Handel and Bach Comparisons

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Jacob Zeller
Professor Davidson
History of Music 114:01
15 November 2012
Bach v. Handel
When thinking of composers, whose works changed the world of music forever, many names may come to mind. Among those on that list, both Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel are figures whose effect on music has been felt worldwide. Born in the same year, these composers have much in common and many differences that illustrate their importance to their era and music as we see it today. Their individualism and creativity influenced much of their time and together, their works defined the Baroque Period as we know it today.

Johann Sebastian Bach, born in the year 1685, was a German born composer, virtuoso organist and keyboard player, a violinist, and a violist. His career includes over 1100 known compositions including 224 Cantatas, 7 motets, 24 large scale works including passions, 274 chorales, 223 organ works, and numerous cannons, fugues, chamber music, and lute pieces. Most famous for being an organist, Bach used many German styles. Perhaps one of his most famous works, Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier”, is a collection of solo keyboard music that he composed. This collection, also known as the “Well-Tempered Keyboard”, consists of 48 preludes and fugues in all of the major and minor keys. Compiled over a span of many years, these works are compiled in two books, one compiled in Kothen, the other in Leipzig. Each book contains twenty four pairs of preludes and fugues, and, being paired in each of the twelve major and minor keys, they are arranged in rising chromatic order from C to B. This is considered by many to be Bach’s greatest keyboard piece and influenced the course of history, having been studied closely by Haydn and Mozart. Upon his death in 1750, Bach had become widely known, and his influence on music grew with the years of his passing and his works are still influencing the world of music today.

George Frideric Handel, however, served just an...
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