In order to gain perspective on Bach’s greatness, an understanding of music history is beneficial. It is divided into four main time periods. Famous musicians lived and composed masterpieces throughout all four eras. From 1600-1750, ornamented and extravagant pieces characterized the Baroque period. Well known musicians, Bach and Handel, achieved recognition for their choral works during this time. The Classical period spanning from 1750-1825, differentiates from the Baroque period in that music employed strict and simple technique. At the peak of the Classical period, Mozart and Beethoven produced orchestral and instrumental works. From 1825-1900, Romantic period composers such as Chopin and Schubert created lyrical and emotional music. Aaron Copland and Bela Bartok are only two of the many composers in the final era, the 20th Century period, which encompasses all music from the 1900s through modern day...
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... who sang at the churches (Koster). During this period he composed many notable pieces including, St. Matthew’s Passion and Mass in B minor. He also composed cantatas at a feverish pace, writing approximately one a week for six years (Pniewski, par. 14). In one period he wrote more cantatas than the rest of his life combined. If he had not gone to Leipzig a significant portion of his music would not exist. Also, a cantata was not small matter. It was a vocal work and consisted of several sections which fluidly transitioned between different keys, meters and tempos (Dellal). “The complexity, ambition, and harmonic daring of the greatest Bach cantatas have absolutely no rival among Baroque composers” (Dellal). The cantatas composed in Leipzig significantly contributed to the depth and greatness of Bach’s music. At 38 years of age, Bach reached the height of his career.
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