John Passion , which was subsequently revised. The total number of cantatas produced during this ecclesiastical year was about 62, of which about 39 were new works. On June 11, , the first Sunday after Trinity, Bach began a fresh annual cycle of cantatas, and within the year he wrote 52 of the so-called chorale cantatas, formerly supposed to have been composed over the nine-year period — During his first two or three years at Leipzig, Bach produced a large number of new cantatas, sometimes, as research has revealed, at the rate of one a week.
The Baroque composer who submitted to the regimen inevitably had to be a traditionalist who willingly embraced the conventions. There is no point in looking for resurrection motifs in The Well-Tempered Clavier. Pictorialism, even when not codified into a doctrine, seems to be a fundamental musical instinct and essentially an expressive device. It can, however, become more abstract, as in the case of number symbolism, a phenomenon observed too often in the works of Bach to be dismissed out of hand.
Number symbolism is sometimes pictorial; in the St. As a result, it is easy to find symbolic numbers anywhere, but ridiculous to suppose that such discoveries invariably have a meaning. It is unteachable and unlearnable. As a result of his intense activity in cantata production during his first three years in Leipzig, Bach had created a supply of church music to meet his future needs for the regular Sunday and feast day services.
After , therefore, he turned his attention to other projects. He did, however, produce the St. Matthew Passion in , a work that inaugurated a renewed interest in the mids for vocal works on a larger scale than the cantata: In addition to his responsibilities as director of church music, Bach also had various nonmusical duties in his capacity as the cantor of the school at Thomaskirche.
To some extent, no doubt, he accepted engagements because he needed money—he complained in that his income was less than he had been led to expect he remarked that there were not enough funerals —but, obviously, his routine work must have suffered. Friction between Bach and his employers thus developed almost at once. On the other hand, Bach remained, in the eyes of his employers, their third and unenthusiastic choice for the post, behind Telemann and Graupner.
Furthermore, the authorities insisted on admitting unmusical boys to the school, thus making it difficult for Bach to keep his churches supplied with competent singers; they also refused to spend enough money to keep a decent orchestra together. The resulting ill feeling had become serious by It was temporarily dispelled by the tact of the new rector, Johann Matthias Gesner , who admired Bach and had known him at Weimar; but Gesner stayed only until and was succeeded by Johann August Ernesti, a young man with up-to-date ideas on education , one of which was that music was not one of the humanities but a time-wasting sideline.
Fortunately for Bach, he became court composer to the elector of Saxony in November As such, after some delay, he was able to induce his friends at court to hold an official inquiry, and his dispute with Ernesti was settled in The exact terms of the settlement are not known, but thereafter Bach did as he liked. In , after he had completed the bulk of his cantata production, Bach began to publish the clavier Partitas singly, with a collected edition in , perhaps with the intention of attracting recognition beyond Leipzig and thus securing a more amenable appointment elsewhere.
These are just two of several respects in which the basically conservative and traditional Bach was a significant innovator as well. About Bach began to produce cantatas in honour of the elector of Saxony and his family, evidently with a view to the court appointment he secured in ; many of these secular movements were adapted to sacred words and reused in the Christmas Oratorio.
His constitution was undermined by two unsuccessful eye operations performed by John Taylor, the itinerant English quack who numbered Handel among his other failures; and Bach died on July 28, , at Leipzig. For some reason, her stepsons did nothing to help her, and her own sons were too young to do so. Unfinished as it was, The Art of the Fugue was published in It attracted little attention and was reissued in with a laudatory preface by Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg , a well-known Berlin musician who later became director of the royal lottery.
In spite of Marpurg and of some appreciative remarks by Johann Mattheson , the influential Hamburg critic and composer, only about 30 copies had been sold by , when Emanuel Bach offered the plates for sale. As far as is known, they were sold for scrap. There is an English translation of it in The Bach Reader. Though incomplete and inaccurate, the obituary is of very great importance as a firsthand source of information.
Bach appears to have been a good husband and father. Indeed, he was the father of 20 children, only 10 of whom survived to maturity. There is amusing evidence of a certain thriftiness—a necessary virtue, for he was never more than moderately well off and he delighted in hospitality. Living as he did at a time when music was beginning to be regarded as no occupation for a gentleman, he occasionally had to stand up for his rights both as a man and as a musician; he was then obstinate in the extreme.
But no sympathetic employer had any trouble with Bach, and with his professional brethren he was modest and friendly. This was only natural; in the days of Haydn and Mozart , no one could be expected to take much interest in a composer who had been considered old-fashioned even in his lifetime—especially since his music was not readily available, and half of it the church cantatas was fast becoming useless as a result of changes in religious thought.
By a representative selection of keyboard music was nonetheless available, although very few of the vocal works were published.
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But in that year the German musician Eduard Devrient and the German composer Felix Mendelssohn took the next step with the centenary performance of the St. It and the St. John Passion were both published in ; the Mass in B Minor followed — Encouraged by Robert Schumann , the Bach-Gesellschaft BG was founded in the centenary year , with the purpose of publishing the complete works.
By all the known works had been printed, and the BG was succeeded by the Neue Bach-Gesellschaft NBG , which exists still, organizing festivals and publishing popular editions.
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Its chief publication is its research journal, the Bach-Jahrbuch from In retrospect, the Bach revival, reaching back to , can be recognized as the first conspicuous example of the deliberate exhumation of old music, accompanied by biographical and critical studies. The revival also served as an inspiration and a model for subsequent work of a similar kind.
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Among the biographical and critical works on Bach, the most important was the monumental study Johann Sebastian Bach , 2 vol. Although wrong in many details, the book is still indispensable to the Bach student. It must be understood that the autographs of many important works no longer exist. In fact, they are often dangerously misleading, and practical musicians should take expert advice before consulting them.
Editions published between and about are little more than curiosities, chiefly interesting for the light they throw on the progress of the revival. No comprehensive edition is trustworthy throughout: Nevertheless, it is advisable to begin by finding out whether the music desired has been published in the NBA. For additional music by Bach, see Concerto No.
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Jul 24, See Article History. Learn More in these related Britannica articles: Both were born in the same part of Germany; both were reared in the Lutheran Church; and both were primarily organists; but because of different environmental circumstances each became a master of different musical forms. The employment of motivic interplay offers certain inherent contrasts of its own. These include shifts from one high or low range to another within a texture of interwoven melodies: Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students.
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Johann Sebastian Bach
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