Johann Sebastian Bach

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JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH

Johann Sebastian Bach was born in 1685 in the town of Thuringia, Germany where

he was raised and spent most of his life. Due to a shortage of expenses, he was confined

to a very limited geographical space, as was his career. This greatly affected his, in that

his music was not as widley known as other composers of the time. On traveling he never

went farther north than Hamburg or farther south than Carlsbad. To look back on the life

of Bach many have referred to him as "one of the greatest and most productive geniuses in

the history of Western music", particularly of the baroque era.

Born to a family that produced at least 53 prominent musicians within seven

generations, Bach received his first musical instrument from his father. Johann studied

music with his father until his father's death in 1695, at which point he moved to Ohrdruf

to study with his brother, Johann Christoph. In the early 1700's Bach began working as a

chorister at a church in Luneburg. In 1703, he became a violinist in the chamber orchestra

of Prince Johann Ernst of Weimar, but later that year he moved to Arnstadt where he

became church organist.

In 1705, Bach took a one month leave to study with the renowned Danish-born

German organist and composer Dietrich Buxtehude who was staying in Lubeck. Later,

Buxtehude's organ music would greatly influence that of Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach's

stay was so rewarding that he overstayed his leave by two months to be greatly criticized

for his breach of contract by the church authorities. Fortunately, Bach was too highly

respected to be dismissed from his position.

In 1707, Bach married his second cousin, Maria Barbara Bach, he also moved to

Mulhausen as organist for a church there, but, 1708 brought him back toWeimer. He

came back as an organist and violinist at the court of Duke Wilhelm Ernst, where he

stayed for the following nine years to become concertmaster of the court orchestra in

1714. In Weimer he composed about 30 cantatas, including his well-known funeral

cantata "God's time is the best", and also wrote organ and harpsichord works. Bach also

began traveling throughout Germany as an organ virtuoso and a consultant to organ

builders.

1717 found Bach beginning a six year employment as chapelmaster and director of

chamber music at the court of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Kothen. During this period he

primarily wrote secular music for ensembles and solo instruments, he also prepared music

books (including: Well-Tempered Clavier, Inventions, and the Little Organ Book)

for his wife and children with a purpose of teaching them keyboard technique and

musicianship. In 1720 Bach's first wife died , a year later he married Anna Magdalena

Wilcken a singer and daughter of a court musician. Anna bore him 13 children in addition

to the 7 had to him by his first wife, and helped him by copying the scores of music for his

performers.

In his later years, Bach moved to Leipzig and spent the rest of his life there. He

was positioned as musical director and choirmaster of Saint Thomas's church and church

school, this position was unsatisfactory to him. He continuously argued with the town

council, and neither the council nor the town people appreciated his musical genius. To

them all Bach was, was a stuffy old man who clung stubbornly to an obsolete form of

music. Nonetheless, the two-hundred and two cantatas surviving from the 295 that he

wrote while in Leipzig are still played today, where as much that was new at the time has

long since been forgotten.

Most of Bach's cantatas open with a section with chorus and orchestra, continue

with alternating recitatives and areas for solo voices and occumpaning, and conclude with

a chorale based on a simple Lutheran hymn. The music is at all times closely bound to the

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