(Johann Sebastian Bach)


Johann Sebastian Bach was a well-known composer during the eighteenth century. He played the organ, the violin, and the harpsichord, and his ecclesiastical and secular compositions—with forms and textures borrowed from abroad—were extremely influential during the later portion of the Baroque movement.

Bach was born into a musical family; his father was director of the town performers, and his uncles were all professional instrumentalists. Bach himself learned the play the violin, harpsichord, and organ at a young age. When he was nine years old, both parents passed away, leaving him to live with his older brother, Johann Christoph, an organist. There, the younger Bach studied musical compositions and took up the clavichord under his brother’s instruction. At fourteen, he and his close friend were awarded choral scholarships to study at St. Michael’s School in Luneburg, and he remained at the school for two years, singing in the a cappella choir and playing the organ and the harpsichord. After his graduation, he secured a position as court musician to Duke Johann Ernst in Weimar, but after only seven months he accepted a more lucrative job as organist at St. Boniface’s Church in Arnstadt. Bach remained at this position for two years, but after a long absence—during which he studied under the well-respected organist Dietrich Buxtehude—he was fired and moved on to a new post at St. Blasius’s Church in Muhlhausen. He did not stay in the city for more than a year before returning to Weimar, but he did remain long enough to marry his second cousin, who later gave birth to seven children.

Back in Weimar, Bach served as concertmaster at the ducal court, composing several orchestral works until he fell out of favor with his employer and was jailed for nearly a month. After his release and dismissal, Bach immediately went to the court of Prince Leopold, where he took up a position as director of music. He wrote several secular works at this time, as the prince’s religion did not call for worship music. Unfortunately, while he was traveling with Leopold, his wife passed away suddenly. The composer married again within the year, and his second wife gave birth to thirteen more children, six of whom survived to become talented musicians. By 1723, Bach had accepted a new career as Cantor of Thomasschule, a position that required him to instruct school-aged children in singing as well as provide music for the weekly church services. While there, he also served in the courts of the King of Poland and Frederick II of Prussia. His health began to decline in the later years of his life, and in 1950 he underwent surgery on his eyes, which were growing increasingly blind. The operation was unsuccessful, and he passed away soon after.

Key events during the life of Johann Sebastian Bach:

Mother and father died, went to live with his brother
Received a choral scholarship to study at St. Michael's School
Took a position as court musician to Duke Johann Ernst
Accepted a post as organist of St. Boniface's Church
Studied under organist Dietrich Buxtehude
Accepted an organist job in Mulhausen but then left for a better position in Weimar
Jailed for a month before being dismissed from Weimar; went to serve as director of music to Prince Leopold
Wfie died and Bach remarried
Appointed Cantor of Thomasschule in Leipzig
Chosen as court composer for the King of Poland
Had eye surgery to combat growing blindness

Book Links
Johann Sebastian Bach  by  George Upton

Short Biography
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