Johann Sebastian Bach Biography

Johann Sebastian Bach was a great German music composer. Read this biography to learn about the profile, childhood, life and timeline of this famous musician.

Johann Sebastian Bach

Quick Facts

Gender: Male
Birthday: 31 March 1685
Died: 28 July 1750
Nationality: German
Sun Sign: Aries
Spouse/Ex-: Anna Magdalena Bach, Maria Barbara Bach
Father: Johann Ambrosius Bach
Mother: Maria Elisabeth Lämmerhirt
Siblings: Johann Christoph Bach III, Johann Jacob Bach
Children: Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Johann Christian Bach, Johann Gottfried Bernhard Bach, Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach, Gottfried Heinrich Bach, Catharina Dorothea Bach, Elisabeth Juliana Friderica Bach, Maria Sophia Bach, Johann Christoph Bach, Léopold Augustus Bach, Christiana Sophia Enrietta Bach, Regina Susanna Bach, Johanna Carolina Bach, Christiana Dorothea Bach, Christiana Benedicta Louisa, Regina Johanna Bach, Johann August Abraham Bach, Ernestus Andreas Bach, Christian Gottlieb Bach
Education: St. Michael's School

Johann Sebastian Bach was a Germen composer violinist and pianist harpsichordist, who belonged to the Baroque period. Johann Sebastian Bach contributed much towards many established styles of German composing. He was blessed with amazing harmonic, counterpoint and motivic organization, he created his own era in German music. Johann Sebastian Bach adopted many rhythms, forms and textures from abroad to enrich his music. He had composed many aesthetically beautiful musical compositions which were revered for their technical command and intellectual depth. Many of his works like Brandenburg Concertos, well-tempered Clavier, Mass in B minor etc. were immense success and they are beautiful enough to find their way directly to the listeners’ heart and are still known today, staying ahead of times. Born in a musical family, he inherited music by birth and was naturally talented. Apart from creating wonderful music, he was a talented singer too. Read on to know more about the life and career of the most prominent musician of Baroque period.

Early Life

Bach was born to a German musical family on 21st March 1685 in Eisenach, Saxe-Eisenach (Germany). His father, Johann Ambrosius Bach, was a prominent musician and director of the town’s musicians. Maria Elisabeth Lämmerhirt was his mother. He was born as eighth child of the couple. He learnt violin and harpsichord from his father. His uncles, all of them, were professional singers. He learnt organ from his uncle Johann Christopher Bach. John Ludwig Bach, a famous violinist and composer cum violinist, was his second cousin. Bach’s mother died in 1694, when he was nine years old. Unfortunately, he lost his father soon after his mother. Bach then moved to Ohrdruf, along with his brother Johann Christopher Bach (J.C. Bach) who was working as organist at Mischaeliskirche. He studied there, along with performing and copying. This was an important span in his life for he received valuable lessons from his brother. J.C Bach introduced him to many leading German composers like Johann Jakob Froberger, Johann Pachelbel, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Louis Marchand, Marin Marais etc. and Italian clavierist Girolamo Frescobaldi. He joined a local school in 1699 and received lessons on Latin, French, Greek, Italian and theology.
Bach and his friend George Erdmann were awarded scholarship to study at the St. Michael’s School, a prestigious institution in Luneburg. They remained there for a year and got exposed to wider aspect of European culture. He was able to play three-manual organ and harpsichords along with singing. While here, he came into contact with sons of Germen noblemen.

Career And Success

He got graduated in 1703 from St. Michel’s School. He got an offer as an organist in Sangerhausen, which he turned down and then joined the chapel of Duke Johann Ernst in Weimar. The job included menial non-musical duties. Soon after joining, he got an opportunity to inspect a new organ at St. Boniface’s Church, as he became famous for hid keyboard skills by then. He gave an inaugural recital which impressed the Church authorities. This helped him acquire the position of organist at St. Boniface Church, in August 1703 with lighter duties and generous salary.
During 1705-06 Bach went to Lubeck to visit the great composer cum organist Dieterich Buxtehude and his musical performance. Bach wanted to be assistant and successor to Buxtehude but could not agree with the musician’s condition that Bach must marry his daughter if he longs to become his assistant. Bach’s long absence from church annoyed the church authorities. This, along with Bach’s dissatisfaction with the standard of the choir singers made considerable tension between him and the church authorities. Bach got an offer as organist at St. Blasius’s Church, in 1706, with a higher remuneration. Bach accepted this offer the following year. Bach convinced the church authorities for an expensive renovation of the church and he wrote an elaborate cantata for the inauguration of the new council in 1708 and this was a great success.
Bach returned to Weimar in 1708 and worked for the ducal court as concertmaster and thus, was able to work with many professional musicians. It was during this time that his first child was born. Bach added dramatic openings and dynamic motor-rhythms and harmonic schemes as found in many Italian music styles. Bach advised the authorities of Marktkirche Unser Lieben Frauen on the main organ, when they were renovating the west gallery and he was offered a post there. It was inaugurated during 1716 and Bach along with Johann Kuhnau played, which, according to the Musicologists, was his first Christmas cantata. Bach finally fall out of favor and was jailed for about one month during 1717, charged for stubbornly forcing to relieve him and got dismissed after freed from prison.
Bach was then hired by Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen, as his Kapellmaster (director of music) in 1717. The prince himself was a musician and appreciated Bach’s talents. Bach joined Thomaskirche, Leipzig as the Cantor of Thomasschule. Also, he served as Director of Music in principal Churches of the town, Nikolaikirche and the Paulinerkirche.
In 1729, Bach performed under the directorship of Collegium Musicum and thus broadened his composing and performance. He composed Kyrie and Gloria and presented the manuscripts to the King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania and Elector of Saxony, August III and consequently, he was appointed as Royal Court Composer. He worked again on Kyrie and Gloria and made it a complete mass, which he never performed in his lifetime. This mass, however, is considered as the greatest choral work of all time. In 1735 Bach drafted a genealogy of his family, with a title “Origin of the Musical Bach Family”. Bach visited the King of Prussia in 1747 and faced a challenge of improvising a fugue. Bach accepted the challenge and improvised a three part fugue and presented this before the king as a Musical Offering consisting of fungus, cannons and a trio. The last work he completed was a chorale prelude dedicated to his son-in-law Johann Altnikol.

Personal Life

In 1706 he married Maria Barbara Bach, his second cousin. The couple had seven children but, only four of them survived to adulthood. Among them were the two famous music composers Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. He lost his wife in 1720. He then married Anna Magdalena Wilcke, a famous soprano, on December 3rd, 1721. The couple had 13 children but only six of them survived to adulthood. All three of his sons - Gottfried Heinrich, Johann Christoph Friedrich, and Johann Christian, pursued musical career. His daughters were Elisabeth Juliane Friederica, Johanna Carolina and Regina Susanna. Elisabeth Juliane Friederica married Johann Christoph Altnikol, Bach's pupil.

Death

Bach had an eye surgery on March 1750. He died on 28th July and as per the reports appeared in the contemporary newspapers, his death was due to an unsuccessful eye surgery whereas modern historians clam that his death was due to stroke complicated by pneumonia.

Legacy

Lorenz Christoph Mizler published a detailed obituary in 1754, which serves to be the richest and most trustworthy document on Bach. His reputation declined after death, as the classical style became popular and his style was considered as old-fashioned. But he was widely revered for his keyboard works and famous musicians like Mozart, Beethoven, Robert Schumann, Chopin and Felix Mendelssohn were his staunch admirers. Beethoven described Bach as “original father of harmony”. Johann Nikolaus Forkel’s wrote Bach’s biography in 1802 and this contributed to Bach’s reputation. Many streets in Germany were named after Bach and many statues of him were erected during twentieth century.

Motets

Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied
Der Geist hilft unsrer Schwachheit auf
Jesu, meine FreudeLiturgical Works In Latin
Mass in B minor
Missa in F major
Missa in A major

Passions And Oratorios

St Matthew Passion (Matthäus-Passion)
Matthäus-Passion (earlier version)
John Passion (Johannes-Passion)Songs
Hier lieg' ich nun
Das walt' mein Gott
Gott mein Herz dir Dank

Time Line

1685: Bach was born to a German musical family in Eisenach, Saxe-Eisenach.
1799: He joined a local school in Ohrdruf.
1703: He acquired the position of organist at St. Boniface Church.
1706: He married Maria Barbara Bach.
1708: He worked for the ducal court as concertmaster.
1717: He was jailed for stubbornly forcing the issue of his dismissal. Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen hired Bach as his Kapellmaster.
1720: He lost his wife.
1721: He married Anna Magdalena Wilcke.
1779: He was appointed as Royal Court Composer.
1750: He died on 28th July.

Citation Information

Article Title

Johann Sebastian Bach Biography

Author

Findbiographies.com Editors

Website Name

The Findbiographies.com website

URL

https://www.findbiographies.com/johann-sebastian-bach-171.php

Last Updated

June 12, 2019

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