How did Bach learn music

Johann Sebastian Bach

Little is known of the person Bach, however, as only a few letters and personal notes have survived from him. Whether at Christmas or Easter - all year round, Bach's compositions resound from churches and concert halls and have found innumerable interpretations.

The family

Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach on March 21, 1685. He must have had his musical talent in the cradle, because he is the offspring of a large family of musicians that has repeatedly produced court and church musicians over a period of 150 years.

One of his musical ancestors was Veit Bach. Johann Sebastian's great-great-grandfather was actually a baker in his main job. As he was a talented lute player, he was appointed city piper of Gotha.

Johann Christoph, a great cousin of Bach and the grandfather of his first wife Maria Barbara, also had musical talent. He was the city organist, court chamber musician of Eisenach and also composed.

A lot of music is made in Johann Sebastian's parents' house, his father Ambrosius Bach plays the organ, violin and trumpet. Since Bach lost his parents at the age of ten, he grew up with his older brother Johann Christoph in Ohrdruf.

Bach's musical abilities are noticeable early on. Even as a child, he is said to have taken notes from his brother's closet to study and copy them off. As a teenager, at the age of 15, Johann Sebastian Bach received a scholarship at the Michaelis Klosterschule in Lüneburg. From there he also travels to Hamburg.

The stations in life - first jobs

No sooner had Johann Sebastian Bach finished school than he got a job as a violinist at the court of Johann Ernst von Sachsen-Weimar. During this time he was already working as an organ expert. His brilliant knowledge and virtuoso skills brought him the position of organist in Arnstadt in 1703. In addition to his professional duties, he finds time to compose.

From Arnstadt he travels to Lübeck to hear the great organist Dietrich Buxtehude and to study with him. He doesn't stay in Arnstadt for very long. As many times in his professional life, Bach falls out with his employer.

He moved to Mühlhausen in Thuringia and became an organist in the Church of St. Blasius. Since the organ was in poor condition, Bach began to write cantatas. This is where the famous cantata "Gott ist mein König" (God is my King) is written, the original notes of which have been preserved. Despite poor working conditions, Bach is said to have put his most famous work on paper, the "Toccata and Fugue in D minor".

In Mühlhausen he also met Maria Barbara, his second cousin, and married her. Religious difficulties between the parishes and a lack of career prospects lead Bach to leave Mühlhausen after only one year and go to the Weimar court.

Here he is the servant of two masters. Uncle and nephew, Prince Wilhelm Ernst and Ernst August, have different musical priorities: the older one appreciates church choirs, the younger one loves secular music. For Bach, however, the professional change is an asset. For the stricter Wilhelm Ernst he excels as a court organist, with Ernst August he excels as a chamber musician.

The Bach family grows in Weimar. His first child was born in December 1708, followed by six more children in seven years. When his relations with Prince Wilhelm Ernst cooled down considerably, as this Bach refused the position as Kapellmeister and no longer supplied him with music paper, Bach broke new ground again professionally.

Anhalt-Köthen creative station

In August 1717, Bach became court conductor at the court of Anhalt-Köthen. In this function he leads a court orchestra, which consists of good soloists and performs at court festivities.

In Koethen he spends a very creative time musically. He writes utility music for various secular occasions. Many of his secular works were created during the time of Köthen, especially instrumental works such as the "Brandenburg Concerts", the "Well-Tempered Clavier", violin concertos and orchestral suites.

His work is overshadowed by the death of his wife Barbara. But only a short time later he married a second time: the musician's daughter Anna Magdalene Wilcke.

There are also difficulties with the employer in Köthen. Prince Leopold, actually a great music lover, marries and neglects his fondness for music.

Thomaskantor in Leipzig

In 1723 the position of Thomaskantor in Leipzig became vacant and Bach seized this opportunity. His last career change is imminent. In Leipzig he not only has to teach the Thomas students, here Bach is also responsible for all of the church music.

Bach completes an extraordinary workload. He composes a cantata for every Sunday and every feast day, which he then rehearses with the choir and the musicians.

The great vocal works such as the St. John and St. Matthew Passions - oratorios that thematize the suffering and death of Jesus Christ - are created in Leipzig.

The St. Matthew Passion represents a high point of his work and, with three hours of performance practice, is one of the most extensive works by Bach. It is certain that the St. Matthew Passion was performed for the first time on a Good Friday, on April 15, 1729, in the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig.

In Bach's private life, joy follows grief. Five more children are born in Leipzig, three of whom still die in childhood.

From the middle of 1748, Bach's handwriting reveals that the Thomaskantor had a major eye problem. Nevertheless, he continues to work on the work "The Art of Fugue". The last fugue remains unfinished, the composer goes blind. Johann Sebastian Bach died on July 28, 1750 at the age of 65 in Leipzig.

Like father, like sons

All of his five sons, who will reach adulthood, follow in their father's musical footsteps. Four of them partly surpassed his fame during Bach's lifetime and are known to this day.

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-84) is organist in Dresden and Halle, Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714-88) becomes court musician at the Prussian royal court of Frederick II and later cantor and music director at the Johanneum in Hamburg.

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach (1732-95) became concertmaster at the Bückeburger Hof and Johann Christian Bach (1735-82) worked as cathedral organist in Milan and as an opera composer in London.