Johann Sebastian Bach is considered one of the most brilliant composers ever born during the Baroque period, and he is revered for his musical ingenuity and style on stringed instruments. He wrote hundreds of pieces for organs, choirs, and other instruments during his lifetime. It is thought he employed mathematical genius in his works as they are intricate and complex to perform. In most of his life, he was a church organist and choir director. Time magazine ranked Bach as the 48th most influential people in history, while Biography online ranked him the 72nd.
Sebastian Bach was born in Germany on March 31, 1685, and he was from a family of musicians. Johann Ambrosius was his father who was a legendary classical musician in Eisenach and is believed to have taught Bach the violin when he was young, and he took him to many of his concerts. Bach was enrolled in a religious school at the age of seven where he learned Latin. His religious instructions, under Lutheran faith, would later on influenced most of his pieces. At ten, Bach became orphaned and his brother, Johann Christoph, an organ player at an unknown church in Uhrdruf, took him in. He stayed with his brother’s family until he was fifteen, leaving the family to go to a school in Luneburg (St. Michael’s School) where he was admitted because of his vocal and singing prowess. However, his voice changed, and he shifted to violin and harpsichord. In 1703, he got his first job at the court of Duke Ernst as a violinist.
Bach worked as an organist and musical instructor at the New Church in Arnstadt, but later left and worked for royalty. Among them was as an organist for Duke Wilhelm Ernst in Weimar and later for Prince Leopold of Anhalt, Cothen, as an organist and composer. At Prince Leopold’s, he did more of secular music because they did not employ music in the worship. Many of his works during this period were the Suites for the solo cellos, the sonatas, and partitas for solo violins, and the other suites. In 1723, he left for St. Thomas Church where he performed as an organist and music teacher. Here, he was required to give the main churches in Leipzig with weekly music as well as teach those under his tutelage.
Bach is one of the greatest composers of all time, and later great composers like Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven referred Bach as a master of keyboard counterpoint. While Mendelssohn said Bach was a composer of epic choral work, and Stravinsky said Bach was a master craftsman. It is believed Bach made 1,128 compositions and about 23 others that were thought to lost or unfinished. Bach composed six pieces known as the six Brandenburg Concertos, Four Orchestral Suites. Some of his greatest organ music he composed includes Fantasia and Fugue in G minor among many other great compositions.
Bach was a stubborn and arrogant young man, an attribute that led him to be dismissed from New Church. While working for Duke Ernst, Prince Leopold heard of his talent and wanted him, but the Duke imprisoned him, not keen to let him leave him. However, he left later soon because his wife didn’t fancy his musical endeavors. Bach lost his first wife, Maria Barbara Bach, while he was traveling with Prince Leopold (the cause is relatively unknown). Out of the seven children they had together, only four made it to adulthood. He remarried, this time a woman seventeen years his junior and had thirteen children, some of whom died while still infants.
Death and Legacy
During his later years, he struggled with poor eyesight which led him to seek operations that left him completely blind. He died on July 28, 1750, after suffering a stroke in Leipzig, Germany. In the later years after his death, his works seemed to become less and less popular as new composers thought of Bach’s style of being old-school. However, he was still remembered as a great teacher, player, composer, and father of his children who also had a flair for music. One of his most known children was Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach. Though not many of his works were published during his lifetime, posthumously, Ludwig Van Beethoven and Amadeus Mozart made his works more famous as they drew inspiration from his proficiency and mastery. The Bach Society (1850) was founded to popularize his works. After close to fifty years, the society managed to get his works known to the world.