- 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
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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.
Richard Wagner wrote his first opera, "The Fairies," at the age of 21. He used all elements of theater, from music to lighting, to create "total art work."
Franz Liszt is regarded as possibly the greatest piano virtuoso of all time. A child prodigy, he toured as a concert pianist until he began teaching and composing.
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By 1740, Bach was struggling with his eyesight, but he continued to work despite his vision problems. He was even well enough to travel and perform, visiting Frederick the Great, the king of Prussia in 1747. He played for the king, making up a new composition on the spot. Back in Leipzig, Bach refined the piece and gave Frederick a set of fugues called "Musical Offering."
In 1749, Bach started a new composition called "The Art of Fugue,
" but he did not complete it. He tried to fix his failing sight by having surgery the following year, but the operation ended up leaving him completely blind. Later that year, Bach suffered a stroke. He died in Leipzig on July 28, 1750.
During his lifetime, Bach was better known as an organist than a composer. Few of his works were even published during his lifetime. Still Bach's musical compositions were admired by those who followed in his footsteps, including Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. His reputation received a substantial boost in 1829 when German composer Felix Mendelssohn reintroduced Bach's "Passion According to St. Matthew."
Musically, Bach was a master at invoking and maintaining different emotions. He was an expert storyteller as well, often using melody to suggest actions or events. In his works, Bach drew from different music styles from across Europe, including French and Italian. He used counterpoint, the playing of multiple melodies simultaneously, and fugue, the repetition of a melody with slight variations, to create richly detailed compositions. He is considered to be the best composer of the Baroque era, and one of the most important figures in classical music in general.
Little personal correspondence has survived to provide a full picture of Bach as a person. But the records do shed some light on his character. Bach was devoted to his family. In 1706, he married his cousin Maria Barbara Bach. The couple had seven children together, some of whom died as infants. Maria died in 1720 while Bach was traveling with Prince Leopold. The following year, Bach married asinger named Anna Magdalena Wülcken. They had thirteen children, more than half of them died as children.
Bach clearly shared his love of music with his children. From his first marriage, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach became composers and musicians. Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach and Johann Christian Bach, sons from his second marriage, also enjoyed musical success.
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