Johann Sebastian Bach (1685—1750) lost both his parents at a young age and was sent to live with his brother Johann Christoph, where he received his first musical instruction. 18 years old, he was appointed organist in Arnstadt, where the church authorities were confused by his "curious embellishments" of the chorales; their irritation increased when he prolonged by several months the leave granted him to visit Lübeck and attend Buxtehude´s concerts.
He then worked for the Duke Wilhelm of Weimar for almost ten years, but as he didn’t get the promotion that he wanted he eventually applied for the post of Kapellmeister to the musically talented Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen. Duke Wilhelm was not pleased and threw Bach in jail for a month before discharging him.
In Cöthen, Bach completed many instrumental works, including the first book of The Well-Tempered Clavier, and the Brandenburg Concertos. In 1720, his first wife Maria Barbara died suddenly, leaving Bach with four young children, including Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel.
The following year he married Anna Magdalena, who was to bear him a further 13, of whom ten died in infancy. When Prince Leopold married, the good times in Cöthen ended, as his wife resented his preoccupation with music. This led Bach to apply for the post of Thomaskantor at Leipzig, where during his first five years Bach completed three annual cycles of cantatas, the St John (1724) and St Matthew (1727) Passions, and many other sacred works. How he was able to stay on this exalted level of creativity for so long remains a mystery, as his resources actually were quite limited: when he set out his minimum requirements for a well-regulated church music, he received in response from the church authorities only a threat to reduce his salary.
During his last years Bach created works of a somewhat abstract and general nature. The B minor Mass is an exemplar of the mastery he had attained in all the main sacred genres, while pieces like the Goldberg Variations and the Variations for organ on Vom Himmel hoch explore canonic writing. The Art of Fugue, a vast compendium of contrapuntal techniques, remained unfinished.
Towards the end of his life Bach went blind. A contemporary newspaper reported that the cause of his death at age 65 was "from the unhappy consequences of a very unsuccessful eye operation", performed by the British surgeon John Taylor.
Choral & Vocal: Mass in b minor, St. Matthew Passion, St. John Passion, Christmas Oratorio, Easter Oratorio, over 200 cantatas.
Keyboard: Chorale Preludes, Preludes, Fugues, Toccatas & Fantasias for organ
English Suites, French Suites, Goldberg Variations, Italian Concerto, Partitas, The Well-Tempered Clavier 1&2, Inventions and Sinfonias, Art of Fugue.
Chamber: three Sonatas and three Partitas for unaccompanied violin, six Suites for unaccompanied cello.
Orchestral: Brandenburg Concertos, Orchestral Suites or Overtures (including "Air on the G string"), violin and harpsichord concertos.
"The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul"
Statement of the Leipzig City Council when Bach was appointed Thomaskantor:
"Since the best man [Telemann] could not be obtained, we were forced to fall back on mediocrities."
Piano Sheet music by Johann Sebastian Bach
OK this question is more in the range of students 12 and older. Typically, students are introduced to 2 and 3 part inventions - but what if a student is a slight bit on the dyslexic side (very slight) and is really frustrated by this type of music. What is a good way to still cover Bach and not become frustrated by him.
I printed out some general info about Bach (esp about the WTC) and was thinking about some kind of easier introduction than preludes/fugues or even the inventions. Are there any suites that fit this bill? I know the Anna-Magdalena notebook would be easy but perhaps too easy and too boring. Are there some suites that are 'pared down' for easier reading - or could one do this? He seems more inclined to songs and melodies. Also, Bach was really into 'theme and variations' when younger - and perhaps that is an idea to start. Any suggestions of theme and variations to work on?
addendum: I just printed out 'Small Prelude' from PF and it looks just about right. Still interested in any more ideas.
I am kinnda confused about how to interpret and play Bach on the piano. I don't know whether I should approach the score romantically (but not much) and try to add much nuances here and there and playing lazy legato with my fingers (lazy fingers are when you don't lift the previous sound until you play the next sound so that the sounds overlap. This guarantees a perfect legato.)
Or I should play it in a restricted Mozartian style, where nuances were limited and the touch detached resembling the touch of an old fortepiano.
I feel it is a big debate as we find recordings from world-reknown pianists who each conform to a rule of those.
I just want to know which approach is better. My teacher told me to play Bach deeply with emotion and seriousness and with an emphasis on a perfect legato.
Discussions can get heated when it comes to how one best performs Bach in an "authentic" way. Often, people argue about pedaling or correct ornaments, to name just a couple of issues. However, practically nobody seems to be concerned with the fact that the temperament used on modern pianos is not the one that Bach used, and the pitch is different as well. In fact, because of the use of equal temperament in modern pianos, practically all aspects of the different "moods" and colors associated with different keys are lost. Those only come out when used with the unequal temperaments of the time. Composers like Bach, Mozart and Chopin wrote their various works that made use of all keys (preludes, etudes, sonatas) for the express purpose to bring out those moods. So, here are my questions:
Why does nobody consider something as fundamental as the correct temperament when thinking about performance practices? What difference would it actually make? I.e., has actually ever anybody recorded Bach Inventions, WTC, late Beethoven sonatas, etc., on a modern piano with the proper tuning that the composer used? I am not talking about period instruments. I'm interested in the modern piano.