92 Facts About Bach


Bach family already counted several composers when Johann Sebastian was born as the last child of a city musician in Eisenach.

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Bach died of complications after eye surgery in 1750 at the age of 65.

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Bach enriched established German styles through his mastery of counterpoint, harmonic, and motivic organisation, and his adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France.

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Bach's compositions include hundreds of cantatas, both sacred and secular.

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Bach often adopted Lutheran hymns, not only in his larger vocal works, but for instance in his four-part chorales and his sacred songs.

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Bach wrote extensively for organ and for other keyboard instruments.

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Bach composed concertos, for instance for violin and for harpsichord, and suites, as chamber music as well as for orchestra.

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Bach's music was further popularised through a multitude of arrangements, including the Air on the G String and "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring", and of recordings, such as three different box sets with complete performances of the composer's oeuvre marking the 250th anniversary of his death.

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Bach was the eighth and youngest child of Johann Ambrosius Bach, the director of the town musicians, and Maria Elisabeth Lammerhirt.

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Bach's uncles were all professional musicians, whose posts included church organists, court chamber musicians, and composers.

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One uncle, Johann Christoph Bach, introduced him to the organ, and an older second cousin, Johann Ludwig Bach, was a well-known composer and violinist.

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Bach's mother died in 1694, and his father died eight months later.

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Bach received valuable teaching from his brother, who instructed him on the clavichord.

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Bach came into contact with sons of aristocrats from northern Germany who had been sent to the nearby Ritter-Academie to prepare for careers in other disciplines.

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Bach was dissatisfied with the standard of singers in the choir.

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In 1706, Bach applied for a post as organist at the Blasius Church in Muhlhausen.

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Bach was able to convince the church and town government at Muhlhausen to fund an expensive renovation of the organ at the Blasius Church.

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In 1708 Bach wrote, a festive cantata for the inauguration of the new council, which was published at the council's expense.

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Bach's remained to help run the household until her death in 1729.

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Bach attained the proficiency and confidence to extend the prevailing structures and include influences from abroad.

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Bach learned to write dramatic openings and employ the dynamic rhythms and harmonic schemes found in the music of Italians such as Vivaldi, Corelli, and Torelli.

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Bach absorbed these stylistic aspects in part by transcribing Vivaldi's string and wind concertos for harpsichord and organ; many of these transcribed works are still regularly performed.

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Bach was particularly attracted to the Italian style, in which one or more solo instruments alternate section-by-section with the full orchestra throughout a movement.

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In Weimar, Bach continued to play and compose for the organ and perform concert music with the duke's ensemble.

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Bach began to write the preludes and fugues which were later assembled into his monumental work The Well-Tempered Clavier, consisting of two books, each containing 24 preludes and fugues in every major and minor key.

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Bach started work on the Little Organ Book in Weimar, containing traditional Lutheran chorale tunes set in complex textures.

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In 1713, Bach was offered a post in Halle when he advised the authorities during a renovation by Christoph Cuntzius of the main organ in the west gallery of the Market Church of Our Dear Lady.

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Prince Leopold, himself a musician, appreciated Bach's talents, paid him well and gave him considerable latitude in composing and performing.

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In 1719, Bach made the 35-kilometre journey from Kothen to Halle with the intention of meeting Handel; however, Handel had left the town.

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In 1723, Bach was appointed Thomaskantor, Cantor of the St Thomas School at the St Thomas Church in Leipzig, which provided music for four churches in the city: the St Thomas Church and St Nicholas Church and to a lesser extent the New Church and St Peter's Church.

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Bach frequently disagreed with his employer, Leipzig's city council, which he regarded as "penny-pinching".

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Bach was required to instruct the students of the in singing and provide church music for the main churches in Leipzig.

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Bach was assigned to teach Latin but was allowed to employ four "prefects" to do this instead.

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Bach usually led performances of his cantatas, most of which were composed within three years of his relocation to Leipzig.

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Bach started a second annual cycle the first Sunday after Trinity of 1724 and composed only chorale cantatas, each based on a single church hymn.

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Bach drew the soprano and alto choristers from the school and the tenors and basses from the school and elsewhere in Leipzig.

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Bach was not required to play any organ in his official duties, but it is believed he liked to play on the St Paul's Church organ "for his own pleasure".

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Apart from showcasing his earlier orchestral repertoire such as the Brandenburg Concertos and Orchestral Suites, many of Bach's newly composed or reworked pieces were performed for these venues, including parts of his, his violin and keyboard concertos and of course the eponymous Coffee Cantata.

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Bach presented the manuscript to the Elector in an eventually successful bid to persuade the prince to give him the title of Court Composer.

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Bach's appointment as Court Composer was an element of his long-term struggle to achieve greater bargaining power with the Leipzig council.

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In 1735 Bach started to prepare his first publication of organ music, which was printed as the third Clavier-Ubung in 1739.

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Bach programmed and adapted music by composers of a younger generation, including Pergolesi and his own students such as Goldberg .

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In 1746 Bach was preparing to enter Lorenz Christoph Mizler's Society of Musical Sciences.

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The king played a theme for Bach and challenged him to improvise a fugue based on his theme.

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Bach obliged, playing a three-part fugue on one of Frederick's fortepianos by Gottfried Silbermann, which was a new type of instrument at the time.

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The Schubler Chorales, a set of six chorale preludes transcribed from cantata movements Bach had composed some two decades earlier, were published within a year.

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Around the same time, the set of five canonic variations which Bach had submitted when entering Mizler's society in 1747 were printed.

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From an early age, Bach studied the works of his musical contemporaries of the Baroque period and those of prior generations, and those influences were reflected in his music.

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Bach's music was harmonically more innovative than his peer composers, employing surprisingly dissonant chords and progressions, often with extensive exploration of harmonic possibilities within one piece.

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Hundreds of sacred works Bach created are usually seen as manifesting not just his craft but a truly devout relationship with God.

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Bach had taught Luther's Small Catechism as the in Leipzig, and some of his pieces represent it.

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The St Matthew Passion, like other works of its kind, illustrated the Passion with Bible text reflected in recitatives, arias, choruses, and chorales, but in crafting this work, Bach created an overall experience that has been found over the intervening centuries to be both musically thrilling and spiritually profound.

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Bach published or carefully compiled in manuscript many collections of pieces that explored the range of artistic and technical possibilities inherent in almost every genre of his time except opera.

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Bach's Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, emulating the chromatic fantasia genre as used by earlier composers such as Dowland and Sweelinck in D dorian mode, is an example of this.

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Major development taking place in Bach's time, and to which he contributed in no small way, was a temperament for keyboard instruments that allowed their use in all available keys and modulation without retuning.

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Second page of the Klavierbuchlein fur Wilhelm Friedemann Bach is an ornament notation and performance guide that Bach wrote for his eldest son, who was nine years old at the time.

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Bach was generally quite specific on ornamentation in his compositions, and his ornamentation was often quite elaborate.

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Bach's dealing with ornamentation can be seen in a keyboard arrangement he made of Marcello's Oboe Concerto: he added explicit ornamentation, which some centuries later is played by oboists when performing the concerto.

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Apart from the 5th Brandenburg Concerto and the Triple Concerto, which already had harpsichord soloists in the 1720s, Bach wrote and arranged his harpsichord concertos in the 1730s, and in his sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord neither instrument plays a continuo part: they are treated as equal soloists, far beyond the figured bass.

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Bach wrote virtuoso music for specific instruments as well as music independent of instrumentation.

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Notwithstanding that the music and the instrument seem inseparable, Bach made transcriptions for other instruments of some pieces of this collection.

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Similarly, for the cello suites, the virtuoso music seems tailored for the instrument, the best of what is offered for it, yet Bach made an arrangement for lute of one of these suites.

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Bach exploited the capabilities of an instrument to the fullest while keeping the core of such music independent of the instrument on which it is performed.

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Bach devoted more attention than his contemporaries to the structure of compositions.

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Bach's known preoccupation with structure led to various numerological analyses of his compositions, although many such over-interpretations were later rejected, especially when wandering off into symbolism-ridden hermeneutics.

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Bach sought collaboration with various text authors for his cantatas and major vocal compositions, possibly writing or adapting such texts himself to make them fit the structure of the composition he was designing when he could not rely on the talents of other text authors.

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Bach's collaboration with Picander for the St Matthew Passion libretto is best known, but there was a similar process in achieving a multi-layered structure for his St John Passion libretto a few years earlier.

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Bach composed Passions for Good Friday services and oratorios such as the Christmas Oratorio, which is a set of six cantatas for use in the liturgical season of Christmas.

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St John Passion was the first Passion Bach composed during his tenure as Thomaskantor in Leipzig.

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Apart from his own work, Bach performed cantatas by Telemann and by his distant relative Johann Ludwig Bach.

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Bach's motets are pieces on sacred themes for choir and continuo, with instruments playing colla parte.

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In 1733 Bach composed a Kyrie–Gloria Mass for the Dresden court.

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Bach wrote for organ and for stringed keyboard instruments such as harpsichord, clavichord and lute-harpsichord.

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Bach was best known during his lifetime as an organist, organ consultant, and composer of organ works in both the traditional German free genres and stricter forms .

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Around this time, Bach copied the works of numerous French and Italian composers to gain insights into their compositional languages, and later arranged violin concertos by Vivaldi and others for organ and harpsichord.

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Bach was extensively engaged later in his life in consulting on organ projects, testing new organs and dedicating organs in afternoon recitals.

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Bach wrote sonatas for a solo instrument such as the viola de gamba accompanied by harpsichord or continuo, as well as trio sonatas .

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Bach composed and transcribed concertos for one to four harpsichords.

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The work was published and performed in the early 19th century, and although a score partially in Bach's handwriting exists, the work was later considered spurious.

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For other works, Bach's authorship was put in doubt without a generally accepted answer to the question of whether or not he composed it: the best known organ composition in the BWV catalogue, the Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, was indicated as one of these uncertain works in the late 20th century.

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Also in the contemporary press, Bach had his detractors, such as Johann Adolf Scheibe, suggesting he write less complex music, and his supporters, such as Johann Mattheson and Lorenz Christoph Mizler.

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Bach's surviving family members, who inherited a large part of his manuscripts, were not all equally concerned with preserving them, leading to considerable losses.

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Sara Itzig Levy became an avid collector of works by Johann Sebastian Bach and his sons and was a "patron" of CPE Bach.

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Bach's influence was felt in the next generation of early Romantic composers.

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Bach's music was transcribed and arranged to suit contemporary tastes and performance practice by composers such as Carl Friedrich Zelter, Robert Franz, and Franz Liszt, or combined with new music such as the melody line of Charles Gounod's Ave Maria.

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In Germany all throughout the century, Bach was coupled to nationalist feelings, and the composer was inscribed in a religious revival.

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In England, Bach was coupled to an existing revival of religious and baroque music.

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Bach's music was extensively listened to, performed, broadcast, arranged, adapted, and commented upon in the 1990s.

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High-resolution facsimiles of Bach's autographs became available at the Bach Digital website.

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In 2019, Bach was named the greatest composer of all time in a poll conducted among 174 living composers.

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Bach was originally buried at Old St John's Cemetery in Leipzig.

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Bach's grave went unmarked for nearly 150 years, but in 1894 his remains were located and moved to a vault in St John's Church.

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