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J.S. Bach (Hauser) .JPG [19K]

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), portrait by Hauser. Bach was from a high­ly mu­sic­al ex­ten­ded fam­ily that had served as court and church mu­sic­ians for gen­era­tions. He star­ted his car­eer ear­ly at Arn­stadt, from where he walked a con­sid­era­ble dis­tance to Ham­burg at one time (in­cur­ring sev­ere dis­pleas­ure from his em­ploy­er) to hear the or­gan play­ing of the fa­mous Dano-​Ger­man com­po­ser/​or­gan­ist Die­trich Bux­te­hu­de. He sub­se­quent­ly had a short stint at Mühl­hau­sen, then set­tled in for a long time at the court of the Duke of An­halt-​Cö­then, where he wrote much of the live­ly, youth­ful mu­sic for which he is known to most peo­ple to­day. Then, to­ward the lat­ter part of his life, he moved to Leip­zig and took the post as kapell­mei­ster and can­tor at its ca­the­dral-​school, where he served to the end of his life. It is here that he wrote a can­ta­ta a week for years (no mean feat!) and to­ward the end of his life, some of his lof­ti­est mu­sic: the Musical Offering and Art of Fugue.

His music is characterized by fluid coun­ter­point (simul­ta­ne­ous­ly soun­ding melo­dies) sup­por­ted by a har­mon­ic­al­ly-fig­ured bass to hold the pol­yph­ony sol­id­ly to­geth­er. He’s fond of tur­ning mel­od­ic shapes up­side down (in­ver­sion) and using un­usu­al wedge-shaped forms in them. He loves chro­mat­ic­ism, and isn’t re­luc­tant to mod­ul­ate dar­ing­ly while using it — es­pec­ial­ly in his key­board works.

He was the greatest organist of his day (as well as an accomplished violinist), and wrote what is in­dis­pu­tab­ly the greatest music for or­gan ever. He was es­pec­ial­ly an ex­pert on (and re­mains the most prom­in­ent com­po­si­tion­al ex­em­plar of) the fugue .

J.S. Bach menu

“Cycles” means works such as Well-Tempered Clavier, Musical Offering, and Art of the Fugue. If you don’t find what you’re looking for in one place at this site, try another. The “LITTLE” FUGUE IN g MINOR, an organ work (a “standalone” fugue), but many people wouldn’t think of looking for it as that.

Each piece will have a hyperlink which, when clicked on, presents a short section of the score — an “earlobe” , (the audio equivalent of a thumbnail), a sampler to let you identify what piece it is, will be played if you click on this. Note that your system must be set up to play .MID files (spawning link: read contents and close to resume here) for this to work; if not, you will hear nothing, or get an error from your browser or operating system.

a fugue
(orch. | kbd.)

& partitas
Sonatas Cycles