Powerful Essays
Johanna Sebastian Bach was a composer of the Baroque era, the most celebrated member of a large family of northern German musicians. Although he was admired by his contemporaries primarily as an outstanding harpsichordist, organist, and expert on organ building. Bach is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time and is celebrated as the creator of the Brandenburg Concertos, The Well-Tempered Clavier, the Mass in B Minor, and numerous other masterpieces of church and instrumental music. Appearing at a propitious moment in the history of music, Bach was able to survey and bring together the principal styles, forms, and national traditions that had developed during preceding generations and, by virtue of his synthesis, enrich them all.
J.S. Bach was born at Eisenach, Thuringia, on March 21, 1685, the youngest child of Johann Ambrosius Bach and Elisabeth Lammerhirt. Ambrosius was a string player, employed by the town council and the ducal court of Eisenach. Johann Sebastian started school in 1692 or 1693 and did well in spite of frequent absences. Of his musical education at this time, nothing definite is known; however, he may have picked up the rudiments of string playing from his father, and no doubt he attended the Georgen Church, where Johann Christoph Bach was organist until 1703. This Christoph had been a pupil of the influential keyboard composer, Johann Pachelbel and he apparently gave Johann Sebastian his first formal keyboard lessons. The young Bach again did well at school, until in 1700 his voice secured him a place in a select choir of poor boys at the school at the Michaels Church, Luneburg. He seems to have returned to Thuringia in the late summer of 1702. By this time he was already a reasonably proficient organist. His experience at Luneburg, if not at Ohrdruf, had turned him away from the secular string-playing tradition, though not exclusively, a composer and performer of keyboard and
sacred music. The next few months are wrapped in mystery, but by March 4, 1703, he was a member of the orchestra employed by Johann Ernst, Duke von Weimar. This post was a mere stopgap; he probably already had his eye on the organ then being built at the New Church in Arnstadt. When it was finished, he helped test the organ in August 1703 he was appointed organist at the age of 18. Arnstadt documents imply that he had been court orga...

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... contemporary Handel, Bach was the last great representative of the Baroque era in an age which was already reflecting the Baroque style. For about 50 years after Bach's death, his music was neglected. This was only natural; in the days of Haydn and Mozart, no one could be expected to take much interest in a composer who had been considered old-fashioned even in his lifetime—especially since his music was not readily available, and half of it, the church cantatas, was fast becoming useless as a result of changes in religious thought. At the same time, musicians of the late 18th century were neither so ignorant of Bach's music nor so insensitive to its influence as some modern authors have suggested. Emanuel Bach's debt to his father was considerable, and Bach exercised a profound and acknowledged influence directly on Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.

Works Cited

Farb, Peter. Great Lives Great Deeds. New York: Readers Digest Association. 1964.
Kirby, F.E. A short History of Keyboard Music. New York: The Free Press. 1966.
Kupferberg, Herbert. Basically Bach. New York: McGraw-Hill. 1985.
Schonberg, Harold. The Lives of the Great Composers. New York: W.W. Norton. 1970.
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