Johann Sebastian Bach, Part III: His Music & His Legacy

 

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This is Part III of my series on Bach’s life.
Read Part I Here: Bach’s Childhood
Read Part II Here: Bach’s Musical Career

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Bach’s Music

Mozart said of Bach’s music, “Now there is something from which a man can learn something.” Mozart was right. Studying Bach’s music can be a challenging exercise. Bach did not simplify his musical concepts, and his music stimulates the intellects as well as the ears of his listeners. German composer Robert Schumann said it best: “Playing and studying Bach convinces us that we are all numbskulls.”

 

Mini-bio series on Bach, Part 3, His Music & Legacy.  www.sfzmusicblog.com #bach #music #history #biographies

 

Bach was an innovator, and he devoted himself to the improvement of every area of his craft. Prior to Bach, keyboard musicians played their instrument with straight fingers and no thumbs. Bach developed the technique of curved fingers and included his thumb when playing the keyboard. He was highly involved in developing the theory of harmony, and he was also active in the constantly-developing construction of instruments – old and new.

To say that he was a prolific composer would be a really dramatic understatement. The incredible depth and variety of his compositions are just another proof of his musical genius. Over the course of his life Bach wrote over 1000 pieces of music, now loved by tens upon tens of thousands around the globe.

 

Bach’s Legacy

In the years following his death, Bach was missed as a teacher and an organist. His incredible accomplishments as a composer, however, were largely neglected.

It wasn’t until 1829, nearly one hundred years later, that the young German composer Felix Mendelssohn resurrected Bach’s Passion According to St. Matthew. This performance, conducted by the twenty-year-old Mendelssohn himself, revived an interest in Bach’s work. Over the next century and a half, a deep love for Bach’s music developed and spread across the world.

In the 1840, the German Bach Society was founded, and in 1850 the massive undertaking of publishing all of Bach’s works commenced. When this fifty-year project was completed in 1900, the Bach-Werke-Verzeichinis (abbreviated BWV and meaning Bach Works Catalogue) included all of Bach’s compositions in a staggering 46 volumes.

Mini-bio series on Bach, Part 3, His Music & Legacy.  www.sfzmusicblog.com #bach #music #history #biographiesJ.S. Bach passed an incredible musical legacy to his children. Several of his sons became famous musicians and composers – Wilhelm Friedmann, Carl Philipp Emanuel, Johann Christian.

C.P.E. Bach devoted much of his life to spreading awareness of his father’s work. 1753 saw the publication of his own work, An Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments – a musical treatise that studied the techniques and theories of his father.

Johann Sebastian Bach was a composer, a mentor, a leader, a teacher, a husband, a father, a performer, an innovator, a life-long learner, a Christian. He knew that his creativity was derivative of the One True Original, and he inscribed “Soli Deo Gloria” (trans. To the Glory of God Alone) regularly into his manuscripts. He was a master of his field but a servant to his King.

“The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”  J.S. Bach

Mini-bio series on Bach, Part 3, His Music & Legacy.  www.sfzmusicblog.com #bach #music #history #biographies

Mini-bio series on Bach, Part 3, His Music & Legacy.  www.sfzmusicblog.com #bach #music #history #biographies

 

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES FOR FURTHER STUDY:

Glory and Honor: The Musical & Artistic Legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach (G. Wilbur)
Bach & Baroque Music (Stefano Catucci)
Sebastian Bach: The Boy from Thuringia (Opal Wheeler)
The Story of Bach in Words & Music (Narrated CD)

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  1. Hannah

    Wonderfully written and so much good information. Thank you!

    Reply

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