Johann Sebastian Bach is regarded as one of the most important organist and composer of the Baroque period (Boyd 3). He was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist who works formed a major part of the baroque” music (Eidam 2, par. 4). This paper seeks to describe Johann Sebastian Bach’s personal life and contribution to music.
Johann Sebastian Bach “was born on March 21, 1685, in Eisenach, Germany” (Boyd 1, par. 1). He was the last born in the family of Johann Ambrosius Bach, a church organist, and Elizabeth Lammerhirt Bach (Boyd 1). He was born in a devoutly Lutheran musical family that had a musical tradition going back for as many as seven generations. Bach received his initial musical training from his father who taught him how to play the violin.
His good voice won him a chance to sing in the church choir. Bach’s father and mother passed away two moths apart in 1694. He was barely ten years old and thus he went to stay with his brother, Johann Christoph, who was an organist at St. Michael’s Church in Ohrdruf, Germany (Boyd 10). It was Christoph who first taught him how to play keyboard instruments.
In 1700, Bach was offered a chance to study at St. Michael’s School in Luneburg school because of his good voice (Eidam 25). He “would later be transferred to the orchestra to play the violin after a change in his voice” (Boyd 12, par. 3). During this “time he often travelled to Hamburg, Germany to hear other musicians” (Boyd Boyd 13, par. 1).
Late in 1707 Bach married his cousin, Maria Barbara Bach (Boyd 30). Maria died after 13 years of marriage and with seven surviving children. Later in 1721 Bach got married to Anna Magdalena Wulken who was a twenty year old singer at the time. She had to take over the role of a wife and a mother to his seven children (Eidam 54). In addition, during the next twenty years she presented Bach with thirteen more children (Boyd 67).
Bach “gradually lost his eyesight in his final years and was totally blind in the last year of his life”. He died on July 28, in 1750 following a stroke and high fever (Boyd 120, par. 1).
Bach was introduced to music by his father who taught him how to play the violin from an early age. He began singing in the church at an early age because of his beautiful voice. After the death of his parents in 1694 Bach went to stay with his brother Johann Christoph who taught him how to play keyboard instruments. He later joined St. Michael’s school to where he first began to compose preludes.
In 1703 Bach was hired as an organist in a church in Arnstad, Germany and these gave him a chance to further practice and thus develop his talent (Eidam 33). In 1705 he was given a leave for one month to visit a church in Lubeck, Germany, to hear how Master Dieterich Buxtehude played the organ. Bach extended his visit by four months without informing the church he worked for in Arnstad. When he came back to Arnstad he began to compose long preludes and modifying hymns in a way that confused the church congregation.
In 1707 Bach transferred to a church in Muhlhausen, Germany (Boyd 60). His new “well ordered music” such as “God is my king” impressed people there but it conflicted with his pastor’s requirement that music should remain simple (Boyd 61, par. 5). Thus he left for Weimer in 1708 where he got a job as an organist to Duke Wilhelm Ernest (Eidam 45).
During the period 1708 to 1710 Bach produced original organ music that earned him fame. Bach transferred to Cothen in 1716 at the request of Prince Leopold where he was assigned the duty to conduct the court orchestra (Eidam 47). His best instrumental and orchestral works were produced during his stay in Cothen.
During this time Bach also produced keyboard music that he used to teach his children. After the marriage of the prince there was less work for Bach and therefore he transferred to “Leipzig, Germany where he was named the cantor to replace the deceased Johann Kuhnau” (Boyd 80, par. 3). In Leizperg Bach provided different services other than his traditional organ playing that he was revered for. Among other functions he taught music classes, gave private singing lessons and taught Latin (Boyd 80).
During the Baroque period, Bach was regarded as being at the extreme end of the spectrum (Eidam 96). His music was characterized with detailed melodic lines more cumulative contrapuntal textures and this made it stand out as compared to music by others such as Handel.
Bach’s reputation declined after his death as his music was slowly being gradually considered as old fashioned (Eidam 102). However, a renewed interest in his works was prompted by Felix Mendelssohn’s Berlin performance in 1829 (Eidam 102).
Boyd, Malcolm. johann Sebastian Bach. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Print.
Eidam, Klaus. The True Life of Johann Sebastian Bach. New York: Basic Books, 2001. Print.