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Bach cdc 019

A certain embarrassment strikes you when speaking about Bach. His work was too great to be reduced to a few caption notes - it was monumental, immortal, something for the centuries. And his life was too full of human configurations - a life marked by going without food, by thousands of miles trod on foot. His life was that of a person 'poor by profession', chosen freely as a natural attribute of his being a musician.

Today his popularity is too great for something new to be found. And the word 'today' should be stressed because his 'public discovery' goes back to 11 March 1829 when Felix Mendelssohn conducted the 'Passion according to Matthew'. Until that moment the music of Bach, which had fallen into oblivion after his death, had not emerged from the narrow circle of musicians and experts in the field. The path to the rediscovery of the composer was opened up by the musicologist Johann Nikolaus Forkel, a composer and organist at the University of Gottingen. In 1802 Forkel dedicated to Bach the work entitled 'On the life, art, and work of Johann Sebastian Bach. For the patriotic admirers of authentic musical art'. The reasons why Bach fell into oblivion are essentially two in number. The first is to be located is his own character and personality: throughout his life he never sought success and fame in his relations with the general public. The second is to be located in the fact that his art sums up a historical period of music - the musical Baroque - which was interrupted by the arrival of new trends: the Classicism of the Mozarts and Beethovens. Johann Sebastian was born into a family of musicians. He was the forty?fifth in a dynasty which had dominated the musical life of Lutheran Germany, Thuringia, for nearly two centuries. Johann Sebastian drew up a genealogy (subsequently completed by his son, Karl Philip Emanuel) which located the family's origins in a certain Veit (Vitus) who lived during the sixteenth century. Veit was a Hungarian miller and baker, a talented player of the cytringen, and thus known as the 'miller with the cittern'. Johann Sebastian would be the most eminent member of this dynasty - a judgement made possible by the fact that it is now finally possible to grasp to the full the immense amount of work he produced. This work was composed in the shadow of small courts and religious congregations which were talented only in brokering and scrimping in relation to payments. Yet such work contained within it the capacity to represent the past, the present, and the future. His son Karl Philip Emanuel, who was called 'the Bach of Berlin' and was for a long time in the service of King Frederick II, was also a talented musician.

Essential Chronology

1685 (21 March) He is born in Eisenach, the last of eight sons, to Johann Ambrosius and Maria Elisabetha Lammerhirt.

1694?9 His parents die. He and his brother Johann Jacob are taken in by his eldest brother, Johann Christof, who lives in Ohedruf. He finishes his children's school and continues his high?school studies at the Michaelisschule in Lüneburg until 1703. He advances his musical education by consulting the rich collection of works held at the school's library. He specialises in the organ and composition.

1703 (April) He is received into the prince's chapel of Weimar as a 'violinist and servant'. (August) He becomes organist and kantor at the 'Neue Kirche' of Arnstadt. 1707 He becomes the organist at the Church of St. Biagiu

s in Mühlhausen. He marries his cousin Maria Barbara Bach. He composes the earliest pieces which can be dated, including 'Gott ist mein König'.

1708 He returns to Weimar and accepts the position of organist and 'Kammermusikus' from the Duke of Weimar, a post he would hold for eight years. During this period he dedicates himself to the study and reworking of compositions by Italian musicians such as Vivaldi, Frescobaldi, Corelli, Albinoni, Benedetto and Alessandro Marcello. His fame as an organist and organ technician grows.

1714 (Weimar, 8 March) His son Karl Philip Emanuel is born. G. Philip Telemann is the godfather at the baptism.

1717 He becomes the chapel?master at the court of Prince Leopold of Anhal?Köthen, being remunerated with lodgings and a substantial increase in salary. He composes the 'partitas', the 'English and French suites', the 'Italian concerto', the 'toccatas', and the 'sonatas for violin and cello'.

1720 (7 July) His wife Maria Barbara dies.

1721 (3 December) He marries Anna Magdalena Wilcke, a singer, by whom he would have thirteen children. The 'Brandenburg concertos'.

1722 'The well?tempered clavier I'.

1723?50 He goes to Leipzig as 'Kantor and Director musices' at the church of St.Thomas. He composes a large number of holy cantatas, including the 'Passions', the 'Oratorios', the 'Mass in B minor', and the 'Six Motets'. (1742) He composes the 'Goldberg Variations', having been commissioned to do so by the musical patron, Keyserlingk. (1744) 'The well?tempered clavier II'.

1747 He is a guest of Frederick II at Potsdam and improvises on a Silbermann pianoforte a fugue theme suggested to him by the king ('Tema Regium'). The result was the 'Offerta Musicale' which when printed was sent to the sovereign with a long dedication.

1749 He falls ill in the spring. (June) The town council designates his successor 'were Mr Sebastian Bach to die'. At the end of the year be becomes blind. Sightless, he dictates the 'Art of Fugue' (which would be published posthumously in 1751).

1750 (January) He has two badly performed operations which worsen his condition. 28 July) He dies in Leipzig and is buried in the church of St. John. His burial place is forgotten and his remains would only be rediscovered in 1894.

1788 (Hamburg, 14 December) Karl Philip Emanuel dies. He would be Johann Sebastian's most famous and important son.

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