Johann Sebastian Bach

composer Johann Sebastian Bach
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Johann Sebastian Bach was a famous composer born March 21, 1685, in Eisenach. He died July 28, 1750, in Leipzig.

Quick Facts

  • While in school, Bach studied orthodox Lutheranism, logic, rhetoric, Latin and Greek, arithmetic, history, geography, and German poetry.
  • Bach was a keyboard virtuoso. He mastered organ and later harpsichord.
  • Although Bach received formal lessons, his virtuosity was self-taught.

Family Background

Bach's father, Johann Ambrosius, married Maria Elisabeth Lämmerhirt on April 8, 1668. They had eight children, five of whom survived; Johann Sebastian (the youngest), his three brothers and his sister. Bach's father worked as a houseman and a musician in the ducal court of Saxe-Eisenach. Bach's mother died in 1694 and a few months later, Bach's father married Barbara Margaretha. Unfortunately, three months into his second marriage, he died of a serious illness.


When Bach was 9 years old, he attended his oldest brother's (Johann Christoph) wedding where he met Johann Pachelbel, composer of the famous Pachelbel Canon. When Bach's father died, he and his brother were adopted by Christoph. Christoph was an organist at St. Michaels church in Ohrdruf. Bach received his first lessons in organ from Christoph but became "a pure and strong fuguist" by himself.

Teenage Years

Bach attended Lyceum until 1700. While at Lyceum, he learned reading, writing, arithmetic, singing, history, natural science, and religion. He was fourth in his class when he finished his schooling. He then left school and went to Lüneburg. Bach learned a bit about organ building while staying with his brother in Ohrdruf; due entirely to the frequent repairs of the church organs.

Early Adult Years

In 1707, Bach was hired to play for special services at a church in Mühlhausen; Bach composed the music in which he was to play. Shortly thereafter, his uncle died and left him 50 guldens. This provided him with enough money to marry Maria Barbara. In 1708, Bach received and accepted a job offer with a higher salary from the Duke of Weimar, Wilhelm Ernst, to play in his court.

Mid Adult Years

While in Weimar, Bach was appointed court organist, and it is supposed that he wrote much of his organ music there. Much to the Duke's liking, along with Bach's salary increases, he earned the title of Konzertmeister (concertmaster). Six of Bach's children were born in Weimar. After seeking the more prestigious title of Kapellmeister (chapel master), he accepted an offer from Prince Leopold of Cöthen in 1717.

Late Adult Years

After his days in Cöthen, Bach accepted the job as Kantor at the Thomasschule. He was in charge of arranging the music of the four main churches in the town. Bach became extremely involved and composed much of his music in Leipzig. Bach spent the rest of his days there and in 1750, he died of a stroke.

Selected works by Bach include:


  • St. Matthew Passion, BWV. 244 - perf. 1729
  • St. John Passion, BWV. 245 - perf. 1724
  • St. Mark Passion, BWV. 247 - perf. 1731

Brandenburg Concertos

  • No. 1, BWV. 1046 - F Major
  • No. 2, BWV. 1047 - F Major
  • No. 3, BWV. 1048 - G Major
  • No. 4, BWV. 1049 - G Major
  • No. 5, BWV. 1050 - D Major
  • No. 6, BWV. 1051 - B flat Major

Orchestral Suites

  • BWV. 1066, C Major - 1725
  • BWV. 1067, b minor - 1739
  • BWV. 1068, D Major - 1731
  • BWV. 1069, D Major - 1725