- NAME: Johann Sebastian Bach
- OCCUPATION: Songwriter
- BIRTH DATE: March 21, 1685
- DEATH DATE: July 28, 1750
- EDUCATION: St. Michael's School (Luneburg, Germany)
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Eisenach, Thuringia, Germany
- PLACE OF DEATH: Leipzig, Germany
- Full Name: Johann Sebastian Bach
- AKA: Johann S. Bach
- AKA: Johann Bach
Best Known For
A magnificent classical composer, Johann Sebastian Bach is revered through the ages for his work's musical complexities and stylistic innovations.
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Watch a short video about the final days of famed composer Johann Sebastian Bach.
Raised in a family of musicians, Johann Sebastian Bach played the harpsichord and organ from an early age. Deeply religious, he composed sacred music to be played in churches.
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Born on March 21, 1685, in Eisenach, Thuringia, Germany, Johann Sebastian Bach had a prestigious musical lineage and took on various organist positions during the early 18th century, creating famous compositions like "Toccata and Fugue in D minor." Some of his best-known compositions are the "Mass in B Minor," the "Brandenburg Concertos" and "The Well-Tempered Clavier." Bach died in Leipzig, Germany, on July 28, 1750. Today, he is considered one of the greatest Western composers of all time.
Born in Eisenach, Thuringia, Germany, on March 21, 1685, Johann Sebastian Bach came from a family of musicians, stretching back several generations. His father, Johann Ambrosius, worked as the town musician in Eisenach, and it is believed that he taught young Johann to play the violin.
At the age of 7, Bach went to school where he received religious instruction and studied Latin and other subjects. His Lutheran faith would influence his later musical works. By the time he turned 10, Bach found himself an orphan after the death of both of his parents. His older brother Johann Christoph, a church organist in Ohrdruf, took him in. Johann Christoph provided some further musical instruction for his younger brother and enrolled him in a local school. Bach stayed with his brother's family until he was 15.
Bach had a beautiful soprano singing voice, which helped him land a place at a school in Lüneburg. Sometime after his arrival, his voice changed and Bach switched to playing the violin and the harpsichord. Bach was greatly influenced by a local organist named George Böhm. In 1703, he landed his first job as a musician at the court of Duke Johann Ernst in Weimar. There he was a jack-of-all-trades, serving as a violinist at times and filling in for the official organist in other moments.
Bach had a growing reputation as a great performer, and it was his great technical skill that landed him the position of organist at the New Church in Arnstadt. He was responsible for providing music for religious services and special events as well as giving music instruction. An independent and sometimes arrogant young man, Bach did not get along well with his students and was scolded by church officials for not rehearsing them frequently enough.
Bach did not help his situation any by disappearing for several months in 1705. While he only officially receiving a few weeks' leave from the church, he traveled to Lübeck to hear famed organist Dietrich Buxtehude and extended his stay without informing anyone back in Arnstadt.
In 1707, Bach was glad to leave Arnstadt for a organist position at the Church of St. Blaise in Mühlhausen. This move, however, did not turn out as well as he had planned. Bach's musical style clashed with the church's pastor. Bach created complex arrangements and had a fondness for weaving together different melodic lines. His pastor believed that church music needed to be simple. One of Bach's most famous works from this time is the cantata "Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit," also known as "Actus Tragicus."
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