1685 – 1750
Four phases to his life – youth at Arnstadt, then Weimar, Cothen, and Leipzig
Born at Eisenach, Saxe-Eisenach. Youngest child of Johann A Bach, director of town musicians and Maria Lammerhirt. Dad taught him to play violin and harpsichord. One uncle (JS Bach) was famous and taught him to play organ
His Mom died in 1694, and his Dad 8 months later. He then lived with his eldest brother at Ohrdurf till 1700. Age of 14 scholarship to study at St. Michael’s school Luneburg. Here he was introduced to numerous musicians and organists
1703 Became court musician in chapel of Duke Johann Ernst in Weimar. There for 7 months. Here he started to compose organ preludes. Then moved to Muhlhausen to be the organist. Here he renovated the organ. Married his second cousin Maria Bach. They had 7 children, 4 surviving , including his second Carl Phillipp Emanual (CPE), and Wilhelm Frienemann.
Weimar 1708 – 1717
Patron – Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Saxe-Weimar
Here court organist and concertmaster. Big salary. The start of big time composition for keyboard and orchestra. Many fugues. The well-tempered Clavier, The little organ book for son Wilhelm, Lutheran Chorales
Cothen 1717 – 1723
Patron – Prince Leopold
Kapellmeister here. Prince was calvanist, so much of Bach’s work here is secular. Orchestral suites, including Brandenburg, Six suites for cello, Sonatas and Partitas for violin.
Here Bach’s wife died suddenly. Bach met Anna Magdalena Wilcke a gifted soprano. They married. Had 13 more children, 6 surviving to adulthood
Leipzig 1723 – 1750
Patron – Leipzig town council
His job to teach students at Thomasschule in singing and music.
He wrote five annual cantata cycles. He took over directorship of Collegium Musicum, composed Kyrie and Gloria, Mass in b minor
1747 At court of Frederick II of Prussia in Potsdam, where his son Carl Philip Emanuel was the Prince’s accompanyist
He developed the Art of Fugue
Musical style – He was amazingly good at contrapunctal style, and improv. He used the Italian’s drama, clear contours, sharp outlines. He noted down everything, leaving very little to performer improv.
Sacred music at the center of his life. He became a leading virtuoso and improvisor of his day, particuarly on the organ.
In his late years, from 1749, his health was in decline. He developed cataracts, and became blind. He had a major stroke, and several operations on his eyes. An unsuccesful operation by the then celebrated Eye Surgeon John Taylor was said to be the cause of his death, though other sources suggest it was pneumonia.
Large forms – Brandenburg concertos, large scale choral works
Contrapunctal – Goldberg variations, Art of Fugue
Italian influence – Italian Concerto
French influence – French Suite (harpsichord)
English influence – English Suite
Religious influence – (huge) 200 Church cantatas, Motets, Passions, Latin Service Music
Harmonic language – rooted in tonal harmony, full of drama
Bach’s Works and my analysis of his first Prelude/Fugue from the Well Tempered Clavier are now posted.
The links to these are to the right of this page……….
No changes with the RCM syllabus 09