Johann Sebastian Bach

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Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach was a German organist, composer, and musical scholar of the Baroque period, and is almost universally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time. His works, noted for their intellectual depth, technical command, and artistic beauty, have provided inspiration to nearly every musician after him, from Mozart to Schoenberg.

J. S. Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany, March 21, 1685. Bach’s uncles were all professional musicians ranging from church organists and court chamber musicians to composers. His father, Johann Ambrosius Bach, was the town piper in Eisenach, a post that entailed organizing all the secular music in town as well as participating in church music at the direction of the church organist (p. 309, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Vol. 2). Bach was the youngest son of Ambrosius Bach and probably learned the fundamentals of musical theory and how to play the violin from him (p104, The International Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians).

Bach's mother died when he was still a young boy and his father suddenly passed away when J. S. Bach was 9, at which time he moved in with his older brother Johann Christoph Bach, who was the organist of Ohrdruf, Germany (p105, The International Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians). While in his brother's house, J. S. Bach continued copying, studying, and playing music. According to one popular legend, late one night, when his brother was asleep, he found a collection of works by Johann Christoph's former mentor, Johann Pachelbel, and began to copy it by the moonlight. This went on every night until Johann Christoph heard his brother playing some of the distinctive tunes from his private library, at which point he demanded to know how Sebastian had come to learn them (

It was at Ohrdruf that Bach began to learn about organ building. The Ohrdruf church's instrument was in constant need of minor repairs, and young J. S. Bach was often sent into the belly of the old organ to tighten, adjust, or replace various parts. This hands-on experience with the innards of the instrument provides a good explanation for his unequalled skill at playing the organ (p. 11, Classical Music, the Rough Guide).

From 1700 to 1702 he attended St Michael's School in Lüneburg, where he sang in the church choir. After compet...

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... new dimensions in virtually every department of creative work to which he turned, in format, musical quality and technical demands (p. 22, Classical Music, the Rough Guide). His music was so complex that many analysts have uncovered layers of religious and numerological significance that is rarely found in the music of other composers. Bach’s chorale harmonizations and fugal works were soon adopted as models for new generations of musicians. Bach was the last great representative of the Baroque era in an age which was already rejecting the Baroque aesthetic in favor of a new, enlightened one (


“Johann Sebastian Bach,”

Newman, Ernest “Bach, Johann Sebastian.” The International Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians, 1985, 11th Edition, pp. 102-108

Sadie, Stanley “Bach, Johann Sebastian.” The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2002, Vol. 2, pp. 309-346

Slonimsky, Nicolas “Bach, Johann Sebastian.” Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, 2001, Vol. 1, pp. 161-172

Staines, Joe “Bach, Johann Sebastian.” Classical Music, the Rough Guide, 1998, pp. 11-22
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