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Bach: Survey of Music

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Survey of Music

Johann Sebastian Bach
Bach was born on March 21, 1685 in Eisenach, Germany. He is considered one of the greatest composers of the Baroque era; so much so that his death in 1750 marks the end of the Baroque period. He did not reach fame during his lifetime because his music was considered old-fashioned. After his death, Bach’s music was revived by Felix Mendelssohn when he presented St. Matthew’s Passion in 1829. Bach came from a musical family. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all church organists or town musicians. At age nine, both of his parents died. He moved in with his brother for a short period of time but then moved out and supported himself by playing the organ and violin and singing in the church. In 1703, he was appointed church organist in Arnstadt, where he remained for four years, after which he moved to a similar position in Muhlhausen. A year later he became court organist at Weimar, staying there until 1717, when he went into the service of Prince Leopold of Kothen as musical director. There in 1721 he completed his Brandenburg Concertos. In 1723 he was appointed musical director for the city of Leipzig where he had to supply performers for four churches. In May 1747 he played before Frederick II the Great of Prussia at Potsdam. Two years later his eyesight began to fail, and he became blind shortly before his death. During his lifetime, Bach wrote an enormous amount of sacred choral music, including more than 200 cantatas, his noble Mass in B Minor, and three settings of the Passion story, of which, one is lost. He also wrote extensively for the organ and harpsichord, the latter works including the great 48 Preludes and Fugues called The Well-Tempered Clavier and The Goldberg Variations. Among his many instrumental works are some 20 concertos and 12 unaccompanied sonatas for violin and cello.