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Johann Sebastian Bach 1685-1750

free scores by J S Bach
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Prelude in C BWV999
220px-Johann_Sebastian_Bach - online jigsaw puzzle - 63 pieces

 

Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer,organist,violist and violinist. His works are revered for their intellectual depth, technical command as well as thair artistic beauty.Bach's musical style arose from his extraordinary fluency in contrapuntal invention and motivic control, his flair for improvisation at the keyboard.  Bach's abilities as an organist were highly respected throughout Europe during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now regarded as the supreme composer of the Baroque, and as one of the greatest of all time.

 

Bach came from a very talented musical family but he was orphaned at the age of 10 and went to live with his oldest brother, Johann Christoph Bach, who instructed him on the clavichord. At the age of 14, Bach, along with his older school friend George Erdmann, was awarded a choral scholarship to study at the prestigious St. Michael's School in Lüneburg . In 1703 Bach took up a post as a court musician in the chapel of Duke Johann Ernst in Weimar, a large town in Thuringia. His role there is unclear, but appears to have included menial, non-musical duties. During his seven-month tenure at Weimar, his reputation as a keyboard player spread. For several months in 1705–06, he visited the great master Dieterich Buxtehude and his Abendmusik in the northern city of Lübeck. This well-known incident in Bach's life involved his walking some 400 kilometres (250 mi) each way to spend time with the man he probably regarded as the father figure of German organists. The trip reinforced Buxtehude's style as a foundation for Bach's earlier works, and that he overstayed his planned visit by several months suggests that his time with the old man was of great value to his art. According to legend, both Bach and George Frideric Handelwanted to become amanuenses of Buxtehude, but neither wanted to marry his daughter, as that was a condition for the position

In1706 he was offered a more lucrative post as organist at St. Blasius's in Mühlhausen, a large and important city to the north. The following year, he took up this senior post with significantly improved pay and conditions, including a good choir. Four months after arriving at Mühlhausen, he married his second cousin from Arnstadt, Maria Barbara Bach. They had seven children, four of whom survived to adulthood.

After barely a year at Mühlhausen, Bach left, to become the court organist and concertmaster at the ducal court in Weimar. In the following year, their first child was born and they were joined by Maria Barbara's elder, unmarried sister, who remained with them to assist in the running of the household until her death in 1729. It was in Weimar that the two musically significant sons were born—Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.

In Weimar, he had the opportunity to play and compose for the organ, and to perform a varied repertoire of concert music with the duke's ensemble. A master of contrapuntal technique, Bach's steady output of fugues began in Weimar. The largest single body of his fugal writing isDas wohltemperierte Clavier ("The well-tempered keyboard"—Clavier meaning keyboard instrument).  It consists of two collections compiled in 1722 and 1744, each containing a prelude and fugue in every major and minor key. This is a monumental work for its masterful use of counterpoint and its exploration, for the first time, of the full range of keys–and the means of expression made possible by their slight differences from each other—available to keyboardists when their instruments are tuned according to systems such as that of Andreas Werckmeister.

On 7 July 1720, while Bach was abroad with Prince Leopold, tragedy struck: his wife, Maria Barbara, the mother of his first 7 children, died suddenly. The following year, the widower met Anna Magdalena Wilcke, a young, highly gifted soprano 17 years his junior, who performed at the court in Köthen; they married on 3 December 1721. Together they had 13 more children, six of whom survived into adulthood

In 1723, Bach was appointed Cantor of Thomasschule, adjacent to the Thomaskirche(St. Thomas's Lutheran Church) in Leipzig, as well as Director of Music in the principal churches in the town. This was Bach's first government position in a career that had mainly involved service to the aristocracy. This final post, which he held for 27 years until his death, brought him into contact with the political machinations of his employer, the Leipzig Council and Bach was required to make a number of compromises with respect to his working conditions

In 1747, Bach went to the court of Frederick II of Prussia in Potsdam, where the king played a theme for Bach and challenged him to improvise a fugue based on his theme. Bach improvised a three-part fugue on Frederick's pianoforte, then a novelty, and later presented the king with aMusical Offering which consists of fugues, canons and a trio based on the "royal theme", nominated by the monarch. Its six-part fugue includes a slightly altered subject more suitable for extensive elaboration.

Bach became increasingly blind, and the celebrated British eye surgeon John Taylor (who had operated unsuccessfully on Handel) operated on Bach while visiting Leipzig in 1750. Bach died on 28 July 1750 at the age of 65.

 

 

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