Bach

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The Baroque AgeJohann Sebastian BachBorn: Eisenach, March 21, 1685Died: Leipzig, July 28, 1750Regarded as perhaps the greatest composer of all time, Bach was known during his lifetime primarily as an outstanding organ player and technician. The youngest of eight children born to musical parents, Johann Sebastian was destined to become a musician. While still young, he had mastered the organ and violin, and was also an excellent singer. At the age of ten, both of his parents died within a year of each other. Young Sebastian was fortunate to be taken in by an older brother, Johann Christoph, who most likely continued his musical training. At the age of fifteen, Bach secured his first position in the choir of St. Michael’s School in Luneburg. He travelled little, never leaving Germany once in his life, but held various postitions during his career in churches and in the service of the courts throughout the country. In 1703 he went to Arnstadt to take the position of organist at the St. Boniface Church. It was during his tenure there that Bach took a month’s leave of absence to make the journey to Lubeck (some 200 miles away, a journey he made on foot) to hear the great organist Dietrich Buxtehude. One month turned into five, and Bach was obliged to find a new position at Mulhausen in 1706. In that year he also married his cousin, Maria Barbara. Bach remained at Mulhausen for only a year before taking up a post as organist and concertmaster at the court of the Duke of Weimar.In 1717, Bach moved on to another post, this time as Kapellmeister at the court of Prince Leopold in C&oumlthen. During the years Bach was in the service of the courts, he was obliged to compose a great deal of instrumental music: hundreds of pieces for solo keyboard, orchestral dance suites, trio sonatas for various instruments, and concertos for various instruments and orchestra. Of these, the most famous are the six concerti grossi composed for the Duke of Brandenburg in 1721, and the Brandenburg Concerto no. 3 exemplifies the style of the concerto grosso in which a small group of instruments (in this case a small ensemble of strings) is set in concert with an orchestra of strings and continuo. Of Bach’s music for solo instruments, the six Suites for violoncello and the Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin are among the greatest for those instruments.

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