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Figure comparable to Mozart and Beethoven, Baroque music found its most perfect expression in the work of the German composer.
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Ambrosius Bach, father of the composer
Representation of the Church of Weimar Palace 1660: under the roof, the organ that Bach would work
The Prince Leopold de Köthen
Bach in a portrait made probably
the year of his death
Johann Sebastian Bach
The Bach family
Johann Sebastian Bach (oil of J. J. Ihle, 1720)
Even the old bundles that contain lists of funeral rites performed in the 18th century are preserved in the municipal library of Leipzig. One of these old papers succinctly informs us the following fact, seemingly banal: "a man of sixty-seven years, Mr Johann Sebastian Bach, Kapellmeister and Kantor at the school of the Church of Santo Tomás, was buried the day 30 of July of 1750". Modesty and simplicity of this inscription, hidden among many others as insignificant as she seems today incomprehensible to consider giving faith of the death of one of the greatest composers of all time and, no doubt, of the musician most extraordinary of his time.
Johann Sebastian Bach
The brevity of these lines shows clearly the tragic fate of a man who was radically underestimated in his time: few recognized the great musician and nobody could see genius. After his silent death, the work of who had devoted throughout his life to create honest and painstakingly a supernal music in praise of the creator was forgotten utterly for more than fifty years, until, after being published the first biography of the musician, another composer, Mendelssohn, rescued his work to his contemporaries addressing grandstanding his St. Matthew passion in Berlin in 1829 that it constituted a national event in Germany.
A saga of musicians
Johann Sebastian Bach was born March 21, 1685 in Eisenach (Thuringia). His family was depositary of a vast musical tradition and had given over several generations a good roster of composers and performers. For two hundred years, the ancestors of Bach occupied multiple charges municipal and courtiers as organists, singers violinists and teachers, although none of them would reach a special popularity. However, his surname was synonymous with Thuringia's musical art; speaking of the Bach was talking about music.
Johann Sebastian soon followed the family tradition. His father, Johann Ambrosius, quickly realized that it had before it a particularly gifted child and devoted much time to his teaching. The environment of the home was modest, without reaching the hardships of poverty and, course, was imbued with a deep religiousness and delivered to the music. Meet nine years Bach died his mother, Elisabeth, and, as it was common at the time, Johann Ambrosius remarried a few months to address the care of their children. But three months after his second marriage, February 20, 1694, Johann Ambrosius was also killed, and the widow requested assistance to the eldest son of her husband, Johann Christoph, already then organist in Ohrdruf, who took charge of his two younger brothers, Johann Jacob and Johann Sebastian, welcoming them into their home and committing to give them the required musical training.
Johann Ambrosius Bach, father of the composer
The child was applied, serious and introverted. Besides music, I felt a living inclination by the Latin language, whose rigid and logical structure tallied perfectly with his character, and theology. These materials, sifted by a strong Lutheran education would end up by fully model your personality and become the solid foundation of their existence and their creative force. The own Johann Christoph, who had been a disciple of Pachelbel, became Master of the child body.
Does not seem, however, to provide full account the genius of his younger brother, if we consider the famous anecdote transmitted by the own Bach to his son Carl Philipp Emmanuel: Johann Christoph forbade the child study a book containing the most famous pieces for harpsichord of his time, with works by Froberger, Kerll and Pachelbel, book that Bach succeeded in transcribing secretly in the light of the Moon and night. Discovered the 'crime', Johann Christoph destroyed the copy. Which was to be his second wife and chronicler of the family, Anna Magdalena Wilcken, who also narrates the episode, says Johann Sebastian told it is «without showing the less resentment against the hardness of his brother». Anna Magdalena was less benevolent and, by his faithfulness and love for Johann Sebastian, sought to blame final blindness of the composer to the effort made by a child, by having transcribed those scores «forbidden» single light of the moon.
Until it could develop all their abilities passed even several years of hard learning and day-to-day concerns. Missing parents, brother wage was low and growing House too small for a family. Johann Christoph made joining his brothers in the gymnasium of Ohrdruf, where Bach finished the first cycle of studies in 1700, with an advancement of two years on the rest of his companions, receiving also a salary of seventeen bags a year (enough to pay his child support) as a member of the choir, where he sang with beautiful child soprano voice. In March 1700 the boy, who was then fifteen years of age, went to Lüneburg, 350 kilometers from Ohrdruf, to enter in the choir of the Ritterakademie, with salary sufficient for supplementary maintenance and accommodation in the boarding school.
This change also meant the possibility of expanding their musical knowledge in extent and depth. In Lüneburg received the beneficial influence of the Kantor, but above all that of the titular organist, Georg Böhm. Unfortunately, a few months after his arrival he changed the voice and had to earn a living as a musician accompanying and Professor of violin. Your new situation, however, allowed him to move to Hamburg to complete their training with Adam Reincken, that, despite his age, was one of the most renowned Organists in assets of their time. He also attended the Court in Celle, in whose orchestra played as a violinist at the invitation of Thomas de la Selle, then getting to know the composers and the French musical forms. His first cantata genre that haunt their lifetime data from this period of activity and enthusiasm.
A seemingly boundless energy and a boundless spiritual fortress are the essential features of the personality of Bach. Without these values and their deep religiosity had never failed to withstand the blows that fate had him booked. In 1702 it completed the second cycle of school curricula, and determined the moment arrived from aspiring to a stable position. After some frustrated attempts to win a place as an organist, he was finally admitted in March 1703 as a violinist in the Duke of Weimar. His great religiosity or his skills as an organist led him to aspire to another post: the of organist in Arnstadt, whose Decree of appointment was signed by count Anton Günther August 9, 1703. Johann Sebastian was eighteen years old.
But for the authorities, it was not easy to deal with an impetuous and excitable man who despised the established standards and was often capricious and choleric. Already at the age of eighteen, while working as an organist in Arnstadt, was allowed the luxury of extended vacations for two months: it was in Lübeck ecstatic listening to Grandmaster Buxtehude and was not at all willing to give up so extraordinary pleasure. The consistory of the city was forced to admonish him and took the opportunity to make some criticisms relating to its also little submissive attitude in musical terms: "Lord Bach often improvise many strange variations, notes new blend in written pieces and parish feels confused with performances".
Bach ignored these comments; Arnstadt had little to offer him and his interests moved towards other objectives. First of all, sought to settle and raise a family, what he did to the 17 October 1707 marry his niece María Barbara, a young charming and vital. Seven children were the product of his happy marriage. That same year, the already then reputed performer requested the square of organist in the small town of Mühlhausen (free for the death of its holder), which obtained on May 24, with the not inconsiderable salary of 85 guldens.
In the Church of San Blas, as well as restore the organ, organize the choir, form students (among them, his devout disciple of J. M. Schubert) and comply with their duties Sunday, Bach began the composition of religious cantatas, the most important of which was entitled Actus tragicus. Their initial training period seemed completed. Perhaps this was the main reason which prompted him to resign as organist in Mühlhausen, although biographers often point to other more specific: especially, the musical-teologico conflict that parishioners had divided into two camps: supporters of Shepherd Frohne, radical pietistic and enemy of musical innovations, and the Archdeacon Eilmar, friend and protector of Bach , and Godfather of their first child. It is possible that, caught between two fires, Johann Sebastian preferred to give his career a change of direction apart from theological tensions which so directly affected you as musical head of the community. Their relations with the authorities of Mühlhausen continued cordial following his resignation in June 1708, and for them, he composed a cantata in February of 1709, unfortunately missing.
In the Court of Weimar
Bach got the post of second Konzertmeister in Weimar (where would reside between 1708 and 1717), which provided the necessary stability to address the musical creation. She gave birth a huge work for organ and key, in addition to religious choral music and instrumental profane. It should be recalled, for example, that one of the obligations contracted with the Duke of Weimar was the «run every month a new composition», which meant an original cantata per month.
Unfortunately, these vital years marked a change of style in his compositions can not be tracked in detail, as it has only been possible to date an insignificant number of his creations. It is clear, however, the decisive influence of the Italian operatic forms and Antonio Vivaldi concert style. The criticism points out an obvious Italian imprint in the ritornello of the cantatas 182 and 199, 1714; the 31 and 161, 1715; or the 70 and 147, 1716. New techniques of repetition, literal or slightly modified, also yielded its splendid fruits in the arias, concerts, leaks and corals from this period, which include, in particular, his chorale preludes, the first organ trios and most preludes and fugues and toccatas for organ.
Representation of the Church of Weimar Palace 1660: under the roof, the organ that Bach would work
In Weimar, Bach had multiple functions: organist of the Chapel, Kammermusicus, violin soloist, director of the choir and substitute teacher in Chapel. There he met and transcribed the works of Italian composers (Corelli, Albinoni and Vivaldi), trained students, as his nephew Johann Bernhard and Johann Tobias Krebs, and became close friends with the teacher Johann Gottfried Walther, who enriched his art of counterpoint and the coral. There, in short, he pulled forward her family thanks to a salary that could then be described as very high. At the time of moving to Köthen had four children (two others had died shortly after birth): Catharina Dorothea, Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emmanuel Johann Gottfried Bernhard.
The atmosphere of the Court, however, was not free of tensions. Duke Wilhelm Ernst was a pietistic devotee who intervened personally in the most trivial aspects of the cult and for which the composition and performance of sacred music was a matter not only of faith, but also of State. And so, teologico-palaciegas intrigues faced Bach with the Duke, who arrived in jail four weeks to the composer when he learned that Bach had obtained the appointment of master of Chapel of Prince Leopold de Köthen without your prior authorization.
The stay in Köthen (between 1717 and 1723) was shorter, probably because the spirit deeply religious of Bach aspired to a higher dedication to sacred music. In any case, between Prince Leopold of Köthen and the composer was born a fruitful friendship and Bach was able to deliver, in a cosy and calm climate, to the creation of numerous instrumental and orchestral, works including its Brandenburg concerts, Crest score of Baroque music. Fortunately for posterity, there had an excellent full instrumental set, and they also correspond to this period the Sonatas and partitas, the four overtures, inventions for two and three voices , and the French Suites. Perhaps as compensation to their obligations of profane composer, he composed his first sacred piece of long breath: the passion according to St. John.
The Prince Leopold de Köthen
Of all these masterful compositions we could emphasize the first part of the well-tempered Clavier key (a collection of preludes and fugues in all keys) by its systematic exploration of new musical syntax, that historical criticism has described as "functional tonality", and should take precedence over the following two hundred years. But the well-tempered Clavier key collection is also memorable in that compendium of forms and popular styles that, despite their variety, are approved by the rigorous logic of the compositional technique of the leak.
They were in total six years of absolute peace and creative fecundity unfortunately interrupted by tragedy. In July of 1720, returning from one of the frequent trips they made at the behest of Prince, found his home empty and silent: María Barbara died, fulminated for an unknown medical condition, and, fearing the plague, had been quickly buried. Bach is plunged into a deep gloom. Forces appeared to have abandoned and the muses only visited it to inspire melancholy notes that dared not transcribed. Only a woman could take out it of its stupor and that woman was Anna Magdalena Wilcken, younger daughter of the Court, Caspar Wilcken trumpeter.
It should be noted that you for the mentality and needs of a widower at that time, with four children in their charge, was nothing strange in a rapid second marriage, actually received general approval. In addition, Anna Magdalena was a performer advantageous, well endowed for singing, which professed throughout his life an exemplary devotion by Johann Sebastian, eventually becoming the chronicler of the Bach family; they are in debt with her all the subsequent biographers. He was able to understand and share the complex spiritual world of her husband and helped him as efficient copyist of his scores. The wedding was held in 1721. Was another happy marriage that would be born thirteen children; the benjamin was Johann Christian, the musician whose compositions would have much influence on the first Mozart. For the second time in his life Bach had the fortune of finding an ideal partner.
Kantor in Leipzig
Soon after, the marriage of the Prince of Köthen with a woman completely disinterested by the music caused the estrangement between the master and his guard. Death of the Kantor in Leipzig in 1722 gave the composer the expected opportunity to devote himself to the sacred composition. Obtaining the square was not easy: was first granted to Telemann, then to Graupner and only third to Johann Sebastian. To get it, Bach had to accept onerous conditions, not economic so much labour, then, in addition to its religioso-musicales functions in the churches of St. Thomas and St. Nicholas, should take charge of pedagogical tasks in the escuela de Santo Tomás (among them the teaching of latin), which produced it notable setbacks. We know that, among its commitments, it was that music played on Sundays incite «to the listeners to devotion» and not «of a theatrical nature».
The post of Kantor did not mean, therefore, an effective progress in his career. It was required to provide the necessary music for the trades of several churches in the city using a choir formed by students of the school, which meant that every Sunday he was required to submit a new cantata composed by him: the result was a total of two hundred and ninety-five religious pieces, which only have reached us ninety hundred because of the negligence of his heirs. He should also direct the choir of the students and give lessons to young students as one teacher more.
This situation could not meet a man like him. It was outrageous that the authorities ignored their faculties and despreciasen it as innovative. For twenty years, Bach did not cease to fight against such injustice. Angry as he was, confronted systematically Gentrifying superiors, who sought to make him a docile employee and were even allowed to punish his obstinacy and overwhelming originality by cutting their fees on more than one occasion. The efforts of the composer to change this state of affairs were vacant; disappointed, developed into a bitter and quarrelsome, increasingly away from peers and refugee in itself and in its music.
Only his family life was a solid source of minimum joys and the necessary stability. Supported by his wife and an intimate certainty on the validity of his genius, always could cope with adversity without losing one iota of its creative power or fall victim to apathy. Tireless in his duties as a father and as a musician, Bach never ignored any of their children, nor interrupted the arduous task of expanding their knowledge by copying and deepening in the scores of their ancestors.
Nevertheless, the Leipzig (from 1723 until his death) was the most glorious and fruitful period in the life of the composer, a production of at least three cycles of cantatas; in them, without abandoning the counterpoint, is it stripped of rhetoric, striving to musically represent the word. In 1724 and 1727 he premiered respectively the passion according to St. John (written in Köthen) and the St Matthew passion. He was also the splendid period of the Magnificat in d flat major (1723), the Easter Oratorio (1725), Christmas (1734), and the Ascension (1735). The composition of the magistral began in 1733 mass in b minor to accompany the request that aspired to obtain the title of composer of the Court of Saxony elector Augustus III. Three years later he achieved its purpose, which rewarded him for the previous troubles and served to mortify a few object of their scorn had done so. He began the last stage of his life, which would also be the most placid.
Bach was short-sighted since birth. With the passing of the years, the State of his eyes is had been deteriorating gradually because of thousands of endless work nights spent under insufficient light of a few poor oil lamps. Two operations failed to improve his vision: after the second, made by an English doctor in Leipzig, lost his sight almost in full. Strong medications that are habituó contributed to break the resistance and a body that had been robust and vigorous health. But he continued creating and reached new heights in his art, such as the Goldberg Variations and the second part of the well-tempered harpsichord, completed in 1744.
Bach in a portrait made probably
the year of his death
A year before his death was going to reach the same destination that was reserved to another genius like him, the famous Handel: total blindness. But once again, until the eternal night string you forever to his bed, Bach will live a moment when finally someone to acknowledge his powerful talent and her master's degree: the young King of Prusia Federico II. On several occasions this sovereign had expressed his desire to meet the composer. The opportunity came in the spring of 1747. A rainy day in April Bach undertook wavering towards Potsdam in company of one of his sons and was made to advertise in the Palace of Frederick at the moment that are played a concert of flutes composed by the own sovereign.
His Majesty immediately stopped the music and came out to warmly greet the newcomer. After teach the Palace and chat briefly with Bach on musical subjects, the King wanted to maliciously submit your guest to a small test: with a flute, which was his preferred instrument, attacked a little shaft theme and challenged it to develop it according to the rules of counterpoint. In those brief moments, Bach composed a leak of six perfect and wonderful voices, then running it. The King heard admired those harmonies that one could say that they were made for the ears of the angels and, at the end of the performance, could only exclaim over and over again: "there is only a Bach... There is only a Bach."
Happy by this meeting returned Bach at Leipzig, city which already does not give up until his death. His energy and his creative spirit were still intact, but its view was winding down and your health required care. Genius fought in vain against his next order. He spent his last days in fulfilling their professional and family obligations with maximum possible diligence, although he resigned not why his musical vocation and from his deathbed dictated the art of Fugue.
An attack of apoplexy ended his life the day July 28, 1750. Relatives surrounded it and his great soul left without any pain the body that had been a mere mortal almost ignored by their fellows. His death left a valuable legacy to posterity: a huge religious work and numerous secular pieces; a corpus which, ultimately, has been erected in law of all subsequent musical production. Years later, in a conversation with Mendelssohn, Goethe was able to focus in one peculiar sentence as there is magic in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach: "Is as if universal harmony was talking to herself, as if I had done it in the breast of God since the creation of the world."
Chronology of Johann Sebastian Bach
|1685||Born in Eisenach, Germany, on March 21.|
|1694||His father dies, and is under the tutelage of his brother Johann Christoph. He studied at the gymnasium of Ohrdruf.|
|1700||Part to Lüneburg to enter in the choir of the Ritterakademie.|
|1703||He became violinist in the Orchestra of camera of Duke Johann Ernst in Weimar and organist in Arnstadt.|
|1707-08||He leaves his position as Arnstadt and becomes organist of the Church of San Blas de Mühlhausen. He married his cousin Maria Barbara, which would have seven children. Starts the composition of cantatas, among which Actus tragicus, and composed his first works for organ, including the Toccata and Fugue in d minor.|
|1708-17||Set out in the Court of Weimar, where play several positions in the Cappella palatina of the Regent Duke Wilhelm Ernst. He composed many cantatas.|
|1717-23||Stay in Köthen as choirmaster at the Prince Leopold de Köthen, with whom he established a fruitful friendship. It comprises the six Brandenburg concerts, a first version of the passion according to St. John, the first part of the well-tempered harpsichord and other notable pieces.|
|1720||Death of his wife Maria Barbara.|
|1721||Remarried he married the singer Anna Magdalena Wilcken, which would have thirteen children.|
|1723||Definitely set in Leipzig, city in which he was appointed Kantor of the Thomasschule, who shall serve until his death. It comprises the Magnificat in d flat major.|
|1725||He composed the Easter Oratorio.|
|1727||It comprises the passion according to St. Matthew.|
|1729||He was appointed director of the Collegium Musicum.|
|1731||It comprises the passion according to St. Mark.|
|1734||He composed the Christmas Oratorio.|
|1735||It consists the Italian concert.|
|1736||He was named composer of the Court of the Saxon Prince and King of Poland, Augustus III.|
|1738||Latest version of the St John passion.|
|1742||It comprises the Goldberg Variations.|
|1744||It ends the second part of the well-tempered Clavier key.|
|1747||He composed the musical offering. Visit Federico II of Prussia at his palace of Potsdam.|
|1749||Their vision problems are exacerbated.|
|1750||He died in Leipzig on 28 July.|
Music of Johann Sebastian Bach
The limits of the Baroque style in music are fitted between the final years of the 16th century, the time of the start of musical experiments which will culminate in Monteverdi, and 1750, date of the death of Johann Sebastian Bach, last great defender of the style to the first critical voices that were proposing new solutions and which would lead to the triumph of classicism. Obviously, a style that prevails for a century and half cannot fail to undergo modification and evolutions. In the case of the Baroque can be distinguished however several basic elements that remain despite differences: the use of the Basso continuo and the concertante style, which consists of the confrontation of several vocal or instrumental groups composed by different number of interpreters and sometimes by different instruments, always with Basso continuo as a harmonic basis. Next to it, it should be noted the progressive abandonment of the modal harmony in favor of major and minor scales used until now. Also, the progressive difficulty of compositions necessitated the birth of Compass, which divides time into equal parts.
Johann Sebastian Bach
On the other hand, the music of the Baroque is characterized by the pursuit of expressiveness, embodied in a systematization of the different human affections, that will interact with different scales and instruments, and which shall be known as Theory of affections. This theory arose from vocal music, although he then went on to also apply to instrumental music as a way to convey to the public a few specific feelings.
The Baroque marks the first stage of the independence of instrumental music on the vowel. If until this moment the music could be sung or touched indistinctly, from baroque began to compose music for instruments, and to specify the family and even the specific number of performers, so the contrast between large groups and small groups is clear. It is also the period in which start out most of the genres that have come down to us. In addition to the instrumental genres (among which include sonata, concert and the suite), opera and the oratorio become regular shows throughout the seventeenth century due, on the one hand, to the taste of royalty, the aristocracy and the ecclesiastical establishment by the spectacle and, on the other hand, the growing importance of the public attending the representations of both genders.
Usually allowed three stages in the development of the musical Baroque: early Baroque, half or full Baroque and late-Baroque, which only can be dated approximately. The Baroque early (1580-1630) originated in Italy in the last years of the 16th century as a result of an evolution in the music of the Renaissance. New style gelled toward 1600 thanks to the work of composers such as Claudio Monteverdi or Giulio Caccini, whose work Le Nuove Musiche (The new music) has a revealing title of desire based on new approaches. In the implementation of this new style was instrumental in the development of the printing press, which allowed a greater and better dissemination of the work of these authors. The triumph of the new style did not mean the disappearance of the previous style: the stile antico or alla palestrina style of Renaissance lived with the stile nuovo which Monteverdi, referring to his own work, he called seconda pratica (second way) to distinguish it from the prima pratica or first way he had learned from his teachers and which had begun its work.
Although it comes from previous elements, new style received the definitive impulse due to the reflections on the relationship between music and poetry members of the Camerata Fiorentina, which is carried out in the final years of the 16th century in the Palace of count Ángelo Bardi. The purpose of this group was the reconstruction of the classical Greek tragedy, that assumed that it had been sung. Need to find a musical style that not particularly the meaning of the text (which was happening constantly in the polyphony of the Renaissance) led them to the creation of a new style which was called stile recitativo (recitativo style or recitation) in which the voice was limited to follow the text without disfiguring it with ornaments or melodies that Hipatia literary content. As a support of this Recitative, so the singer to not lose tone, they decided to put a bass that will accompany the Declamation. This gave rise to the modern genre of opera (the first of which is news, Dafne, with text by Rinuccini and Peri music, is represented in 1598), and Basso continuo (in which all the Baroque, both vocal and instrumental music was based). Although the removal of ecclesiastical modes in which the music during the middle ages and the Renaissance had been based is already a fact, the harmony of the early Baroque is not yet tonal, but it is characterized by experience with chords (often from the vocal music text) to search for new roads.
Half or full Baroque (1630-1680) is characterized by the creation of the bel canto (in Italian beautiful singing), which is applied first to all vocal music, to move its procedures later to the instrumental, and achieved at this stage a remarkable development. The Belcanto as the recitative style, arose within the opera. Fatigue caused the representations based only on the recitative style led to the search of elements that introduce variety and prevent the public's interest to decline. Therefore they began to intersperse melodic fragments in which singers, often in solitary, commented the action. The generalization of these fragments (known by the name of aria) lead to a first distinction between moments of reflection and moments of action, which will be essential in the development of schemes of other genres. On the other hand, the aria becomes also instrumental music resulting in melodic passages alternating with the writings in contrapuntal style. The harmony of this stage is already openly tonal. The settlement of the key limits the use of dissonance and musical language is number across Europe.
The late Baroque (1680-1750) was the time of greater perfection of the Baroque style. At this stage the tonal language sits completely through your employment believed fragments, in which the relationship between the tonic and the dominant becomes staple. The leak will be the main result of the application of the principles of tonality to the counterpoint. At the same time, the emergence of tonal relationships between the movements of the instrumental works is generalized, giving greater importance to the tonal language. Along with the settlement of tonality, they begin to generalize different genres instrumental, as the Concerto, suite, Symphony or the Overture, although their structures and designations are still somewhat confusing. These genres will be crucial in the development of classicism.
From 1730, the Baroque style began to receive criticism based on its excessive complication, mostly referred to as far as the use of counterpoint; it blamed him sacrifice simple technique expression of feelings. This resulted in the appearance of two styles, the gallant style and sentimental style, which already marked the transit towards classicism. The criticisms focused, precisely, in the work of Bach, to which their own children came to affectionately nickname the old wig, by their adherence, excessive in the eyes of the young, to the counterpoint. This fact and the lack of new growers of the Baroque style in the aftermath have led to consider the year 1750, date of the death of Bach's father, as of the end of the Baroque period.
Bach and reform
We can say that Bach worked in the shade, dedicated to comply with its obligations of master of Chapel and immersed in a domestic environment as dense as random, with two marriages and a score of children, some of whom were eminent composers, such as Wilhelm Friedemann (1710-1784), Carl Philipp Emmanuel (1714-1788) and Johann Christian (1735-1782). But Johann Sebastian Bach was, without doubt, the most prominent member of that family that have been posted about fifty musicians, composers and interpreters, throughout the 17TH and 18th centuries German.
The Bach family
It is difficult to deal with a phenomenon as complex features if we don't remember, on the one hand, the ranking and stratification of a society in which the arts and crafts transmitting and is learned in family, and, on the other hand, the importance of social, political and even theological sacred music was for the consolidation of the reformation of Martin Luther in Germany.
Luther, in fact, set out to focus social and spiritual life of the community in a single religious, to celebrate only the Sunday service, and in the vernacular. They can be seen, therefore, the political and theological implications of their rejection to the priestly and Gregorian chant and latin, and the parallel strengthening of the corals and the organ music. The life of Johann Sebastian Bach shows us how, in the 18th century, feudal and municipal authorities of Lutheranism took is as delicate subjects of Government everything related to manifestations of sacred music and its musicians.
Sacred music, on the other hand, was composed and transmitted in three closely interrelated areas: the Palace, the Church and the family. The same case of Bach is, in this sense, paradigmatic: deeply religious man, formed into a family of musicians of Chapel, was to become one of the most famous and respected organists of his time, but he also composed sacred and secular works for Palace, and we know that he composed and performed quartets with their own children, who in turn was forming as soloists and composers.
The work of Bach
However, the work of Johann Sebastian Bach is no doubt the Summit of Baroque musical art. Not surprisingly, Anton Webern to say that all the music was Bach. The same Arnold Schönberg stressed that the tonal audacities of the German composer opened the way to the dissolution of the tonality that took place two centuries later. Igor Stravinski, the artistic personality of the teacher of Eisenach seemed a miracle, something supernatural and unexplained. And, however, in his time Bach was a musician that is little-known in comparison with maestros such as Georg Philipp Telemann and Georg Friedrich Haendel. His compositions, from deep speculative, in which technology and the construction of new procedures are combined with finest melodic and harmonic solutions, were heard by his contemporaries too "intellectual", to put it in some way. The public was accustomed to a less dense art, influenced by the melodic and harmonic simplicity of Italian composers and the rise of the Italian opera, in which instrumental music purchased quite a few items.
Johann Sebastian Bach (oil of J. J. Ihle, 1720)
Bach was practically self-taught: apart from the lessons that received as an instrumentalist, acquired for himself his compositional training based on personal reflection and study and transcription of scores of famous Vivaldi or Buxtehude composers. Thus, in the works of the first stage, he tried to expand musical forms to use among the German instrumentalists of his time by means of internal stress of themes that are juxtaposed to each other. It is from the compositions for organ from the Weimar era when, with the inspiration of foreign models, begins to set its own style by applying these influences his talent for thematic combinations.
An admirer of the tradition of organ of the North German, especially of the represented by Dietrich Buxtehude, but also full of Italian musicians, especially the Venetians Antonio Vivaldi and Tommaso Albinoni, Bach was able to amalgamate in his work the most antagonistic aesthetic ideas and combine them masterfully, but it would be inaccurate to not recognize the many influences of French musicians , which enriched, and in very substantial way, his harmonic conception. One can say without fear to wander that Bach was able to merge the three main styles of European Baroque music: Italian, French and German. In his cantatas, for example, followed Italian models, incorporating melodies and recitatives in the style of the opera. Many of these works are full of symbols and musical ideas that relate to the text that accompanies them, as is the case with the chromatic spiral which are used to represent the Snake (symbol of sin).
Author of a huge production for key and an incomparable vocal work, passions, cantatas and masses that constitute real models of perfection, Bach le is also a prodigious instrumental and Chamber repertoire. In his Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin and for solo cello Suites are infinite findings, either harmonic or believed, ground this last in which Bach emerged as undisputed master. So master holds his writing which still today his counterpoint is studied in all the conservatories of the world. Max Reger went on to say that all Western philosophy was contained in a Fugue by Bach.
Predictably, his genius reached the area of the concert, in which, together with the works for harpsichord and scores violinisticas, deserve place of honor called Concerts de Brandenburg (BWV 1046 - BWV 1051), probably composed between 1713 and 1721. This collection of six concerts was sent by Bach as a gift to the margrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg, uncle of Federico William I. Although the recipient appreciated the scores, seemed you rather difficult and extravagant, which is not surprising if we think that at the time of Bach the way concert was much more conventional, still linked with the concerto grosso or the basic outline of the concert soloist Vivaldi style. Bach has an astonishing facility for mixing episodes of pure and intense counterpoint with the air of dance or brighter harmonic writing.
All these resources we are situated in the lobby of the classical concert, and therefore Gates concert developed during the 19th century. The observation of a scholar so prominent as Carl Dahlhaus, who pointed out that Bach was not important to eighteenth-century music but to the next is very successful. Indeed, following the rediscovery of the passion according to St. Matthew, who ran in 1829 at a concert Félix Mendelssohn, Bach stopped being a talented organist and author of imposing leakage to become a myth of the music. The darkness in that his memory had been wrapped vanished and became erect in a real model, the architect of a new language of imperishable value.
The taste for a less complex art emerged during the late Baroque made masters of talent but minor, such as Johann Gottlieb Graun (1702-1771), ensombrecieran the last stage of Bach. After his death, the German composer was overshadowed for a long time by the celebrity of some of his children, also notable composers. In fact, the music of Johann Sebastian Bach was little played in the second half of the 18th century. However, the work of their children (especially that of Carl Philipp Emmanuel) prevented the music of Bach to fall into oblivion. Another important figure in the dissemination of the work of the German musician was the baron Gottfried van Swieten: it was he who showed some originals of Bach to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose work would be very influenced by the Baroque composer leaks.
The first editions Bach the well-tempered harpsichord appeared simultaneously in Germany and Great Britain in the early 19th century. This work soon occupied a prominent place on the lecterns of the piano masters, such as Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt and Mendelssohn. However, the definitive consecration of Bach as universal genius came in 1829, when the own Félix Mendelssohn directed the full implementation of the St Matthew passion. Since then, the fame of the great baroque musician ceased to increase, until becomes it one of the most admired classical composers.