The Life of
Johann Sebastian Bach

By Tejshri Patel


The drive of Johann Sebastian Bach to embrace music within all of its beauty, has led him to be one of the most renowned and revered musicians in all of history. Even though his beginnings were humble, Bach’s destiny became clear to him through his father’s teachings in the basics of string playing and the organ. Throughout his life, his genius was not allowed freedom of expression because of various obstacles such as his training, the church, and people’s mindsets of that time.Overcoming these obstacles unlocked Bach’s genius, and brought forth great masterpieces of music. It was after his death that the world embraced his works; great composers such as Beethoven and Mozart followed his example.

Coming from an entire family of musicians, Bach’s life was filled with melodies and harmony. Bach’s musical teachings began with his father when he was born in 1685, but were cut short when his father died in 1695 and left a nine year old musician orphaned. It was only natural for his brother Johann Christoph, an accomplished musician in the church, to continue the teachings after his father died. The older Bach continued his younger brother’s training on the organ and introduced him to the harp and the fundamentals of keyboarding.

Bach learned instrumental basics from his brother’s teachings but taught himself to compose music. Musical composition is for what he is most known , a talent he acquired on his own. Living with his brother Bach witnessed the church’s attitude toward music. The choir as well as the musicans lacked passion to play the music at his or her full capacity. Becoming a musical scholar at an early age, Bach’s ultimate goal was to achieve a higher level of music. His " self-proclaimed goal of his youth for ‘well-regulated church music to the glory of God,’ inspired him for the rest of his life.


Bach’s first taste of a career in music occurred in his teens through a church in Arnstadt, Germany, as an organist. It was during his stay at Neukirche that his brassy nature exposed itself, " his perfectionist tendencies and high expectations of other musicans, rubbed his colleagues the wrong way. Bach’s ambitions to create a musical experience rather than a simple performance was misunderstood by his contemporaries. Many boundaries were set on his music by the conservative Lutheran church of the time. Also, the musicans were not of high caliber and thought his music was " too florid and his harmonization too bold." As a result, these churches showed to be a non-conducive atmosphere for composing. His attempt to break the mold of past musicans was frowned upon by his superiors, causing him to break the rules once in a while to satisfy his longings.

It was Bach’s yearning for a well developed musical forum as well as musical freedom that led him to jail in 1705. Bach took leave to go to Lubeck to hear one of the greatest organist/composers of that time play. He was on the strict instruction from his superiors on having permission to stay for only one week. Yet, Johann Sebastian found the music so moving that he remained in Lubeck for an entire month. The bishop made no haste in arresting him, and during his further two year stay at the church many disputes arose concerning his obligations. This incident shows how Bach’s contemporaries failed to understand his love for music. His jailing illustrates the restrictions that churches of the time placed on individuality and personal growth in the music arena.

Despite his setbacks, Bach’s composing really began at the end of 1707, where he settled at a church in Weimer for nine years. There he began as concertmaster and organist, and due to his high position was finally free to express his music prowess. It was in Weimer that he began composing organ showpieces and cantatas. Due to a lack of career advancement, Bach was forced to leave Weimar and relocated to a church in Anhalt-Cothen. At this new church, he created one of his greatest masterpieces-the Brandenburg Concerti. Bach’s works composed during his stint at the Anhalt-Cothen church is referred to as his Cothen period. It was also one of the only times he truly could explore his musical aspirations to bring his music to the next level.


As a result of his amazing work at the Anhalt-Cothen church, the St. Thomas church in Leipzig offered him a very prestigious position. His new place of employment gave him many responsibilities. He became the Kapellmeister and once more enjoyed his musical freedom, a longing that had not been satisfied for many years. It was at this place that his most famous and timeless classics came into being. Bach’s freedom brought his music to the next level and to "bring [ it to the] glory [of ] God". Bach remained in Leipzig composing music and enjoying music to the full extent. Through all of his trials and tribulations Bach managed to be the master of his element. He was an expert on the cello, violin, keyboard, harpsichord, lute, flute, viola, oboe. He wrote countless sonatas, partitas, and concertos for all of these instruments. His rigid work ethic was a driving force for his "unsurpassed ability to combine intricate musical structure with a pure spiritual force." By examining his life, it is clear that his genius could not be harnessed; once he was allowed the freedom to work, his possibilities became endless.

Bach’s life dream of bringing music to the next level was achieved by his relentless struggle for perfection, despite various obstacles. His great works still carry on two hundred years after his death. He has inspired the likes of Beethoven and Mozart, as well as countless others around the world.. He gave the world musical works that have intricacies that to this day cannot be deciphered. He brought fame to E. Germany by not losing sight of his dream, and giving the world a new perspective on music.




http:// www.classicalmus.com.html, September 29, 1998

http:// www.jsbach.ng/.html, September 29, 1998

Marshall, Robert, " Bach the ProgressiveObservations on His Later Works," Musical Quarterly LXII: NY, NY, 1976; pg 313-357














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