the Principality of Lüneburg
Principality of Lüneburg
The Principality of Lüneburg was a territorial division of the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg within the Holy Roman Empire, immediately subordinate to the emperor. It existed from 1269 until 1705 and its territory lay within the modern-day state of Lower Saxony in Germany...

. This involved a long journey with his friend, probably undertaken partly on foot and partly by coach. His two years there appear to have been critical in exposing him to a wider facet of European culture. In addition to singing in the a cappella choir, it is likely that he played the School's three-manual organ and its harpsichords. He probably learned French and Italian, and received a thorough grounding in theology, Latin, history, geography, and physics. He would have come into contact with sons of noblemen from northern Germany sent to the highly selective school to prepare for careers in diplomacy, government, and the military.

Although little supporting historical evidence exists at this time, it is almost certain that while in Lüneburg, young Bach would have visited the Johanniskirche
St. John's Church, Lüneburg
The Church of John the Baptist is the oldest Lutheran church in Lüneburg and located in the city center.-History:...

(Church of St. John) and heard (and possibly played) the church's famous organ (built in 1549 by Jasper Johannsen and nicknamed the "Böhm organ" after its most prominent master, Georg Böhm
Georg Böhm
Georg Böhm was a German Baroque organist and composer. He is notable for his development of the chorale partita and for his influence on the young J. S. Bach.-Life:Böhm was born in 1661 in Hohenkirchen, near Ohrdruf...

). Given his innate musical talent, Bach would have had significant contact with prominent organists of the day in Lüneburg, most notably Böhm (the organist at Johanniskirche) as well as organists in nearby Hamburg, such as Johann Adam Reincken
Johann Adam Reincken
Johann Adam Reincken was a Dutch/German organist and composer...

.

Weimar, Arnstadt and Mühlhausen (1703–08)



In January 1703, shortly after graduating from St. Michael's and after having being turned down for the post of organist at Sangerhausen
Sangerhausen
Sangerhausen is a town in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, capital of the district of Mansfeld-Südharz, without being part of it.It is situated southeast of the Harz, approx. 35 km east of Nordhausen, and 50 km west of Halle...

, Bach gained an appointment as a court musician in the chapel of Duke Johann Ernst
Johann Ernst III, Duke of Saxe-Weimar
Johann Ernst III, Duke of Saxe-Weimar , was a duke of Saxe-Weimar.He was the second son of Johann Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, and Christine Elisabeth of Holstein-Sonderburg....

 in Weimar
Weimar
Weimar is a city in Germany famous for its cultural heritage. It is located in the federal state of Thuringia , north of the Thüringer Wald, east of Erfurt, and southwest of Halle and Leipzig. Its current population is approximately 65,000. The oldest record of the city dates from the year 899...

. His role there is unclear, but appears to have included menial, non-musical duties. During his seven-month tenure at Weimar, his reputation as a keyboard player spread. He was invited to inspect and give the inaugural recital on the new organ at St. Boniface's Church in Arnstadt
Arnstadt
Arnstadt is a town in Ilm-Kreis, Thuringia, Germany, situated on the Gera River. It is one of the oldest towns in Thuringia and is nicknamed Das Tor zum Thüringer Wald, The Gate to the Thuringian Forest....

. The Bach family
Bach family
The Bach family was of importance in the history of music for nearly two hundred years, with over 50 known musicians and several notable composers, the best-known of whom was Johann Sebastian Bach...

 had close connections with people in this ancient town located about 40 km to the southwest of Weimar. In August 1703, he accepted the post of organist at that church, with light duties, a relatively generous salary, and a fine new organ tuned in the modern tempered system that allowed a wide range of keys to be used.

Strong family connections and a musically enthusiastic employer failed to prevent tension between the young organist and the authorities after several years in the post. Bach was apparently dissatisfied with the standard of singers in the choir; more seriously, there was his unauthorised absence from Arnstadt for several months in 1705–06, when he visited the great organist and composer Dieterich Buxtehude
Dieterich Buxtehude
Dieterich Buxtehude was a German-Danish organist and composer of the Baroque period. His organ works represent a central part of the standard organ repertoire and are frequently performed at recitals and in church services...

 and his Abendmusik
Abendmusik
Abendmusik is an evening concert, usually performed in a church.Specifically, this designation refers to a series of performances at the Marienkirche of Lübeck, Germany, begun in the 17th century and lasting until 1810...

en at the Marienkirche
St. Mary's Church, Lübeck
The Lutheran Marienkirche in Lübeck was constructed between 1250 and 1350. For many years it has been a symbol of the power and prosperity of the old Hanseatic city, and as Germany's third largest church it remains the tallest building of the old part of Lübeck. It is larger than Lübeck Cathedral...

 in the northern city of Lübeck
Lübeck
The Hanseatic City of Lübeck is the second-largest city in Schleswig-Holstein, in northern Germany, and one of the major ports of Germany. It was for several centuries the "capital" of the Hanseatic League and, because of its Brick Gothic architectural heritage, is listed by UNESCO as a World...

. The visit to Buxtehude involved a journey on foot of about 400 kilometres (250 mi) each way. The trip reinforced Buxtehude's style as a foundation for Bach's earlier works, and that he overstayed his planned visit by several months suggests that his time with the older master was of great value him. Bach wanted to become amanuensis
Amanuensis
Amanuensis is a Latin word adopted in various languages, including English, for certain persons performing a function by hand, either writing down the words of another or performing manual labour...

 (assistant and successor) to Buxtehude, but did not want to marry his daughter, which apparently was a condition for his appointment.
According to a record of the proceedings of the Arnstadt consistory
Consistory
-Antiquity:Originally, the Latin word consistorium meant simply 'sitting together', just as the Greek synedrion ....

 in August 1705, Bach was involved in a brawl:
In 1706 Bach was offered a post as organist at St. Blasius's in Mühlhausen
Mühlhausen
Mühlhausen is a city in the federal state of Thuringia, Germany. It is the capital of the Unstrut-Hainich district, and lies along the river Unstrut. Mühlhausen had c. 37,000 inhabitants in 2006.-History:...

, which he took up the following year. It included significantly higher remuneration and improved conditions, as well as a better choir. Four months after arriving at Mühlhausen, Bach married his second cousin, Maria Barbara Bach
Maria Barbara Bach
Maria Barbara Bach was the first wife of composer Johann Sebastian Bach. She was also his second cousin, and the daughter of Johann Michael Bach.-Personal life:...

. Together they would have seven children, four of whom survived to adulthood, including Wilhelm Friedemann Bach
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach , the second child and eldest son of Johann Sebastian Bach and Maria Barbara Bach, was a German composer and performer...

 and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
right|250pxCarl Philipp Emanuel Bach was a German Classical period musician and composer, the fifth child and second son of Johann Sebastian Bach and Maria Barbara Bach...

 who became important composers in their own right.

The church and city government at Mühlhausen agreed to Bach's plan for an expensive renovation of the organ at St. Blasius's. He, in turn, wrote an elaborate, festive cantata
Cantata
A cantata is a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment, typically in several movements, often involving a choir....

Gott ist mein König, BWV 71—for the inauguration of the new council in 1708. The council was so delighted with the piece that they paid handsomely for its publication, and twice in later years had the composer return to conduct it.

Weimar (1708–17)


After less than a year Bach left Mühlhausen, returning to Weimar this time as organist and concertmaster
Concertmaster
The concertmaster/mistress is the spalla or leader, of the first violin section of an orchestra. In the UK, the term commonly used is leader...

 at the ducal court. The larger salary given him by Duke Johann Ernst and the prospect of working with a large, well-funded contingent of professional musicians may have prompted the move. Bach moved his family into an apartment just five minutes' walk from the ducal palace. In the following year, their first child was born and they were joined by Maria Barbara's elder, unmarried sister, who remained with them to assist in the running of the household until her death in 1729.

Bach's position in Weimar marked the start of a sustained period of composing keyboard and orchestral works, in which he had attained the technical proficiency and confidence to extend the prevailing large-scale structures and to synthesise influences from abroad. From the music of Italians such as Vivaldi
Antonio Vivaldi
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi , nicknamed because of his red hair, was an Italian Baroque composer, priest, and virtuoso violinist, born in Venice. Vivaldi is recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers, and his influence during his lifetime was widespread over Europe...

, Corelli
Arcangelo Corelli
Arcangelo Corelli was an Italian violinist and composer of Baroque music.-Biography:Corelli was born at Fusignano, in the current-day province of Ravenna, although at the time it was in the province of Ferrara. Little is known about his early life...

 and Torelli
Giuseppe Torelli
Giuseppe Torelli was an Italian violist, violinist, teacher, and composer.Torelli is most remembered for his contributions to the development of the instrumental concerto Giuseppe Torelli (April 22, 1658 – February 8, 1709) was an Italian violist, violinist, teacher, and composer.Torelli is most...

, he learned how to write dramatic openings and adopted their sunny dispositions, dynamic motor-rhythms and decisive harmonic schemes. Bach absorbed these stylistic aspects in part by transcribing for harpsichord and organ the concertos of Vivaldi written for various combinations of strings and winds; a number of these transcribed works are still concert favourites. Bach was particularly attracted to the Italian style in which one or more solo instruments alternate section-by-section with the full orchestra throughout a movement.

In Weimar, Bach continued to play and compose for the organ, and to perform a varied repertoire of concert music with the duke's ensemble. He also began to write the preludes and fugues which were later assembled into his monumental work Das Wohltemperierte Clavier
The Well-Tempered Clavier
The Well-Tempered Clavier , BWV 846–893, is a collection of solo keyboard music composed by Johann Sebastian Bach...

("The well-tempered keyboard"—Clavier meaning clavichord or harpischord). It consists of two collections compiled in 1722 and 1744, each containing a prelude and fugue in every major
Major scale
In music theory, the major scale or Ionian scale is one of the diatonic scales. It is made up of seven distinct notes, plus an eighth which duplicates the first an octave higher. In solfege these notes correspond to the syllables "Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti/Si, ", the "Do" in the parenthesis at...

 and minor key
Minor scale
A minor scale in Western music theory includes any scale that contains, in its tonic triad, at least three essential scale degrees: 1) the tonic , 2) a minor-third, or an interval of a minor third above the tonic, and 3) a perfect-fifth, or an interval of a perfect fifth above the tonic, altogether...

.


During his time at Weimar, Bach started work on the "Little Organ Book"
Orgelbüchlein
The Orgelbüchlein was written by Johann Sebastian Bach during the period of 1708–1714, while he was court organist at the ducal court in Weimar...

 for his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann; this contains traditional Lutheran
Lutheranism
Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation...

 chorale
Chorale
A chorale was originally a hymn sung by a Christian congregation. In certain modern usage, this term may also include classical settings of such hymns and works of a similar character....

s (hymn tune
Hymn tune
A hymn tune is the melody of a musical composition to which a hymn text is sung. Musically speaking, a hymn is generally understood to have four-part harmony, a fast harmonic rhythm , and no refrain or chorus....

s), set in complex textures to assist the training of organists. The book illustrates two major themes in Bach's life: his dedication to teaching and his love of the chorale as a musical form. Bach eventually fell out of favour in Weimar and was, according to a translation (see reference that follows) of the court secretary's report, jailed for almost a month before being unfavourably dismissed:

Köthen (1717–23)


Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen hired Bach to serve as his Kapellmeister
Kapellmeister
Kapellmeister is a German word designating a person in charge of music-making. The word is a compound, consisting of the roots Kapelle and Meister . The words Kapelle and Meister derive from the Latin: capella and magister...

 (director of music). Prince Leopold, himself a musician, appreciated Bach's talents, paid him well, and gave him considerable latitude in composing and performing. The prince was Calvinist
Calvinism
Calvinism is a Protestant theological system and an approach to the Christian life...

 and did not use elaborate music in his worship; thus, most of Bach's work from this period was secular, including the Orchestral Suites
Orchestral suites (Bach)
The four Orchestral Suites or Ouvertures BWV 1066–1069 are a set of compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach, probably composed between 1725 and 1739 in Leipzig...

, the Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello
Cello Suites (Bach)
The Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach are some of the most performed and recognizable solo compositions ever written for cello...

and the Sonatas and partitas for solo violin. The well-known Brandenburg Concertos
Brandenburg concertos
The Brandenburg concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach are a collection of six instrumental works presented by Bach to Christian Ludwig, margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt, in 1721 . They are widely regarded as among the finest musical compositions of the Baroque era...

date from this period. Bach composed secular cantatas for the court such as the Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht, BWV 134a
Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht, BWV 134a
Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht , BWV 134a, is a secular cantata or serenata by Johann Sebastian Bach...

.

On 7 July 1720, while Bach was abroad with Prince Leopold, Bach's wife Maria Barbara, the mother of his first seven children, suddenly died. The following year, the widower met Anna Magdalena Wilcke
Anna Magdalena Bach
Anna Magdalena Bach was the second wife of Johann Sebastian Bach.-Biography:...

, a young, highly gifted soprano 17 years his junior, who performed at the court in Köthen
Köthen (Anhalt)
Köthen is a city in Germany. It is the capital of the district of Anhalt-Bitterfeld in Saxony-Anhalt, about north of Halle.Köthen is the location of the main campus and the administrative center of the regional technical university Hochschule Anhalt which is especially strong in information...

; they married on 3 December 1721. Together they had 13 more children, six of whom survived into adulthood: Gottfried Heinrich
Gottfried Heinrich Bach
Gottfried Heinrich Bach was the firstborn son of Johann Sebastian Bach by his second wife Anna Magdalena Wilcke....

, Johann Christoph Friedrich
Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach
Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach , the ninth son of Johann Sebastian Bach, sometimes referred to as the "Bückeburg Bach"...

 and Johann Christian
Johann Christian Bach
Johann Christian Bach was a composer of the Classical era, the eleventh and youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach. He is sometimes referred to as 'the London Bach' or 'the English Bach', due to his time spent living in the British capital...

, all of whom became significant musicians; Elisabeth Juliane Friederica (1726–81), who married Bach's pupil Johann Christoph Altnikol; Johanna Carolina (1737–81); and Regina Susanna (1742–1809).

Leipzig (1723–50)


In 1723, Bach was appointed Cantor of the Thomasschule
Thomasschule zu Leipzig
St. Thomas School, Leipzig is a co-educational and public boarding school in Leipzig, Saxony, Germany. It was founded by the Augustinians in 1212 and is one of the oldest schools in the world.St. Thomas is known for its art, language and music education...

 at St. Thomas Church (Thomaskirche) in Leipzig
Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

, as well as Director of Music in the principal churches in the town, namely the Nikolaikirche and the Paulinerkirche
Paulinerkirche, Leipzig
The Paulinerkirche was a church on the Augustusplatz in Leipzig, named after the "Pauliner", its original Dominican friars. It was built in 1231 as the Klosterkirche St. Pauli for the Dominican monastery in Leipzig. From the foundation of the University of Leipzig in 1409, it served as the...

, the church of the University of Leipzig. This was a prestigious post in the mercantile city in the Electorate of Saxony
Electorate of Saxony
The Electorate of Saxony , sometimes referred to as Upper Saxony, was a State of the Holy Roman Empire. It was established when Emperor Charles IV raised the Ascanian duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg to the status of an Electorate by the Golden Bull of 1356...

, which he held for 27 years until his death. It brought him into contact with the political machinations of his employer, the Leipzig Council. The Council comprised two factions: the Absolutists, loyal to the Saxon monarch in Dresden, Augustus the Strong
Augustus II the Strong
Frederick Augustus I or Augustus II the Strong was Elector of Saxony and King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania ....

; and the City-Estate faction, representing the interests of the mercantile class, the guilds and minor aristocrats. Bach was the nominee of the monarchists, in particular of the Mayor at the time, Gottlieb Lange, a lawyer who had earlier served in the Dresden court. In return for agreeing to Bach's appointment, the City-Estate faction was granted control of the School, and Bach was required to make a number of compromises with respect to his working conditions. Although it appears that no one on the Council doubted Bach's musical genius, there was continual tension between the Cantor, who regarded himself as the leader of church music in the city, and the City-Estate faction, which saw him as a schoolmaster and wanted to reduce the emphasis on elaborate music in both the School and the Churches. The Council never honoured Lange's promise at interview of a handsome salary of 1,000 Thaler
Thaler
The Thaler was a silver coin used throughout Europe for almost four hundred years. Its name lives on in various currencies as the dollar or tolar. Etymologically, "Thaler" is an abbreviation of "Joachimsthaler", a coin type from the city of Joachimsthal in Bohemia, where some of the first such...

 a year, although it did provide Bach and his family with a smaller income and a good apartment at one end of the school building, which was renovated at great expense in 1732.

Bach's post required him to instruct the students of the Thomasschule
Thomasschule zu Leipzig
St. Thomas School, Leipzig is a co-educational and public boarding school in Leipzig, Saxony, Germany. It was founded by the Augustinians in 1212 and is one of the oldest schools in the world.St. Thomas is known for its art, language and music education...

 in singing and to provide church music at the main churches in Leipzig. Bach was required to teach Latin, but he was allowed to employ a deputy to do this instead. A cantata
Cantata
A cantata is a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment, typically in several movements, often involving a choir....

 was required for the church service on Sundays and additional church holidays during the liturgical year, he performed mostly his own compositions
Bach cantata
Bach cantata became a term for a cantata of the German Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach who was a prolific writer of the genre. Although many of his works are lost, around 200 cantatas survived....

. The bulk of these cantatas was composed in his first three years in Leipzig, beginning with Die Elenden sollen essen, BWV 75
Die Elenden sollen essen, BWV 75
Die Elenden sollen essen , BWV 75, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach composed the cantata for the first Sunday after Trinity and first performed it in Leipzig on 30 May 1723...

, first performed in the Nikolaikirche on 30 May 1723, the first Sunday after Trinity
Trinity Sunday
Trinity Sunday is the first Sunday after Pentecost in the Western Christian liturgical calendar, and the Sunday of Pentecost in Eastern Christianity...

. He collected them in annual cycles, five are mentioned in obituaries, three are extant. Most of these concerted works expound on the Gospel readings prescribed for every Sunday and feast day in the Lutheran year. Bach started a second annual cycle on the first Sunday after Trinity of 1724, composing only chorale cantata
Chorale cantata
In music, a chorale cantata is a sacred composition for voices and instruments, principally from the German Baroque era, in which the organizing principle is the words and music to a chorale. Usually a chorale cantata is in multiple movements or parts. Most chorale cantatas were written between...

s, each based on a single church hymn, first O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 20, then works such as Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 61
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 61
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland , BWV 61, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Weimar for the for the first Sunday in Advent and first performed it on 2 December 1714.-History and words:...

, and Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, BWV 1. For other than chorale cantatas, a stanza from a chorale typically forms the concluding movement of a work.

To rehearse and perform these works at Thomaskirche, Bach sat at the harpsichord
Harpsichord
A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It produces sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed.In the narrow sense, "harpsichord" designates only the large wing-shaped instruments in which the strings are perpendicular to the keyboard...

 or stood in front of the choir on the lower gallery at the west end, his back to the congregation and the altar at the east end. He would have looked upwards to the organ that rose from a loft about four metres above. To the right of the organ in a side gallery was the winds, brass and timpani; to the left were the strings. The Council provided only about eight permanent instrumentalists, a source of continual friction with the Cantor, who had to recruit the rest of the 20 or so players required for medium-to-large scores from the University, the School and the public. The organ or harpsichord was probably played by the composer (when not standing to conduct), the in-house organist, or one of Bach's elder sons, Wilhelm Friedemann or Carl Philipp Emanuel..

Bach drew the soprano and alto choristers from the School, and the tenors and basses from the School and elsewhere in Leipzig. Performing at weddings and funerals provided extra income for these groups; it was probably for this purpose, and for in-school training, that he wrote at least six motet
Motet
In classical music, motet is a word that is applied to a number of highly varied choral musical compositions.-Etymology:The name comes either from the Latin movere, or a Latinized version of Old French mot, "word" or "verbal utterance." The Medieval Latin for "motet" is motectum, and the Italian...

s, mostly for double choir. As part of his regular church work, he performed motets of the Venetian School and Germans such as Heinrich Schütz
Heinrich Schütz
Heinrich Schütz was a German composer and organist, generally regarded as the most important German composer before Johann Sebastian Bach and often considered to be one of the most important composers of the 17th century along with Claudio Monteverdi...

, which would have served as formal models for his own motets.
Bach wanted to broaden his composing and performing beyond the liturgy. In March 1729, he took over the directorship of the Collegium Musicum
Collegium Musicum
The Collegium Musicum was one of several types of musical societies that arose in German and German-Swiss cities and towns during the Reformation and thrived into the mid-18th century...

, a secular performance ensemble that had been started in 1701 by his old friend, the composer Georg Philipp Telemann
Georg Philipp Telemann
Georg Philipp Telemann was a German Baroque composer and multi-instrumentalist. Almost completely self-taught in music, he became a composer against his family's wishes. After studying in Magdeburg, Zellerfeld, and Hildesheim, Telemann entered the University of Leipzig to study law, but eventually...

. This was one of the dozens of private societies in the major German-speaking cities that had been established by musically active university students; these societies had come to play an increasingly important role in public musical life and were typically led by the most prominent professionals in a city. In the words of Christoph Wolff
Christoph Wolff
Christoph Wolff is a German-born musicologist, presently on the faculty of Harvard University. Born and educated in Germany, Wolff studied organ and historical keyboard instruments, musicology and art history at the Universities of Berlin, Erlangen, and the Music Academy of Freiburg, receiving a...

, assuming the directorship was a shrewd move that 'consolidated Bach's firm grip on Leipzig's principal musical institutions'. During much of the year, Leipzig's Collegium Musicum performed twice weekly for two hours in the Zimmermannsches Caffeehaus, a Coffeehouse
Coffeehouse
A coffeehouse or coffee shop is an establishment which primarily serves prepared coffee or other hot beverages. It shares some of the characteristics of a bar, and some of the characteristics of a restaurant, but it is different from a cafeteria. As the name suggests, coffeehouses focus on...

 on Catherine Street off the main market square. Many of Bach's works during the 1730s and 1740s were written for and performed by the Collegium Musicum; among these were almost certainly parts of the Clavier-Übung
Clavier-Übung
Clavier-Übung is German for "keyboard practice". In late 17th and early 18th centuries this was a common title for keyboard music collections, initially popular after its adoption by Johann Kuhnau in 1689, although today it is usually associated with Johann Sebastian Bach's series of publications...

 (Keyboard Practice) and many of the violin and harpsichord concertos
Harpsichord concertos (J. S. Bach)
The harpsichord concertos, BWV 1052-1065, are concertos for harpsichord, strings and continuo by Johann Sebastian Bach. There are seven complete concertos for a single harpsichord, , three concertos for 2 harpsichords , two concertos for 3 harpsichords , and one concerto for 4 harpsichords,...

..

In 1733, Bach composed the Kyrie and Gloria of the Mass in B minor. He presented the manuscript to the King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania and Elector of Saxony, August III
Augustus III of Poland
Augustus III, known as the Saxon ; ; also Prince-elector Friedrich August II was the Elector of Saxony in 1733-1763, as Frederick Augustus II , King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania in 1734-1763.-Biography:Augustus was the only legitimate son of Augustus II the Strong, Imperial Prince-Elector...

 in an eventually successful bid to persuade the monarch to appoint him as Royal Court Composer. He later extended this work into a full Mass, by adding a Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei, the music for which was almost wholly taken from some of the best of his cantata movements. Bach's appointment as court composer appears to have been part of his long-term struggle to achieve greater bargaining power with the Leipzig Council. Although the complete mass was probably never performed during the composer's lifetime, it is considered to be among the greatest choral works of all time. Between 1737 and 1739, Bach's former pupil Carl Gotthelf Gerlach
Carl Gotthelf Gerlach
Carl Gotthelf Gerlach was a German organist, who took over the Leipzig Collegium Musicum from Johann Sebastian Bach between 1737 and 1739....

 took over the directorship of the Collegium Musicum.

In 1747, Bach visited the court of the King of Prussia
Frederick II of Prussia
Frederick II was a King in Prussia and a King of Prussia from the Hohenzollern dynasty. In his role as a prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire, he was also Elector of Brandenburg. He was in personal union the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchâtel...

 in Potsdam
Potsdam
Potsdam is the capital city of the German federal state of Brandenburg and part of the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region. It is situated on the River Havel, southwest of Berlin city centre....

. There the king played a theme for Bach and challenged him to improvise a fugue based on his theme. Bach improvised a three-part fugue on Frederick's pianoforte
Fortepiano
Fortepiano designates the early version of the piano, from its invention by the Italian instrument maker Bartolomeo Cristofori around 1700 up to the early 19th century. It was the instrument for which Haydn, Mozart, and the early Beethoven wrote their piano music...

, then a novelty, and later presented the king with a Musical Offering
The Musical Offering
The Musical Offering , BWV 1079, is a collection of canons and fugues and other pieces of music by Johann Sebastian Bach, all based on a single musical theme given to him by Frederick II of Prussia , to whom they are dedicated...

which consists of fugues, canons and a trio based on the "royal theme," nominated by the monarch. Its six-part fugue includes a slightly altered subject more suitable for extensive elaboration.

The Art of Fugue
The Art of Fugue
The Art of Fugue , BWV 1080, is an incomplete work by Johann Sebastian Bach . It was most likely started at the beginning of the 1740s, if not earlier. The first known surviving version, which contained 12 fugues and 2 canons, was copied by the composer in 1745...

was written shortly before Bach's death and was finished but for the final fugue. It consists of 18 complex fugues and canons based on a simple theme. It was only published posthumously.

The final work Bach completed was a chorale prelude for organ, dictated to his son-in-law, Johann Altnikol
Johann Christoph Altnickol
Johann Christoph Altnickol, or Altnikol, was a German organist, bass singer, and composer. He was a son-in-law and copyist of Johann Sebastian Bach.-Biography:...

, from his deathbed. Entitled Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit (Before thy throne I now appear, BWV 668a); when the notes on the three staves of the final cadence are counted and mapped onto the Roman alphabet, the initials "JSB" are found.

Death (1750)



Bach's health declined in 1749; on 2 June, Heinrich von Brühl
Heinrich von Brühl
Heinrich, count von Brühl , was a German statesman at the court of Saxony and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth...

 wrote to one of the Leipzig burgomaster
Burgomaster
Burgomaster is the English form of various terms in or derived from Germanic languages for the chief magistrate or chairman of the executive council of a sub-national level of administration...

s to request that his music director, Gottlob Harrer, fill the post of Thomascantor and Director musices posts "upon the eventual ... decease of Mr. Bach." Bach became increasingly blind, and the British eye surgeon John Taylor
John Taylor (oculist)
"Chevalier" John Taylor was the first in a long line of British eye surgeons. While there is some evidence that he showed promise as an eye surgeon early in his career, it became evident that his major talent was that of self-promotion....

 operated on Bach while visiting Leipzig in 1750.

On 28 July 1750 Bach died at the age of 65. A contemporary newspaper reported the cause of death as "from the unhappy consequences of the very unsuccessful eye operation". Some modern historians speculate that the cause of death was a stroke complicated by pneumonia. An obituary was written by his son Emanuel and his pupil Johann Friedrich Agricola
Johann Friedrich Agricola
Johann Friedrich Agricola was a German composer, organist, singer, pedagogue, and writer on music. He sometimes wrote under the pseudonym Flavio Anicio Olibrio.-Biography:...

 at the time. Bach's estate was valued at 1159 Thaler
Thaler
The Thaler was a silver coin used throughout Europe for almost four hundred years. Its name lives on in various currencies as the dollar or tolar. Etymologically, "Thaler" is an abbreviation of "Joachimsthaler", a coin type from the city of Joachimsthal in Bohemia, where some of the first such...

 and included five Clavecins, two lute-harpsichords, three violins, three violas, two cellos, a viola da gamba, a lute
Lute
Lute can refer generally to any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back, or more specifically to an instrument from the family of European lutes....

 and a spinet
Spinet
A spinet is a smaller type of harpsichord or other keyboard instrument, such as a piano or organ.-Spinets as harpsichords:While the term spinet is used to designate a harpsichord, typically what is meant is the bentside spinet, described in this section...

, and 52 "sacred books", including books by Martin Luther
Martin Luther
Martin Luther was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517...

 and Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

. He was originally buried at Old St. John's Cemetery in Leipzig. His grave went unmarked for nearly 150 years. In 1894 his coffin was finally discovered and reburied in a vault within St. John's Church. This building was destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II, and in 1950 Bach's remains were taken to their present resting place at Leipzig's Church of St. Thomas.

Legacy


A comprehensive obituary of Bach was published (without attribution) four years later in 1754 by Lorenz Christoph Mizler
Lorenz Christoph Mizler
Lorenz Christoph Mizler von Kolof was a German physician, mathematician, and writer on music.-Biography:...

 (another former student) in Musikalische Bibliothek a musical periodical. The obituary remains probably "the richest and most trustworthy" early source document about Bach. However, after his death, Bach's reputation as a composer at first declined; his work was regarded as old-fashioned compared to the emerging classical style. Initially he was remembered more as a player, teacher and as the father of his children, most notably Johann Christian
Johann Christian Bach
Johann Christian Bach was a composer of the Classical era, the eleventh and youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach. He is sometimes referred to as 'the London Bach' or 'the English Bach', due to his time spent living in the British capital...

 and Carl Philipp Emanuel
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
right|250pxCarl Philipp Emanuel Bach was a German Classical period musician and composer, the fifth child and second son of Johann Sebastian Bach and Maria Barbara Bach...

.

During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, Bach was widely recognised for his keyboard work. Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

, Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of...

, and Chopin
Frédéric Chopin
Frédéric François Chopin was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. He is considered one of the great masters of Romantic music and has been called "the poet of the piano"....

 were among his most prominent admirers. Beethoven described him as the "Urvater der Harmonie", "original father of harmony". Composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann, sometimes known as Robert Alexander Schumann, was a German composer, aesthete and influential music critic. He is regarded as one of the greatest and most representative composers of the Romantic era....

, and Felix Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Barthóldy , use the form 'Mendelssohn' and not 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians gives ' Felix Mendelssohn' as the entry, with 'Mendelssohn' used in the body text...

 began writing in a more contrapuntal style after being exposed to Bach's music.

The composer's reputation among the wider public was prompted in part by Johann Nikolaus Forkel
Johann Nikolaus Forkel
Johann Nikolaus Forkel , was a German musician, musicologist and music theorist.-Biography:...

's 1802 biography. Felix Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Barthóldy , use the form 'Mendelssohn' and not 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians gives ' Felix Mendelssohn' as the entry, with 'Mendelssohn' used in the body text...

 significantly contributed to the revival of Bach's reputation with his 1829 Berlin performance of the St Matthew Passion. In 1850, the Bach Gesellschaft
Bach Gesellschaft
The Bach-Gesellschaft was a society formed in 1850 for the express purpose of publishing the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach without editorial additions. Their collected works are known as the Bach-Gesellschaft-Ausgabe....

 (Bach Society) was founded to promote the works; by 1899, the Society had published a comprehensive edition of the composer's works, with a conservative approach to editorial intervention. At the time Bach's music was mostly performed on the newly prominent Hammerklavier.

During the 20th century, the process of recognising the musical as well as the pedagogic value of some of the works has continued, perhaps most notably in the promotion of the Cello Suites
Cello Suites (Bach)
The Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach are some of the most performed and recognizable solo compositions ever written for cello...

 by Pablo Casals
Pablo Casals
Pau Casals i Defilló , known during his professional career as Pablo Casals, was a Spanish Catalan cellist and conductor. He is generally regarded as the pre-eminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century, and one of the greatest cellists of all time...

. Another development has been the growth of the "authentic" or period performance movement, which, as far as possible, attempts to present the music as the composer intended it. Examples include the playing of keyboard works on the harpsichord
Harpsichord
A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It produces sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed.In the narrow sense, "harpsichord" designates only the large wing-shaped instruments in which the strings are perpendicular to the keyboard...

 rather than a modern grand piano and the use of small choirs or single voices instead of the larger forces favoured by 19th- and early 20th-century performers.
The Bach
Bach (crater)
Bach is a double-ringed impact basin centered in the Bach quadrangle of Mercury, which is named after this crater....

 Crater on Mercury is named for him.

Bach's contributions to music—or, to borrow a term popularised by his student Lorenz Christoph Mizler
Lorenz Christoph Mizler
Lorenz Christoph Mizler von Kolof was a German physician, mathematician, and writer on music.-Biography:...

, his "musical science"—are frequently bracketed with those by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 in English literature and Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

 in physics. In Germany, many streets were named and statues were erected in honour of Bach during the twentieth century. Three pieces of Bach's work were included onboard the Voyager
Voyager program
The Voyager program is a U.S program that launched two unmanned space missions, scientific probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. They were launched in 1977 to take advantage of a favorable planetary alignment of the late 1970s...

 spacecrafts in the form of golden records
Voyager Golden Record
The Voyager Golden Records are phonograph records which were included aboard both Voyager spacecraft, which were launched in 1977. They contain sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth, and are intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial life form, or for...

 that were meant to "represent our hope and our determination and our goodwill".

Works


In 1950, a catalogue called Bach Werke Verzeichnis (Bach Works Catalogue) was compiled by Wolfgang Schmieder
Wolfgang Schmieder
Wolfgang Schmieder was a German musicologist.Schmieder was born in Bromberg. In 1950, he published the BWV, or Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis , a catalog of musical works by Johann Sebastian Bach. The numbering system used in the BWV has since become a nearly universal standard, used by scholars and...

, who organised the work of Bach thematically. 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. BWV 1–224 are cantata
Bach cantata
Bach cantata became a term for a cantata of the German Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach who was a prolific writer of the genre. Although many of his works are lost, around 200 cantatas survived....

s; BWV 225–249, the large-scale choral works including his Passions
Passions (Bach)
According to his obituary, Johann Sebastian Bach wrote "five passions, of which one is for double chorus". Two works have survived: the St John Passion and the St Matthew Passion , this last using double chorus...

; BWV 250–524, chorale
Chorale
A chorale was originally a hymn sung by a Christian congregation. In certain modern usage, this term may also include classical settings of such hymns and works of a similar character....

s and sacred songs; BWV 525–748, organ
Organ (music)
The organ , is a keyboard instrument of one or more divisions, each played with its own keyboard operated either with the hands or with the feet. The organ is a relatively old musical instrument in the Western musical tradition, dating from the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria who is credited with...

 works; BWV 772–994, other keyboard works; BWV 995–1000, lute
Lute
Lute can refer generally to any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back, or more specifically to an instrument from the family of European lutes....

 music; BWV 1001–40, chamber music
Chamber music
Chamber music is a form of classical music, written for a small group of instruments which traditionally could be accommodated in a palace chamber. Most broadly, it includes any art music that is performed by a small number of performers with one performer to a part...

; BWV 1041–71, orchestral music; and BWV 1072–1126, canons
Canon (music)
In music, a canon is a contrapuntal composition that employs a melody with one or more imitations of the melody played after a given duration . The initial melody is called the leader , while the imitative melody, which is played in a different voice, is called the follower...

 and fugue
Fugue
In music, a fugue is a compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject that is introduced at the beginning in imitation and recurs frequently in the course of the composition....

s.

Organ works


Bach was best known during his lifetime as an organist, organ consultant, and composer of organ works in both the traditional German free genres—such as preludes
Prelude (music)
A prelude is a short piece of music, the form of which may vary from piece to piece. The prelude can be thought of as a preface. It may stand on its own or introduce another work...

, fantasias
Fantasia (music)
The fantasia is a musical composition with its roots in the art of improvisation. Because of this, it seldom approximates the textbook rules of any strict musical form ....

, and toccata
Toccata
Toccata is a virtuoso piece of music typically for a keyboard or plucked string instrument featuring fast-moving, lightly fingered or otherwise virtuosic passages or sections, with or without imitative or fugal interludes, generally emphasizing the dexterity of the performer's fingers...

s—and stricter forms, such as chorale prelude
Chorale prelude
In music, a chorale prelude is a short liturgical composition for organ using a chorale tune as its basis. It was a predominant style of the German Baroque era and reached its culmination in the works of J.S. Bach, who wrote 46 examples of the form in his Orgelbüchlein.-Function:The liturgical...

s and fugue
Fugue
In music, a fugue is a compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject that is introduced at the beginning in imitation and recurs frequently in the course of the composition....

s. He established a reputation at a young age for his great creativity and ability to integrate foreign styles into his organ works. A decidedly North German influence was exerted by Georg Böhm
Georg Böhm
Georg Böhm was a German Baroque organist and composer. He is notable for his development of the chorale partita and for his influence on the young J. S. Bach.-Life:Böhm was born in 1661 in Hohenkirchen, near Ohrdruf...

, with whom Bach came into contact in Lüneburg, and Dieterich Buxtehude
Dieterich Buxtehude
Dieterich Buxtehude was a German-Danish organist and composer of the Baroque period. His organ works represent a central part of the standard organ repertoire and are frequently performed at recitals and in church services...

 in Lübeck
Lübeck
The Hanseatic City of Lübeck is the second-largest city in Schleswig-Holstein, in northern Germany, and one of the major ports of Germany. It was for several centuries the "capital" of the Hanseatic League and, because of its Brick Gothic architectural heritage, is listed by UNESCO as a World...

, whom the young organist visited in 1704 on an extended leave of absence from his job in Arnstadt. Around this time, Bach copied the works of numerous French and Italian composers to gain insights into their compositional languages, and later arranged violin concertos by Vivaldi
Antonio Vivaldi
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi , nicknamed because of his red hair, was an Italian Baroque composer, priest, and virtuoso violinist, born in Venice. Vivaldi is recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers, and his influence during his lifetime was widespread over Europe...

 and others for organ and harpsichord. His most productive period (1708–14) saw the composition of several pairs of preludes and fugue
Fugue
In music, a fugue is a compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject that is introduced at the beginning in imitation and recurs frequently in the course of the composition....

s and toccatas and fugues, and of the Orgelbüchlein
Orgelbüchlein
The Orgelbüchlein was written by Johann Sebastian Bach during the period of 1708–1714, while he was court organist at the ducal court in Weimar...

 ("Little organ book"), an unfinished collection of 45 short chorale preludes that demonstrate compositional techniques in the setting of chorale
Chorale
A chorale was originally a hymn sung by a Christian congregation. In certain modern usage, this term may also include classical settings of such hymns and works of a similar character....

 tunes. After he left Weimar, Bach's output for organ fell off, although his best-known works (the six trio sonata
Trio sonata
The trio sonata is a musical form that was popular in the 17th and early 18th centuries.A trio sonata is written for two solo melodic instruments and basso continuo, making three parts in all, hence the name trio sonata...

s, the "German Organ Mass" in Clavier-Übung III
Clavier-Übung III
The Clavier-Übung III, sometimes referred to as the German Organ Mass, is a collection of compositions for organ by Johann Sebastian Bach, started in 1735–6 and published in 1739. It is considered to be Bach's most significant and extensive work for organ, containing some of his musically most...

 from 1739, and the "Great Eighteen
Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes
The Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes, BWV 651–668, are a set of chorale preludes for organ prepared by Johann Sebastian Bach in Leipzig in his final decade 1740-1750, from earlier works composed in Weimar, where he was court organist...

" chorales, revised late in his life) were all composed after this time. Bach was extensively engaged later in his life in consulting on organ projects, testing newly built organs, and dedicating organs in afternoon recitals. One of the high points may be the third part of the Clavier-Übung, a setting of 21 chorale preludes uniting the traditional Catholic Missa with the Lutheran catechism liturgy, the whole set interpolated between the mighty "St. Anne" Prelude and Fugue on the theme of the Trinity.

Other keyboard works



Bach wrote many works for the harpsichord
Harpsichord
A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It produces sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed.In the narrow sense, "harpsichord" designates only the large wing-shaped instruments in which the strings are perpendicular to the keyboard...

, some of which may have been played on the clavichord
Clavichord
The clavichord is a European stringed keyboard instrument known from the late Medieval, through the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical eras. Historically, it was widely used as a practice instrument and as an aid to composition, not being loud enough for larger performances. The clavichord produces...

. Many of his keyboard works are anthologies that show an eagerness to encompass whole theoretical systems in an encyclopaedic fashion.
  • The Well-Tempered Clavier
    The Well-Tempered Clavier
    The Well-Tempered Clavier , BWV 846–893, is a collection of solo keyboard music composed by Johann Sebastian Bach...

    , Books 1 and 2 (BWV 846–893). Each book comprises a prelude and fugue in each of the 24 major and minor keys
    Key (music)
    In music theory, the term key is used in many different and sometimes contradictory ways. A common use is to speak of music as being "in" a specific key, such as in the key of C major or in the key of F-sharp. Sometimes the terms "major" or "minor" are appended, as in the key of A minor or in the...

     in chromatic order from C major to B minor (thus, the whole collection is often referred to as 'the 48'). "Well-tempered" in the title refers to the temperament
    Musical temperament
    In musical tuning, a temperament is a system of tuning which slightly compromises the pure intervals of just intonation in order to meet other requirements of the system. Most instruments in modern Western music are tuned in the equal temperament system...

     (system of tuning); many temperaments before Bach's time were not flexible enough to allow compositions to move through more than just a few keys.
  • The 15 Inventions and 15 Sinfonias
    Inventions and Sinfonias (J. S. Bach)
    The Inventions and Sinfonias, BWV 772–801, also known as the Two and Three Part Inventions, are a collection of thirty short keyboard compositions composed by Johann Sebastian Bach , consisting of fifteen inventions and fifteen sinfonias...

     (BWV 772–801). These short two- and three-part contrapuntal works are arranged in the same chromatic order as the Well-Tempered Clavier, omitting some of the less used keys. The pieces were intended by Bach for instructional purposes.
  • Three collections of dance suites
    Suite
    In music, a suite is an ordered set of instrumental or orchestral pieces normally performed in a concert setting rather than as accompaniment; they may be extracts from an opera, ballet , or incidental music to a play or film , or they may be entirely original movements .In the...

    : the English Suites (BWV 806–811)
    English Suites (BWV 806–811)
    The English Suites, BWV 806–811, are a set of six suites written by the German composer Johann Sebastian Bach for harpsichord and generally thought to be the earliest of Bach's 19 suites for keyboard, the others being the 6 French Suites, BWV 812-817, the 6 Partitas, BWV 825-830 and the Overture in...

    , the French Suites (BWV 812–817)
    French Suites (BWV 812–817)
    The French Suites, BWV 812-817, are six suites which Johann Sebastian Bach wrote for the clavier between the years of 1722 and 1725. The suites were later given the name 'French' as a means of contrast with the English Suites...

     and the Partitas for keyboard
    Partitas for keyboard (825–830)
    The Partitas, BWV 825–830, are a set of six keyboard suites written by Johann Sebastian Bach, published from 1726 to 1730 as Clavier-Übung I, and the first of his works to be published under his direction...

     (BWV 825–830). Each collection contains six suites built on the standard model (Allemande
    Allemande
    An allemande is one of the most popular instrumental dance forms in Baroque music, and a standard element of a suite...

    Courante
    Courante
    The courante, corrente, coranto and corant are some of the names given to a family of triple metre dances from the late Renaissance and the Baroque era....

    Sarabande
    Sarabande
    In music, the sarabande is a dance in triple metre. The second and third beats of each measure are often tied, giving the dance a distinctive rhythm of quarter notes and eighth notes in alternation...

    –(optional movement)–Gigue
    Gigue
    The gigue or giga is a lively baroque dance originating from the British jig. It was imported into France in the mid-17th century and usually appears at the end of a suite...

    ). The English Suites closely follow the traditional model, adding a prelude before the allemande and including a single movement between the sarabande and the gigue. The French Suites omit preludes, but have multiple movements between the sarabande and the gigue. The partitas expand the model further with elaborate introductory movements and miscellaneous movements between the basic elements of the model.
  • The Goldberg Variations
    Goldberg Variations
    The Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, is a work for harpsichord by Johann Sebastian Bach, consisting of an aria and a set of 30 variations. First published in 1741, the work is considered to be one of the most important examples of variation form...

    (BWV 988), an aria with thirty variations
    Variation (music)
    In music, variation is a formal technique where material is repeated in an altered form. The changes may involve harmony, melody, counterpoint, rhythm, timbre, orchestration or any combination of these.-Variation form:...

    . The collection has a complex and unconventional structure: the variations build on the bass line of the aria, rather than its melody, and musical canons
    Canon (music)
    In music, a canon is a contrapuntal composition that employs a melody with one or more imitations of the melody played after a given duration . The initial melody is called the leader , while the imitative melody, which is played in a different voice, is called the follower...

     are interpolated according to a grand plan. There are nine canons within the 30 variations, one placed every three variations between variations 3 and 27. These variations move in order from canon at the unison to canon at the ninth. The first eight are in pairs (unison and octave, second and seventh, third and sixth, fourth and fifth). The ninth canon stands on its own due to compositional dissimilarities.
  • Miscellaneous pieces such as the Overture in the French Style (French Overture, BWV 831), Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue (BWV 903), and the Italian Concerto (BWV 971).


Among Bach's lesser known keyboard works are seven toccatas (BWV 910–916), four duets (BWV 802–805)
Duets (Bach)
Bach's four Duetti, BWV 802-805, are works for organ without pedals, which were included in Clavier-Übung III. Their inclusion in that work has been occasionally considered strange by scholars, and many theories have arisen surrounding the duets' origins, purpose and significance.*BWV 802: E...

, sonata
Sonata
Sonata , in music, literally means a piece played as opposed to a cantata , a piece sung. The term, being vague, naturally evolved through the history of music, designating a variety of forms prior to the Classical era...

s for keyboard (BWV 963–967), the Six Little Preludes
Prelude (music)
A prelude is a short piece of music, the form of which may vary from piece to piece. The prelude can be thought of as a preface. It may stand on its own or introduce another work...

 (BWV 933–938), and the Aria variata alla maniera italiana (BWV 989).

Orchestral and chamber music


Bach wrote music for single instruments, duets and small ensembles. Bach's works for solo instruments—the six sonatas and partitas for violin (BWV 1001–1006), the six cello suites
Cello Suites (Bach)
The Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach are some of the most performed and recognizable solo compositions ever written for cello...

 (BWV 1007–1012) and the Partita for solo flute (BWV 1013)—may be listed among the most profound works in the repertoire. Bach composed a suite and several other works for solo lute. He wrote trio sonata
Trio sonata
The trio sonata is a musical form that was popular in the 17th and early 18th centuries.A trio sonata is written for two solo melodic instruments and basso continuo, making three parts in all, hence the name trio sonata...

s; solo sonatas (accompanied by continuo
Figured bass
Figured bass, or thoroughbass, is a kind of integer musical notation used to indicate intervals, chords, and non-chord tones, in relation to a bass note...

) for the flute and for the viola da gamba; and a large number of canons
Canon (music)
In music, a canon is a contrapuntal composition that employs a melody with one or more imitations of the melody played after a given duration . The initial melody is called the leader , while the imitative melody, which is played in a different voice, is called the follower...

 and ricercar
Ricercar
A ricercar is a type of late Renaissance and mostly early Baroque instrumental composition. The term means to search out, and many ricercars serve a preludial function to "search out" the key or mode of a following piece...

e, mostly for unspecified instrumentation. The most significant examples of the latter are contained in The Art of Fugue
The Art of Fugue
The Art of Fugue , BWV 1080, is an incomplete work by Johann Sebastian Bach . It was most likely started at the beginning of the 1740s, if not earlier. The first known surviving version, which contained 12 fugues and 2 canons, was copied by the composer in 1745...

and The Musical Offering
The Musical Offering
The Musical Offering , BWV 1079, is a collection of canons and fugues and other pieces of music by Johann Sebastian Bach, all based on a single musical theme given to him by Frederick II of Prussia , to whom they are dedicated...

.

Bach's best-known orchestral works are the Brandenburg concertos
Brandenburg concertos
The Brandenburg concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach are a collection of six instrumental works presented by Bach to Christian Ludwig, margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt, in 1721 . They are widely regarded as among the finest musical compositions of the Baroque era...

, so named because he submitted them in the hope of gaining employment from Margrave
Margrave
A margrave or margravine was a medieval hereditary nobleman with military responsibilities in a border province of a kingdom. Border provinces usually had more exposure to military incursions from the outside, compared to interior provinces, and thus a margrave usually had larger and more active...

 Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg-Schwedt in 1721; his application was unsuccessful. These works are examples of the concerto grosso
Concerto grosso
The concerto grosso is a form of baroque music in which the musical material is passed between a small group of soloists and full orchestra...

 genre. Other surviving works in the concerto
Concerto
A concerto is a musical work usually composed in three parts or movements, in which one solo instrument is accompanied by an orchestra.The etymology is uncertain, but the word seems to have originated from the conjunction of the two Latin words...

 form include two violin concertos (BWV 1041 and BWV 1042); a Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor (BWV 1043), often referred to as Bach's "double" concerto; and concertos for one, two, three and even four harpsichords
Harpsichord concertos (J. S. Bach)
The harpsichord concertos, BWV 1052-1065, are concertos for harpsichord, strings and continuo by Johann Sebastian Bach. There are seven complete concertos for a single harpsichord, , three concertos for 2 harpsichords , two concertos for 3 harpsichords , and one concerto for 4 harpsichords,...

. It is widely accepted that many of the harpsichord concertos were not original works, but arrangements of his concertos for other instruments now lost. A number of violin, oboe and flute concertos have been reconstructed from these. In addition to concertos, Bach wrote four orchestral suites
Orchestral suites (Bach)
The four Orchestral Suites or Ouvertures BWV 1066–1069 are a set of compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach, probably composed between 1725 and 1739 in Leipzig...

, a series of stylised dances for orchestra, each preceded by a French overture
French overture
The French overture is a musical form widely used in the Baroque period. Its basic formal division is into two parts, which are usually enclosed by double bars and repeat signs. They are complementary in styles , and the first ends with a half-cadence that requires an answering structure with a...

. The work now known as the Air on the G String
Air on the G String
The "Air on the G String" is an adaptation by August Wilhelmj of the Air, the second movement from Johann Sebastian Bach's Orchestral Suite No...

 is an arrangement for the violin made in the nineteenth century from the second movement of the Orchestral Suite No. 3. An arrangement of the Air for cello and piano was the very first piece of Bach's music to be recorded, in 1902 in Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

, by the Russian cellist Aleksandr Verzhbilovich
Aleksandr Verzhbilovich
Aleksandr Valerianovich Verzhbilovich was a Russian classical cellist of Polish descent.His name also appears as Verzhbilovic, Verzhibilovic, Vierzbilovich, Wierzbillowicz, Wierzbiłłowicz, Wierzbilovich, Wierzbilovicz, and Wierzbilowicz...

.

Vocal and choral works


Bach performed a cantata
Cantata
A cantata is a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment, typically in several movements, often involving a choir....

 on Sunday at the Thomaskirche, on a theme corresponding to the lectionary
Lectionary
A Lectionary is a book or listing that contains a collection of scripture readings appointed for Christian or Judaic worship on a given day or occasion.-History:...

 readings of the week, as determined by the Lutheran Church Year calendar. He did not perform cantatas during the seasons of Lent and Advent. Although he performed cantatas by other composers, he composed at least three entire sets of cantatas, one for each Sunday and holiday of the church year, at Leipzig, in addition to those composed at Mühlhausen
Mühlhausen
Mühlhausen is a city in the federal state of Thuringia, Germany. It is the capital of the Unstrut-Hainich district, and lies along the river Unstrut. Mühlhausen had c. 37,000 inhabitants in 2006.-History:...

 and Weimar. In total he wrote more than 300 sacred cantatas, of which approximately 195 survive.

His cantatas vary greatly in form and instrumentation. Some of them are only for a solo singer; some are single choruses; some are for grand orchestras; some only a few instruments. A common format consists of a large opening chorus followed by one or more recitative-aria pairs for soloists (or duets) and a concluding chorale
Chorale
A chorale was originally a hymn sung by a Christian congregation. In certain modern usage, this term may also include classical settings of such hymns and works of a similar character....

. The recitative is part of the corresponding Bible reading for the week and the aria is a contemporary reflection on it. The melody of the concluding chorale often appears as a cantus firmus
Cantus firmus
In music, a cantus firmus is a pre-existing melody forming the basis of a polyphonic composition.The plural of this Latin term is , though the corrupt form canti firmi is also attested...

 in the opening movement. Among the best known cantatas are Christ lag in Todes Banden, BWV 4,
Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis, BWV 21, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80, Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106 (Actus Tragicus), Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140 and Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147.

In addition, Bach wrote a number of secular cantatas, usually for civic events such as council inaugurations. These include wedding cantatas, the Wedding Quodlibet
Quodlibet, BWV 524
The Quodlibet or Wedding Quodlibet, BWV 524, is a lighthearted composition by Johann Sebastian Bach which today exists only in fragmentary form. The line In diesem Jahre haben wir zwei Sonnenfinsternissen places the composition of the piece in or shortly after 1707, when central Germany was...

, the Peasant Cantata and the Coffee Cantata
Coffee Cantata
Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht is a secular cantata written by Johann Sebastian Bach between 1732 and 1734...

, which concerns a girl whose father will not let her marry until she gives up her addiction to that extremely popular drink.

Bach's large choral-orchestral works include the grand scale St Matthew Passion and St John Passion, both written for Good Friday vespers services at St. Thomas and St. Nicholas Churches in alternate years, and the Christmas Oratorio
Christmas Oratorio
The Christmas Oratorio BWV 248, is an oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach intended for performance in church during the Christmas season. It was written for the Christmas season of 1734 incorporating music from earlier compositions, including three secular cantatas written during 1733 and 1734 and a...

(a set of six cantatas for use in the Liturgical season
Liturgical year
The liturgical year, also known as the church year, consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches which determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed, and which portions of Scripture are to be read. Distinct liturgical colours may appear in...

 of Christmas). The Magnificat
Magnificat
The Magnificat — also known as the Song of Mary or the Canticle of Mary — is a canticle frequently sung liturgically in Christian church services. It is one of the eight most ancient Christian hymns and perhaps the earliest Marian hymn...

in two versions (one in E-flat major, with four interpolated Christmas-related movements, and the later and better-known version in D major), the Easter Oratorio
Easter Oratorio
The Easter Oratorio , BWV 249, is an oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach, Kommt, eilet und laufet , first performed in Leipzig in 1725.- History :...

, and the Ascension Oratorio compare to large, elaborate cantatas, of a lesser extent than the Passions and the Christmas Oratorio.
Bach's other large work, the Mass in B minor, was assembled by Bach near the end of his life, mostly from pieces composed earlier (such as the cantatas Gloria in excelsis Deo, BWV 191
Gloria in excelsis Deo, BWV 191
Gloria in excelsis Deo , BWV 191, is a sacred cantata written by the German Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach, and the only one of his church cantatas set to a Latin text. It was likely first performed in Leipzig at Christmas of 1745 to celebrate the end of the Second Silesian War...

and Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, BWV 12). It was never performed in Bach's lifetime, or even after his death, until the 19th century.

All of these works, unlike the six motets (Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied; Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf; Jesu, meine Freude; Fürchte dich nicht; Komm, Jesu, komm!; and Lobet den Herrn alle Heiden), have substantial solo parts as well as choruses.

Bach's signature in a copy of a three volume Bible commentary by the orthodox Lutheran theologian, Abraham Calov, was discovered in 1934 in a house in Frankenmuth, Michigan in the US. It is not known how the Bible came to America, but it was purchased in a used book store in Philadelphia in the 1830s or 1840s by an immigrant and taken to Michigan. Its provenance was verified and it was subsequently deposited in the rare book holdings of Concordia Seminary
Concordia Seminary
Concordia Seminary is located in Clayton, Missouri, an inner-ring suburb on the western border of St. Louis, Missouri. The institution's primary mission is to train pastors, deaconesses, missionaries, chaplains, and church leaders for the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod . The current president of...

 in St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

. It contains Bach's markings of texts for his cantatas and notes. It is only rarely displayed to the public. A study of the so-called Bach Bible was prepared by Robin Leaver, titled J.S. Bach and Scripture: Glosses from the Calov Bible Commentary (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1985).

Musical style



Bach's musical style arose from his extraordinary fluency in contrapuntal invention and motivic control, his flair for improvisation at the keyboard, his exposure to South German, North German, Italian and French music, and his apparent devotion to the Lutheran liturgy. His access to musicians, scores and instruments as a child and a young man, combined with his emerging talent for writing tightly woven music of powerful sonority, appear to have set him on course to develop an eclectic, energetic musical style in which foreign influences were injected into an intensified version of the pre-existing German musical language. Throughout his teens and 20s, his output showed increasing skill in the large-scale organisation of musical ideas, and the enhancement of the Buxtehudian model of improvisatory preludes and counterpoint of limited complexity. The period 1713–14, when a large repertoire of Italian music became available to the Weimar court orchestra, was a turning point. From this time onwards, he appears to have absorbed into his style the Italians' dramatic openings, clear melodic contours, the sharp outlines of their bass lines, greater motoric and rhythmic conciseness, more unified motivic treatment, and more clearly articulated schemes for modulation.

There are several more specific features of Bach's style. The notation of Baroque melodic lines tended to assume that composers would write out only the basic framework, and that performers would embellish this framework by inserting ornamental notes and otherwise elaborating on it. Although this practice varied considerably between the schools of European music, Bach was regarded at the time as being on one extreme end of the spectrum, notating most or all of the details of his melodic lines—particularly in his fast movements—thus leaving little for performers to interpolate. This may have assisted his control over the dense contrapuntal textures that he favoured, which allow less leeway for the spontaneous variation of musical lines. Bach's contrapuntal textures tend to be more cumulative than those of Händel and most other composers of the day, who would typically allow a line to drop out after it had been joined by two or three others. Bach's harmony is marked by a tendency to employ brief tonicisation
Tonicization
In music, tonicization is the treatment of a pitch other than the overall tonic as a temporary tonic in a composition. Tonicization is achieved through the use of the scale and harmonies of the tonicized key. The most common method of tonicization uses leading tones, dominant-tonic chord...

—subtle references to another key that lasts for only a few beats at the longest—particularly of the supertonic
Supertonic
In music or music theory, the supertonic is the second degree or note of a diatonic scale, one step above the tonic. In music theory, the supertonic chord is symbolized by the Roman numeral ii in a major scale, indicating that the chord is a minor chord , or ii in a natural minor scale, indicating...

, to add colour to his textures.


At the same time, Bach, unlike later composers, left the instrumentation of major works including The Art of Fugue and The Musical Offering open. It is likely that his detailed notation was less an absolute demand on the performer and more a response to a 17th-century culture in which the boundary between what the performer could embellish and what the composer demanded to be authentic was being negotiated.

Bach's apparently devout, personal relationship with the Christian God in the Lutheran
Lutheran Orthodoxy
Lutheran orthodoxy was an era in the history of Lutheranism, which began in 1580 from the writing of the Book of Concord and ended at the Age of Enlightenment. Lutheran orthodoxy was paralleled by similar eras in Calvinism and tridentine Roman Catholicism after the...

 tradition and the high demand for religious music of his times inevitably placed sacred music at the centre of his repertory. He taught Luther's Small Catechism
Luther's Small Catechism
Luther's Small Catechism was written by Martin Luther and published in 1529 for the training of children. Luther's Small Catechism reviews The Ten Commandments, The Apostles' Creed, The Lord's Prayer, The Sacrament of Holy Baptism, The Office of the Keys & Confession, and The Sacrament of the...

 as the Thomascantor in Leipzig, and some of his pieces represent it. Specifically, the Lutheran chorale hymn tune, the principal musical aspect of the Lutheran
Lutheran Orthodoxy
Lutheran orthodoxy was an era in the history of Lutheranism, which began in 1580 from the writing of the Book of Concord and ended at the Age of Enlightenment. Lutheran orthodoxy was paralleled by similar eras in Calvinism and tridentine Roman Catholicism after the...

 service, was the basis of much of his output. He invested the chorale prelude, already a standard set of Lutheran forms, with a more cogent, tightly integrated architecture, in which the intervallic patterns and melodic contours of the tune were typically treated in a dense, contrapuntal lattice against relatively slow-moving, overarching statements of the tune.

Bach's theology informed his compositional structures: Sei Gegrüsset is perhaps the finest example where there is a theme with 11 variations (making 12 movements) that, while still one work, becomes two sets of six—to match Lutheran preaching principles of repetition. At the same time the theological interpretation of 'master' and 11 disciples would not be lost on his contemporary audience. Further, the practical relationship of each variation to the next (in preparing registration and the expected textural changes) seems to show an incredible capacity to preach through the music using the musical forms available at the time.


Bach's deep knowledge of and interest in the liturgy led to his developing intricate relationships between music and linguistic text. This was evident from the smallest to the largest levels of his compositional technique. On the smallest level, many of his sacred works contain short motifs that, by recurrent association, can be regarded as pictorial symbolism and articulations of liturgical concepts. For example, the octave leap, usually in a bass line, represents the relationship between heaven and earth; the slow, repeated notes of the bass line in the opening movement of the cantata Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106) depict the laboured trudging of Jesus as he was forced to drag the cross from the city to the crucifixion site.

On the largest level, the large-scale structure of some of his sacred vocal works is evidence of subtle, elaborate planning: for example, the overall form of the St Matthew Passion illustrates the liturgical and dramatic flow of the Easter story on a number of levels simultaneously; the text, keys and variations of instrumental and vocal forces used in the movements of the Ascension Oratorio Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen, BWV 11) may form a structure that resembles the cross.

Beyond these specific musical features arising from Bach's religious affiliation is the fact that he was able to produce music for an audience that was committed to serious, regular worship, for which a concentrated density and complexity was accepted. His natural inclination may have been to reinvigorate existing forms, rather than to discard them and pursue more dramatic musical innovations. Thus, Bach's inventive genius was almost entirely directed towards working within the structures he inherited, according to most critics and historians.


Bach's inner personal drive to display his musical achievements was evident in a number of ways. The most obvious was his successful striving to become the leading virtuoso and improviser of the day on the organ. Keyboard music occupied a central position in his output throughout his life, and he pioneered the elevation of the keyboard from continuo
Figured bass
Figured bass, or thoroughbass, is a kind of integer musical notation used to indicate intervals, chords, and non-chord tones, in relation to a bass note...

 to solo instrument in his numerous harpsichord concertos
Harpsichord concertos (J. S. Bach)
The harpsichord concertos, BWV 1052-1065, are concertos for harpsichord, strings and continuo by Johann Sebastian Bach. There are seven complete concertos for a single harpsichord, , three concertos for 2 harpsichords , two concertos for 3 harpsichords , and one concerto for 4 harpsichords,...

 and chamber movements with keyboard obbligato
Obbligato
In classical music obbligato usually describes a musical line that is in some way indispensable in performance. Its opposite is the marking ad libitum. It can also be used, more specifically, to indicate that a passage of music was to be played exactly as written, or only by the specified...

, in which he himself probably played the solo part. Many of his keyboard preludes are vehicles for a free improvisatory virtuosity in the German tradition, although their internal organisation became increasingly more cogent as he matured. Virtuosity is a key element in other forms, such as the fugal movement from Brandenburg Concerto No. 4, in which Bach himself may have been the first to play the rapid solo violin passages. Another example is in the organ fugue from BWV 548, a late work from Leipzig, in which virtuosic passages are mapped onto Italian solo-tutti alternation within the fugal development.

Related to his cherished role as teacher was his drive to encompass whole genres by producing collections of movements that thoroughly explore the range of artistic and technical possibilities inherent in those genres. The most famous examples are the two books of the Well Tempered Clavier, each of which presents a prelude and fugue in every major and minor key, in which a variety of contrapuntal and fugal techniques are displayed. The English and French Suites, and the Partitas, all keyboard works from the Köthen period, systematically explore a range of metres and of sharp and flat keys. This urge to manifest structures is evident throughout his life: the Goldberg Variations
Goldberg Variations
The Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, is a work for harpsichord by Johann Sebastian Bach, consisting of an aria and a set of 30 variations. First published in 1741, the work is considered to be one of the most important examples of variation form...

 (1746?), include a sequence of canons at increasing intervals (unison, seconds, thirds, etc.), and The Art of Fugue
The Art of Fugue
The Art of Fugue , BWV 1080, is an incomplete work by Johann Sebastian Bach . It was most likely started at the beginning of the 1740s, if not earlier. The first known surviving version, which contained 12 fugues and 2 canons, was copied by the composer in 1745...

 (1749) can be seen as a compendium of fugal techniques.

Performances


Present-day Bach performers usually pursue either of two traditions: so-called "authentic performance
Historically informed performance
Historically informed performance is an approach in the performance of music and theater. Within this approach, the performance adheres to state-of-the-art knowledge of the aesthetic criteria of the period in which the music or theatre work was conceived...

 practice", utilising historical techniques, or alternatively the use of modern instruments and playing techniques, with a tendency towards larger ensembles. In Bach's time orchestras and choirs were usually smaller than those known to, for example, Brahms, and even Bach's most ambitious choral works, such as his Mass in B minor and Passions, are composed for relatively modest forces. Some of Bach's important chamber music does not indicate instrumentation, which gives greater latitude for variety of ensemble.

Easy listening
Easy listening
Easy listening is a broad style of popular music and radio format that emerged in the 1950s, evolving out of big band music, and related to MOR music as played on many AM radio stations. It encompasses the exotica, beautiful music, light music, lounge music, ambient music, and space age pop genres...

 realisations of Bach's music and their use in advertising contributed greatly to Bach's popularisation in the second half of the twentieth century. Among these were the Swingle Singers' versions of Bach pieces that are now well-known (for instance, the Air on the G string
Air on the G String
The "Air on the G String" is an adaptation by August Wilhelmj of the Air, the second movement from Johann Sebastian Bach's Orchestral Suite No...

, or the Wachet Auf chorale prelude) and Wendy Carlos
Wendy Carlos
Wendy Carlos is an American composer and electronic musician. Carlos first came to notice in the late 1960s with recordings made on the Moog synthesizer, then a relatively new and unknown instrument; most notable were LPs of synthesized Bach and the soundtrack for Stanley Kubrick's film A...

's 1968 groundbreaking recording Switched-On Bach
Switched-On Bach
-Details:The album consists of pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, performed on a Moog synthesizer, a modular synthesizer system, one of which can be seen at the back of the room on the album cover. "Switched-On Bach," or "S-OB" as Carlos referred to it, was recorded on a custom-built 8 track recorder...

, using the then recently invented Moog electronic synthesiser
Moog synthesizer
Moog synthesizer may refer to any number of analog synthesizers designed by Dr. Robert Moog or manufactured by Moog Music, and is commonly used as a generic term for older-generation analog music synthesizers. The Moog company pioneered the commercial manufacture of modular voltage-controlled...

. Jazz musicians have adopted Bach's music, with Jacques Loussier
Jacques Loussier
Jacques Loussier is a French pianist and composer. He is well-known for his jazz interpretations in trio formation of many of Johann Sebastian Bach's works, such as the Goldberg Variations.-Early life and education :...

, Ian Anderson
Ian Anderson (musician)
Ian Scott Anderson, MBE is a Scottish singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, best known for his work as the leader and flautist of British rock band Jethro Tull.-Early life:...

, Uri Caine
Uri Caine
Uri Caine is an American classical and jazz pianist and composer.-Early years:The son of Burton Caine, a professor at Temple Law School, Caine began playing piano at seven and studied with French jazz pianist Bernard Peiffer at 12. He later studied at the University of Pennsylvania where he came...

 and the Modern Jazz Quartet
Modern Jazz Quartet
The Modern Jazz Quartet was established in 1952 by Milt Jackson , John Lewis , Percy Heath , and Kenny Clarke . Connie Kay replaced Clarke in 1955...

 among those creating jazz versions of Bach works.

See also




External links


General reference
  • The J.S. Bach Home Page – JSBach.org, by Jan Hanford
    Jan Hanford
    Jan Hanford is a composer/musician who plays piano, harpsichord and synthesizers. Her electronica has been released under the name Human Response....

    —extensive information on Bach and his works; huge and growing database of user-contributed recordings and reviews
  • J.S. Bach bibliography, by Yo Tomita of Queen's Belfast—especially useful to scholars
  • Bach-Cantatas.com, by Aryeh Oron—information on the cantatas as well as other works
  • Canons and Fugues, by Timothy A. Smith—various information on these contrapuntal works
  • Fugues of the Well-Tempered Clavier: Interactive scores calibrated to recordings by David Korevaar and analysis by Tim Smith.
  • Bach manuscripts – video lectures by Christoph Wolff
    Christoph Wolff
    Christoph Wolff is a German-born musicologist, presently on the faculty of Harvard University. Born and educated in Germany, Wolff studied organ and historical keyboard instruments, musicology and art history at the Universities of Berlin, Erlangen, and the Music Academy of Freiburg, receiving a...

     on the Bach family's hidden manuscripts archive

Scores
  • Bach Gesellschaft Download Page—the BGA volumes available for download in DJVU format.—the BGA volumes split up into individual works (PDF files), plus other editions


Recordings


Interactive Hypermedia