My next composer is Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) a German composer who wrote during the Baroque period. Bach was a proficient musician, playing the organ, harpsichord, violin, and viola and wrote and improvised copious amounts of music.
J.S. Bach came from a long line of musicians and four of his children became famous composers as well. In three decades, over 50 Bachs were known musicians, several of them notable composers.
He was famous in his day as an Organist and Organ tester and constructor. As a musician, a composer, and in his ability to take a musical theme and improvise on it.
Constantin Bellermann described his playing as follows; His feet seemed to fly across the pedals as if they were winged, and mighty sounds filled the church.
Another Musician of the time stated; His fingers were all of equal strength, all equally able to play with the finest precision. He had invented so comfortable a fingering that he could master the most difficult parts with perfect ease [using 5 fingers instead of the then normal 3]. He was able to accomplish passages on the pedals with his feet which would have given trouble to the fingers of many a clever player on the keyboard.
JS Bach had 20 children, though only ten lived to adulthood. The first seven were with his first wife, Maria Barbara who suddenly died at age 35. His second wife Anna Magdalena, was a gifted Soprano and 17 years his junior. They had 13 children and a very loving relationship.
One thing that I found particularly interesting was that they would often have giant family musical parties and Anna Magdalena organized regular musical evenings featuring the whole family playing and singing together with visiting friends.
Another thing that I loved in researching his life was the fact that he would create notebooks of music for his wife (Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach) and children (many keyboard works for their instruction). What a wonderful idea, to create something for the benefit and instruction of your own family.
I also found some quotes attributed to Bach that left an impression on me;
- There’s nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself. 🙂
- I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed . . . equally well.
- The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.
- Where there is devotional music, God is always at hand with His gracious presence.
Here is a youtube video of Julian Lloyd Webber plays Bach’s Air on the G string with pianist Rebecca Woolcock.
My research for this came from the following places –
http://www.baroquemusic.org/bqxjsbach.html (for a very in-depth look)
Wikipedia (for a quick over-view)
Mr. Bach Comes to Call, The Children’s Group, 1988 CD