April Robinson

Dr. Robbins

Exposition & Report Writing 620:015

21 February 2000

Bach: Life and Music

He was a musical genius with thousands of musical compositions written in his lifetime.

He spent his life in Germany, primarily Leipzig, and worked at a school for the city. He is
considered to be one of the greatest musical composers, and composed till the day he died. An
unruly youth who greatly disliked authority, he had a strong will and mind of his own. Well
liked with many friends, yet no one really knew his inner workings, or how he thought. Of the
thousands of musical pieces he composed, few were published in his life. This was a man who
composed in great numbers, had reasons for doing so, and lived a rather simple, middle class
life.

Johann Sebastian Bach (J.S.) was born March 21st 1685, in Eisenach, Germany. His
father was Johann Ambrosius, a court trumpeter for the Duke of Eisenach and the director of the
musicians of the town of Eisenach. His family had been well known for many generations as a
very musically talented family.

He started school when he was eight and when he was nine he was sent to live with his
older brother. His parents had died after losing two other children, a son and a daughter. His
brother, Johann Christoph Bach, let J.S. live with him in Ohrdruf, Germany. Under the teachings
of his brother Bach quickly mastered the organ and harpsichord. During his stay with his
brother, Bach attended school and was encouraged by his older brother to study composition.

Soon Bach could no longer stay with his brother, for his brotherís family was getting too
big. Bach traveled with a school friend, on foot, to a North-German musical center in Luneberg,

Germany. At this time J.S. was 15-years-old, and had a beautiful soprano voice which helped
him get into the school. It was his violin playing, which he developed while there, that kept him
at the school after he lost his soprano voice. He stayed in Luneberg until he was nearly eighteen.

He was now looking for a job. He wanted the post as organist of Arnstadt where a new
organ was being built. After a short period as a violinist in Weimar he was indeed offered the
post in Arnstadt. However, problems arose when Bach composed a piece full of "strange" new
sounds for a church service. The Council decided to be lenient with him until he refused to work
with the boysí choir and was found to have a complaint against him for entertaining a young
woman in the organ loft of the church. Thus was the end of his first job.

He moved on to Muhlhausen and married his cousin Maria Barbara on October 17, 1707.

He got a job in Muhlhausen and set to work on the poor facilities he had to work with there. His
efforts here brought about his first cantata Gott ist Mein Konig (God is My King), the only one of
his cantatas to be published in his life time. This was thanks to the Councilís desire for publicity
and prestige. A religious controversy soon arose and the music in Muhlhausen was in a state of
decay. Bach.was off to find another job.

On June 25, 1708, the Duke of Weimar offered Bach a post among the Dukeís Court
chamber musicians. Bach and his wife moved to the small town of Weimar. While in Weimar

Bach composed music exclusively for the organ, which he played. By 1714 Bach had moved up
in status and was now the leader in the orchestra, second only to the old Kapellmeister. When
the old Kapellmeister died Bach had hoped to get his position, but when he was passed over for
the job, he started looking elsewhere for work.

Bach was introduced the Court of Anhalt-Kothen, and then offered him the post of

Kapellmeister, which he accepted. When he put in his request to leave the Weimar Court the

Duke of Weimar was so infuriated that he had Bach put in jail. He stayed there only a month,
but while there he composed. He prepared a cycle of organ chorale preludes for a whole year,
later published as the Orgelbuchlein.

His master at the Court of Anhalt-Kothen was Prince Leopold, a lover of music who had
traveled all over Europe enjoying the many types of music of that time. During his time at

Kothen Bach wrote most of his chamber music: violin concertos, sonata, keyboard music. Bach
and the Prince shared a