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Clint Guevara Music History 301 1/25/2013 Bach Essay


Maria Elisabeth Lammerhirt gave birth to Johann Sebastian Bach in Eisenach on March 21, 1685. Bach's descendants consisted of many talented musicians. Being the eighth child of Johann Ambrosius Bach and Maria Elisabeth Lammerhirt, he had many relatives that he learned music from. His father directed the town musicians and his uncles were all professional musicians. It was likely that Johann Ambrosius Bach taught his his son music theory and how to play the violin. Out of the many musically gifted uncles, one of them taught Bach how to play the organ. At the age of ten, Bachs father and mother died, leaving him with his brother Johann Christoph Bach. Johann Christoph Bach was the organist at Michaeliskirche in Ohrdruf. While living with his brother he studied , performed, and began copying music including compositions that his brother wrote. J.C Bach immersed him into the vast musical compositions of many great composers, which gave him instruction on the clavichord. Johann Sebastian Bach also began his study's of French, Italian, Greek, Latin and theology. Bach studied at the St. Michael's School in Luneburg at the age of fourteen, where he was given a scholarship to attend. While attending St. Michael's School, he was exposed to European culture. When he graduated from St. Michael's School, he was deemed court musician in the chapel of Duke Johann Emst in Weimar. Bach was soon discontent with his current job. He walked 250 miles to Lubeck, so he could hear the music of Dietrich Buxtehude. Buxtehude was the organist at Marienkirche in Lbeck. Bach desired to be the successor of Buxtehude, but did not fancy the idea of marrying Buxtehude's daughter (which was the traditions at the time). But Bach's journey was not in

vain, he was influenced by Buxtehude's improvisational methods which can be seen in his early compositions. Bach was offered a job at St Blasius's in Mhlhausen as an organist. This position paid a much higher salary than his previous jobs. It seems he was in high demand. He was well respected in Europe for his exceptional playing of the organ. Here he married his second cousin Maria Barbara Bach. They had seven children, only four of them survived. Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Kthen employed Bach in 1717 as his Kapellmeister. Leopold did not use complicated music in his church. This can be seen through Bach's music, which was secular during this time. When Bach was serving Prince Leopold, his first wife died. He met his second wife, Anna Magdalena Wilcke, she was a soprano that performed in Cthen. Bach composed one of his most famous pieces: Mass in B Minor in 1733. He composed Gloria and Kyrie later extending it into a full mass. Bach inspiration for Credo, Sanctus and Agnus dei derived from his cantatas. In 1749, Bach began to get sick and his health declined. He died on July 28, 1750, at the age of sixty-five. It Is believed that his death originated from a combination of stroke's and pneumonia. Bach's final work was a chorale prelude for organ, entitled Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit. Bach notated this to his son-in-law, Johann Altnikol, at his deathbed. Bach was so clever, that when you count the notes on the three staves of the final cadence, JSB can be found when you convert it into the Roman alphabet. Bach had a plethora of knowledge on baroque and renaissance counterpoint. He gained this knowledge by rewriting other composers music. In doing this, he learned from other composers and applied this technique in his own work. He used tonal music, which called for more leaps rather than the overused stepwise motion. He utilized the beautiful techniques the Italians possessed in their music, but oddly enough, he never wrote an opera. He wrote music for the church and was paid for his work. During this time, I would say there was a civil war of music. The French and Italian's debated on everything that consisted of music. Each culture had superior styles of music over the other, or so

they thought. The French were more eloquent and light, while the Italian's where burly and robust. On the other hand, the Germans were smart. They took ideas from both the Italians and French to create stunning and beautiful music. Like the Germans, Bach was brilliant and used methods from both cultures to compose masterful creations of music. Bach also included German Lutheran traditions in his music and in doing this became an international composer. He veered away from close minded ideas of stubbornness and valued the techniques of different cultures becoming a musical genius. Bach's views of himself was of an artisan, not an artist. His strong belief's of God, ruled the tone and texture of his music. Bach's deeply rooted religious background, conveyed that music should express religious conviction. The music he crafted was not meant for pleasure but to show truth. Often in life, the truth, (whether heard or seen) can be quite unpleasant. He wanted to show this in his music and sometimes the sounds he created did not agree. This may be the very reason why many disagreed with his greatness as a composer. He challenged his listeners to look beyond beauty and so called agreeable sounds. Life was not always happy, (having been through many life changing trials) he wanted people to understand that. He strayed away from the norm, because he wanted to be known for something different and challenging. His portrayal of the world was often found to be dark and painful. His music often reflected sadness, whether that be crying, sighs or sounds of torture. Not all of Bach compositions were gloomy. He developed many beautiful musical composition that were meant to convey something to the congregation, something of importance. One of my favorite pieces crafted by Bach was the Sanctus movement of the B Minor Mass. This piece is absolutely stunning and gives a feel of revival. In this piece, the women sing beautiful melismatic phrases while the men sing a simple counterpoint melody to the women. I would consider this to be one of Bach's messages of triumphant to the lord. His strong beliefs in God shine brightly in this masterful creation. My favorite part is towards the end, the use of melismas and transitions throughout the piece. Then he lands on this beautiful perfect cadence that is just astonishing and breath taking.

Johann Sebastian Bach was one of the many superior composers of the Baroque period. He integrated three different musical cultures to create superior musical compositions. The world surrounding Bach was ever changing and music had began shifting from Italy to Germany. He was right up there with Handel, but in todays classical society, he is known as one of the most influential and triumphant composers of history and time. Although he achieved so much in his life, he only wanted to be known for how hard he worked.