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Biography Of Johann Sebastian Bach – One Of The Most Prominent Figures in Classical Music

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Born in 1685 to a dynasty of professional musicians, he was considered the greatest key board player of his day. Fingers flying, he used harpsichord and organs as his whom. Weaving together almost 6 musical frets and compositions he invented on the spot, to the amazement of listeners. He was a passionate man, he fathered 21 children many of whom carried on his musical legacy. But in his mid-60s after years of eye straining work and poor lightning his vision began to fade. A British eye surgeon was called twice but both operations failed, he took medications but the permitted therapies of the mid 1700 only made matters worse. Just 10 days before his death his world suddenly brightened for a few hours, his vision cleared, and he once again behold the faces of his huge worried family. Then a devesting stroke clogged him in darkness again. He died without having to see his reputation blossom as one of history’s brilliant and prolific composers.

At the age of seven, Bach went to school where he received religious instruction and studied Latin and other subjects. By the time he turned 10, Bach found himself an orphan after the death of both of his parents. His older brother Johann Christoph, a church organist, took care of him. Johann Christoph provided some further musical instruction for his younger brother and enrolled him in a local school. Bach stayed with his brother’s family until he was 15. Bach had a soprano singing voice, which helped him land a place at a school in Luneburg. Sometime after his arrival, his voice changed, and Bach switched to playing the violin and the harpsichord. Bach was greatly influenced by a local organist named George Bohm and took up the organ as well as writing many compositions for the organ, some of the compositions were published during his lifetime. In 1703, he landed his first job as a musician at the court of Duke Johann Ernst in Weimar.

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There he was serving as a violinist and at times then filling in for the official organist. Bach had a growing reputation as a great performer, and it was his great technical skill that landed him the position of organist at the New Church in Arnstadt. He was responsible for providing music for religious services and special events as well as giving music instruction. An independent and sometimes arrogant young man, Bach did not get along well with his students and was scolded by church officials for not rehearsing them frequently enough. Although Bach was only famous in Germany he invented key signatures and to prove that his theory worked he invented the perfect 5th tuning. Bach wrote 1128 compositions. In addition, there are 23 works which were lost or unfinished. He mostly wrote his music to play at church as well as for the king and some royalty. By 1740, Bach was struggling with his eyesight, but he continued to work despite his vision problems. In 1749, Bach started a new composition called “The Art of Fugue,” but he did not complete it. He tried to fix his failing sight by having surgery the following year, but the operation ended up leaving him completely blind. Later that year, Bach suffered a stroke. He died in Leipzig on July 28, 1750 aged 65. Bach was a master at maintaining different emotions. He was an expert storyteller as well, often using melody to suggest actions or events. He is the best composer of the Baroque era, and one of the most important figures in classical music in general. Music in Baroque societyMusicians in the Baroque period often worked either in the service of a ruler at a court or at a church.

The musical director of a church was essential to compose a steady flow of contemporary music for regular church services and festivals as well as prepare a small orchestra and choir who performed music for church services. Although the church was an important centre for music during the Baroque period, the European courts of monarchs or rulers became important music centres. The musicians would go to many different churches and courts, looking for more pleasing conditions such as a better organ in a church/ courts. Professional orchestras would perform their compositions for people who had a special interest in music. They also performed in many special occasions, in churches to praise god and they also performed in front of the king. As community concerts were rare, ordinary members of the community usually only heard music during church services. The exception to this was opera, mainly in Italy where the rapid rise in fame of this new art form prompted the building of many new opera houses for public performances. Composers also began to travel to different countries which led to a spreading of national music styles:

  1. No. 2 in F major Consists of musical instruments Tromba (Trumpet), Flauto (recorder), Oboe, Violino (violin), Violone (early form of double bass) and a cembalo (harpsicord).
  2. This piece follows a Ritornello Form, while being played as a sequence and the texture is Polyphonic. There are 3 movements Allegro, followed by Andante in D minor and Allegro assai (fast, slow, fast). The trumpet playing the most commonly well-known concertino voice. Melodically speaking, there are basically two repeating themes, or ritornello, upon which each instrument, whether concerto or ripieno, bases its movements. Interestingly, in the first movement, it is the uniquely high pitch of the trumpet part, as opposed to the part it is playing, which endows it with its tendency to stand out. The composition also has a lot of questions then answering (echo’s) by Asking the question in ‘f ‘or ‘mf‘ then the answering and changing it slightly quitter and subtler. Concertino: tromba in F, flauto, oboe, violinRipieno: two violins, viola, violone, cembalo and basso continuo

  3. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major
  4. The musical instruments in this include the Harpsichord, violin, flute, viola, cello and violone (early forms of the double bass). There are 3 movements Allegro, Affettuoso in B minor and Allegro (fast, slow, fast). The first movement begins monophonically, and we hear the ripieno play the ritornello theme in full.

Although we continue to hear the ritornello theme throughout the first movement, it is fragmented into shorter pieces rather than being presented in its full form. The repetition of the ritornello theme adds a sense of constancy to an otherwise chaotic movement. This need of constancy is particularly felt during the second half of the first allegro with the presentation of the harpsichord solo. Unlike the ritornello theme, the harpsichord solo is unpredictable, as it lacks a steady melody and cadenza. Most notably, the harpsichord seems to play the fastest notes out of all the instruments, and the second half is remarkably tense. Bach deceptively adds a few cadences, prompting the listener to believe that the harpsichord solo has ended. However, the ripieno eventually rejoins and repeats the full ritornello theme, allowing for the much-needed release of tension.


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