100 Facts About Johann Sebastian Bach


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


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


Johann Sebastian 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.


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


Johann Sebastian Bach composed Latin church music, Passions, oratorios, and motets.


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


Johann Sebastian Bach wrote extensively for organ and for other keyboard instruments.

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


Johann Sebastian 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.


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


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


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.


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


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


Johann Sebastian 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.


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


Johann Sebastian Bach called one of them a "Zippel Fagottist".


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


Four months after arriving at Muhlhausen, Johann Sebastian Bach married Maria Barbara Johann Sebastian Bach, his second cousin.


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


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


Johann Sebastian Bach remained to help run the household until her death in 1729.


Johann Sebastian and Maria Barbara had three more children, who however did not live to their first birthday, including twins born in 1713.


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


Johann Sebastian 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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Johann Sebastian 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.


Johann Sebastian 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.


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


Johann Sebastian 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.


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


In 1713, Johann Sebastian 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.


Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Kothen, hired Johann Sebastian Bach to serve as his in 1717.


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


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


In 1723, Johann Sebastian Bach was appointed Thomaskantor, director of church music in Leipzig.


Johann Sebastian Bach had to direct the St Thomas School and provide four churches with music, the St Thomas Church, the St Nicholas Church, and to a lesser extent the New Church and St Peter's Church.


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


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


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


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


Johann Sebastian 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.


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


Bach's predecessor as cantor, Johann Kuhnau, had been music director for the St Paul's Church, the church of Leipzig University.


Johann Sebastian 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".


Apart from showcasing his earlier orchestral repertoire such as the Brandenburg Concertos and Orchestral Suites, many of Johann Sebastian 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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Johann Sebastian Bach presented the manuscript to the Elector in an eventually successful bid to persuade the prince to give him the title of Court Composer.


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


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


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


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


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


Johann Sebastian 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.


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


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


From an early age, Johann Sebastian 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.


Johann Sebastian 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.


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


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


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, Johann Sebastian Bach created an overall experience that has been found over the intervening centuries to be both musically thrilling and spiritually profound.


Johann Sebastian 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.


Johann Sebastian 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.


Modulation, or changing key in the course of a piece, is another style characteristic where Johann Sebastian Bach goes beyond what was usual in his time.


The major development taking place in Johann Sebastian 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.


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


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

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Johann Sebastian 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.


Apart from the 5th Brandenburg Concerto and the Triple Concerto, which already had harpsichord soloists in the 1720s, Johann Sebastian 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.


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


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


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


Johann Sebastian 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.


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


Johann Sebastian 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.


Johann Sebastian 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.


Johann Sebastian 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.


In 1950, Wolfgang Schmieder published a thematic catalogue of Johann Sebastian Bach's compositions called the.


Johann Sebastian 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.


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


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


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


Johann Sebastian 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.


Around this time, Johann Sebastian 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.


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


The Canonic Variations on "Vom Himmel hoch da komm' ich her" and the Schubler Chorales are organ works Johann Sebastian Bach published in the last years of his life.


Johann Sebastian 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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Johann Sebastian Bach composed and transcribed concertos for one to four harpsichords.


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


For other works, Johann Sebastian 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.


The 19th century started with publication of the first biography of the composer and ended with the completion of the publication of all of Johann Sebastian Bach's known works by the Johann Sebastian Bach Gesellschaft.


Johann Sebastian 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.


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


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


Johann Sebastian 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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


Johann Sebastian 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.