Patron: Peter Hurford Esq., OBE. DMus. FRCO
Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach, in central Germany, on 21st March 1685. The eighth child of a musical family, the young Bach was tutored in several instruments from an early age. He studied at the prestigious St Michael's School, Lüneburg, from the age of 14, following which he served as court musician in the chapel of Duke Johann Ernst in Weimar. During this time his reputation as an organist grew: he was invited to play at several churches, and took up steadily more lucrative positions. In 1706, Bach married for the first time.
Over the following years Johann Sebastian worked in various locations across Germany, including Arnstadt, Mühlhausen and Köthen. During this time he composed for harpsichord, organ and choir, although most of these early works were secular. He also penned several orchestral works, including the famous Brandenburg Concertos. He had seven children by his first wife - four of whom survived infancy - and married again after her death in 1720.
Shortly afterwards, in 1723, the couple moved to Leipzig, where Bach was appointed Cantor of St Thomas' School and Director of Music at the principal churches in the region. It was here that Bach produced much of his choral work: working with the choristers of St Thomas' and local churches the composer penned numerous cantatas, chorales and motets. He also had a further thirteen children, six of whom survived to adulthood.
In 1733, at the age of 48, Bach presented the Kyrie and Gloria of his Mass in B Minor. The Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei were added later. The mass remains one of Bach's most popular works, and is still frequently performed at locations around the world. It was also in Leipzig that Bach wrote his Passions. Although he is believed to have written four or five, only two - the St Matthew Passion and St John Passion - have survived until now.
Johann Sebastian Bach died on 28th July 1750, at the age of 65. He left behind him a musical legacy encompassing solo and ensemble; orchestral and choral; sacred and secular; chamber music and works on a magnificent scale. His attention to detail was exceptional among Baroque composers: where others wrote simply, allowing for virtuosic performances, Bach's work was embellished with ornamentation and subtle dynamics, leaving nothing to chance. This beautiful construction ensures that, even today, we can hear and perform his compositions, knowing that their sound and effect remain exactly as the composer intended.
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