Biography of German Composer Johann Sebastian Bach Part 1

About the famous German composer Johnan Sebastian Bach, history and biography of the organist and classical composer.

GALLERY OF GREAT PERFORMING AND CREATIVE ARTISTS

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH (1685-1750)

Johann Sebastian Bach was born into an illustrious German family which was to provide the world with renowned musicians and composers for over two centuries. Unfortunately, Bach's work, like that of many great artists, was not appreciated by his contemporaries. During his lifetime, he was celebrated only as a performer, not as a composer. It was not until 1829, almost 80 years after his death, when Mendelssohn led a performance of the St. Matthew Passion, that Bach's music was accorded the recognition it deserved.

Bach was born in Eisenach, a small town in central Germany. He showed musical aptitude early. In 1700 he began his professional career as a chorister, then became an organist. Both his parents had died when he was young, and he had been raised and introduced to music by his brother Johann Christoph. He held a number of small apprentice musical positions and in 1707 married his second cousin, Maria Barbara Bach. She bore him seven children, four of whom survived him.

By 1708 he had gained his first major appointment as court organist in Weimar, an important center of culture in the German states at the time. Some of his best compositions for organ date from the Weimar period. Bach remained at Weimar for nine years. From there he moved to Kothen to be the chamber music director for Prince Leopold. At Kothen, his wife died. A year later, in 1721, he remarried. By Anna Magdalena, his second wife, he had thirteen more children, only six of whom survived him. During his years at Kothen, Bach wrote much of his orchestral and chamber music, including the famous Brandenburg concertos.

While holding his posts at Weimar and Kothen, Bach traveled widely throughout Germany. He was often invited to play, supervise the construction of, or test the final tuning of new and antique organs in the churches and courts of the regions he visited. In 1716, a contest of organ virtuosity was proposed, pitting Bach against Louis Marchand, organist to France's Louis XV. Prior to the event, which was to be held in Dresden, Marchand loudly boasted of his prowess. But after he heard Bach practicing, he quietly slipped out of town, acknowledging Bach's superiority.

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