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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

BACH, Johann Sebastian
b Eisenach, 21 March 1685
d Leipzig, 28 July 1750, aged sixty-five


Musicians in Bach's family go back to the early sixteenth century, but their fame was purely local. Although Bach's education was irregular he studied music, organ and violin. Possessing a fine voice, in 1700 he was appointed boy soprano at Luneberg, from where he once walked thirty miles to Hamburg to hear Reinken play the organ. At this time his first compositions were produced. In 1703 he became, briefly, violinist in the court orchestra at Weimar, but weeks later he was appointed organist in the Bonifacius-Kirche at Arnstadt. In October 1705 he obtained a month's leave and again took a long walk, this time to Lubeck to hear Buxtehude, who had enormous influence on him, though it is doubtful if the two men ever met. On returning to Arnstadt after four months he found his job gone. In 1707, aged twenty-two, he became organist at Muhlhausen, where he married his cousin Maria Barbara. Dissension in the Lutheran Church there interfered with his composing, and in 1708 he returned to Weimar as court organist, remaining there for nine years and becoming conductor of the court orchestra. In 1716 he applied for the vacant position of Kapellmeister, but was refused. A similar position at Prince Leopold's court at Cothen was offered to him, but his Weimar employer refused to release him and had him arrested and confined for some weeks. On his release he joined Prince Leopold's court, becoming very friendly with his master. In 1719 he travelled to Halle to meet Handel; but Handel had already returned to England, so the two greatest composers of the age never met. In 1720 his wife died, and eighteen months later he married again; Anna Magdalena, daughter of a musician, was twenty. Bach, a staunch Lutheran, was unhappy about the Calvinist schools for his children, and the Prince's new wife was opposed to the arts, so in 1722 Bach applied for and received the position of cantor at the Thomasschule in Leipzig in which town he remained for the rest of his life. The four children of his first marriage were joined by seven more; in all Bach had twenty children, but many did not survive childhood. In 1743 his sight began to fail and he was soon totally blind. He died of a stroke. His grave was unmarked and lost, and was rediscovered during excavations in 1894.
1700-08 (15-23)
Five Fantasies in Bm: C: Cm: G: G for organ
Fantasy and Fugue in A minor for organ
Three Fugues in Cm: D: G for organ
Four Preludes in Am: C: C: G for organ
Four Preludes and Fugues in Am: C: Cm: Em (Short) for organ
Toccata and Fugue in E for organ
Variations on Chorales (Partitas) for organ:
(1) 'Christ, der du bist der helle Tag'
(2) 'O Gott, du frommer Gott'
(3) 'Sei gegrusset, Jesu gutig'
Fantasy in C minor for clavier
Fantasy (on a Rondo) in C minor for clavier
Fughetta in C minor for clavier
Five Fugues in C: Cm: Dm: Dm: Em for clavier
Two Preludes (Fantasies) in Am: Cm for clavier
Four Preludes and Fughettas in Dm: Em: F: G for clavier
Prelude and Fugue in A minor for clavier
Sonata in A minor (one movement) for clavier
Five Toccatas in D: Dm: Em: G: Gm for clavier
c1704 (c19)
Sonata in D for clavier
c1705 (c20)
Quodlibet, for four voices and continuo
1708-17 (23-32)
'Alla breve pro organo pleno' in D for organ
Four organ concertos (after Vivaldi and others) in Am: C: C: G
Two Fantasies and Fugues in Cm: Gm for organ
Fantasy in C minor for organ
Four Fugues in Bm: Cm: G 'Jig': Gm for organ
'Passacaglia' in C minor for organ
'Pastoralé in F for organ
Eight Preludes and Fugues in A: Am (Great): C: Cm (Great): D: Fm: G (Great): Gm for organ
Eight Short Preludes and Fugues in C: Dm: Em: F: G: Gm: Am: Bb for organ
Four Toccatas and Fugues in C: Dm (Dorian): Dm: F for organ
Three Trios in Cm: Dm: F (Aria) for organ
Fantasy in G minor for clavier
Fantasy (Prelude) in A minor for clavier
Five Fugues in A: A: A (on a theme by Albinoni): Am: Bm for clavier
Suite in A minor for clavier
Suite in Eb for clavier
Suite ('Ouverture') in F for clavier
c1714 (c29)
'Canzona' in D minor for organ
1717 (32)
Orgelbuchlein, for organ
1717-23 (32-8)
Violin Concerto in A minor with strings (& continuo)
Violin Concerto in D with strings (& continuo)
Concerto in D minor for two violins with strings (& continuo)
Fugue in G minor for violin and continuo
Sonata in E minor for violin and continuo
Sonata in G for violin and continuo
Three sonatas for flute and continuo: No 1 in C: No 2 in E minor: No 3 in E
Sonata in C for two violins and continuo
Sonata in C minor for flute, violin and continuo (?1717-23)
Sonata in G for flute, violin and continuo
Sonata in G for two flutes and continuo
Three Sonatas for clavier and flute:
No 1 in B minor: No 2 in E flat: No 3 in A minor
Three Sonatas for clavier and viola da gamba:
No 1 in G: No 2 in D: No 3 in G minor
Six Sonatas for clavier and violin:
No l in B minor: No 2 in A: No 3 in E: No 4 in C minor: No 5 in F minor: No 6 in G
Suite in A for clavier and violin
Fantasy and Fugue in A minor for clavier
Twelve Little Preludes, for clavier
Prelude and Fugue in A minor for clavier
Six Preludes for Beginners, for clavier
Suite in D for clavier (possibly not by Bach)
Two Toccatas in Cm: F# m for clavier
c1720 (c35)
Six Sonatas (Partitas)
for solo violin: No 1 in G minor: No 2 in A minor: No 3 in C: No 4 in B minor: No 5 in D minor: No 6 in E
Six Suites (Sonatas) for solo cello:
No 1 in G: No 2 in D minor: No 3 in C: No 4 in Eb: No 5 in C minor: No 6 in D 1720 (35)
'Clavierbuchlein vor Wilhelm Friedemann Bach'
1720-3 (35-8)
Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D minor for clavier
1721 (36)
The 'Brandenburg' Concerti:
No 1 in F for violino piccolo, three oboes, two horns, bassoon, strings (& continuo)
No 2 in F for violin, flute, oboe, trumpet, strings (& continuo)
No 3 in G for strings (& continuo)
No 4 in G for violin, two flutes, strings (& continuo)
No 5 in D for clavier, violin, flute, strings (& continuo)
No 6 in B flat for strings (without violins and continuo)
1722 (37)
'Clavierbuchlein vor Anna Magdalena Bachin'
Six Suites ('French'), in Dm: Cm: Bm: Eb: G: E for clavier (c1722)
The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I
1723 (38)
Magnificat in D, for solo voices, chorus, orchestra and continuo (?1723)
Motet: 'Jesu, meine Freunde', for five-part chorus
Passion according to St John, for soprano, contralto, tenor and bass soli, chorus, organ and continuo
'Sanctus' in D, for eight-part chorus, orchestra and organ (c1723)
Five Preludes and Fugues, in Bm (Great): C (Great): Dm: Eb (St Anne): Em (Great or 'The Wedge')
(1723-39)
Variations on Chorale (Partita)
'Vom Himmel hoch da Komm' ich her' (1723-50)
1725 (40)
'Notenbuch vor Anna Magdalena Bachin', for clavier
Five songs from Anna Magdalena Bach's 'Notenbuch'
Six Suites ('English'), in A: Am: Gm: F: Em: Dm for clavier
c1726 (c41)
Motet: 'Furchte dich nicht', for eight-part chorus
1727-36 (42-51)
Concerto in C for two claviers with strings
Concerto in C minor for two claviers with strings (identical to the Concerto for two violins in D minor, 1717-23)
Concerto in C minor for two claviers with strings
1729 (44)
Motet: 'Der Geist hilft unsrer Schwachheit auf', for eight-part chorus with accompaniment Passion according to St Matthew, for soprano, contralto, tenor and bass soli, double chorus, double orchestra and continuo
1729-33 (48)
Six Sonatas (Trios)
in E flat: Cm: Dm: Em: C: G for organ
1729-36 (44 51)
Clavier Concerto in A with strings (& continuo)
Clavier Concerto in D with strings (& continuo)
(identical to Violin Concerto in E)
Clavier Concerto in D minor with strings (& continuo)
(probably originally a violin concerto)
Clavier Concerto in E with strings (& continuo)
Clavier Concerto in F with two flutes, strings (& continuo)
(identical to Brandenburg Concerto No 4 in G)
Clavier Concerto in F minor with strings (& continuo)
Clavier Concerto in G minor with strings (& continuo)
(identical to Violin Concerto in A minor)
c1730 (c45)
Concerto in A minor for clavier, flute and violin with strings
1731 (46)
Six Partitas for clavier, in B flat: Cm: Am: D: G: Em
c1733 (c48)
Concerto in C for three claviers with strings
Concerto in D minor for three claviers with strings
Concerto in A minor for four claviers with strings (transcription of Concerto for four violins by Vivaldi)
1733-38 (48-?53)
Mass in B minor for two sopranos, contralto, tenor, bass, chorus, orchestra and continuo
1734 (49)
Christmas Oratorio (six cantatas)
for solo voices, chorus, orchestra and organ
1735 (50)
Concerto in the Italian Style, for clavier, in F
Ascension Oratorio (Cantata No 11 'Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen')
(1735-6)
Partita (Ouverture)
in B minor for clavier
1736 (51)
Easter Oratorio for solo voices, chorus, orchestra and organ
c1737-40 (c52-5)
Lutheran Masses for solo voices, chorus, orchestra and organ: No 1 in F: No 2 in Gm: No 3 in Am: No 4 in G
c1738 (c53)
Fantasy (with unfinished Fugue)
in C minor for clavier
1739 (54)
Catechism Preludes (Clavierubung, Vol. III):
(1) Kyrie: Christie: Kyrie
(2) ditto ('alio modo')
(3) Allein Gott in der Hoh' sei Ehr'
(4) ditto
(5) ditto (fughetta)
(6) Dies sind die heil'gen zehn Gebot'
(7) ditto (fughetta)
(8) Wir glauben all' an einem Gott
(9) ditto (fughetta 'Giant' fugue)
(10) Vater unser in Himmelreich
(11) ditto
(12) Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam
(13) ditto
(14) Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir
(15) ditto
(16) Jesus Christ unser Heiland
(17) ditto (fugue)
Clavier Duets (two-part pieces for one player)
1742 (57)
Aria with thirty variations, 'Goldberg Variations' for double keyboard harpsichord
1744 (59)
The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II
1747 (62)
A Musical Offering, for flute and violin, with continuo: 'Ricercare a tre voci' 'Canon perpetuus super thema regium' 'Canones diversi 1-5' 'Fuga canonica in Epidiapente' 'Ricercare a sei voci' Two canons
c1747-50 (c62-5)
Schubler's Book, for organ
1748-50 (63-5)
The Art of Fugue, for unspecified instruments: (1-14)
Contrapunctus I-XIV (15-18)
Four Canons (19-20)
Two Fugues for two keyboards (21)
Unfinished Fugue on three subjects
Dates unknown:
Overtures (Suites): (1)
in C for woodwind, strings (& continuo)
(2)
in B minor for flute, strings (& continuo)
(3)
in D for oboes, bassoons, trumpets, timpani, strings (& continuo)
(4)
in D for oboes, bassoons, trumpets, timpani, strings (& continuo)
J. S. Bach also composed: Two psalms: 'Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden', for four-part chorus
'Singet dem Herren ein neues Lied', for eight-part chorus
Fantasy and Fugue in A minor for clavier, after 1717
Prelude and Fugue in Eb for clavier, after 1723
198 church cantatas
Twenty-three secular cantatas
Shorter keyboard works, including fifteen two-part inventions and fifteen 'symphonies', known today as three-part inventions.


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