Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach, a talented musician and composer, was much less known inter vivos than, for example, Mozart or Beethoven. But he was probably the first musician who successfully combined the best of Italian, French and German music traditions. He did not become well known to the general public during his lifetime and was forgotten in half a century after his death. Surprisingly, Bach’s fame has been growing through years and nowadays he is recognized as one of the greatest composers of all time. Interest in Bach’s music revived and these days it is much more popular than it was during the composer’s life. It’s a paradox, but the composer who has become old-fashioned soon after his death has started to become more and more popular over two hundred and fifty years, moreover, in modern popular culture societies.Most musicologists agree that Bach’s music technique was brilliant and certainly better than the other great composers had. He was familiar with all the musical works of his time and used them perfectly. Nobody can compete with Bach in the art of counterpoint, when two or more different melodies are performed simultaneously. Bach’s creative works are admired for a diversity and conformity of orchestrations, clear expression of sounding themes and melodies.Bach was a prolific composer. His works include around 300 cantatas, compositions of 48 preludes, 140 other preludes, more than 100 works for harpsichord, 23 concerts, 4 overtures, 5 masses, 3 oratorios and many plays. He wrote more than 800 major musical works in all. Being a deeply religious Lutheran, Bach wanted his music to be played in church and dedicated most of his works to religious music. He did not try to discover new music forms, but brought to perfection the existing ones. He was the best organ and harpsichord performer among his contemporaries. And if Bach did not receive recognition during his lifetime as a composer, then his organ improvisation were unmatched. It had to admit even his rivals (Benstock, 1992, p. 18). In the last years of his life and after death Bach’s composer fame began to fade: his style was considered old-fashioned compared to blooming classicism. His was better known and remembered as a performer, teacher and father of Bach, Jr., primarily Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, whose music was widely known. However, many of the major composers such as Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin knew and loved the works of Johann Sebastian. For example, when visiting St. Thomas’ schools, Mozart heard one of the motets (BWV 225) and exclaimed: There is so much to learn! Later he asked the notes and studied them long and happily. Beethoven greatly appreciated Bach’s music. As a child he played preludes and fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier and, later, called Bach a true father of harmony. It was also he who was so amazed by Bach’s music that exclaimed – not a brook, but a sea (the word Bach in German means brook). Chopin used to lock in a room and played music of Bach before his own concerts. The works of Johann Sebastian’s had an effect on many composers through ages. Some themes from the works of Bach, for example, the theme from Toccata and Fugue in D minor, were reused in music of the 20th century (Bridges, 2002, p. 35). The biography, written in 1802 by Johann Nikolaus Forkel who knew Bach personally, has spurred interest to Bach’s music in the general public. But a real revival of Bach’s music began with the performance of St. Matthew Passion in 1829, Berlin, organized by Felix Mendelssohn. The audience later called Bach a great true Protestant, brilliant and erudite genius. They learned to appreciate him in full measure again. Mendelssohn continued to promote Bach’s music in subsequent years, which resulted in a growth of the composer’s popularity. In 1850, the Bach Society was founded, which set the goal of collecting, deep