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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Born into a gifted family, Johann Sebastian Bach was trained in music from childhood by his father, Johann Ambrosia, and later by his brother Johann Christoph. He held a variety of posts, serving as organist in Arnstadt (1703-7), Mühlhausen (1707-8), and Weimar (1708-17) before becoming musical director for Prince Leo pold at Cöthen. After the death of his first wife, Maria Barbara Bach, he married Anna Magdalena Wülken. He had in all 20 children, several of whom became noted as musicians. In 1723, Bach became cantor and music director of St. Thomas Church, Leipzig, a distinguished post that he held until his death. In his instrumental and choral works, Bach perfected the art of polyphony and brought the era of Baroque music to its culmination.

During his lifetime Bach was better known as a virtuoso organist than as a composer, but since the 19th century his genius has been recognized, and his reputation has grown steadily. In his early years as organist, he composed a series of works for organ that culminated in the great preludes and fugues written at Weimar. At Cöthen he focused on instrumental compositions, such as the Brandenburg Concertos, and keyboard works, such as Book I of the celebrated Well-Tempered Clavier. His superb religious compositions from the Leipzig period include the St. John Passion and the Mass in B Minor, and some 300 sacred cantatas, of which nearly 200 are extant. His last notable pieces are the Musical Offering, composed for Frederick the Great, and the Art of the Fugue.


For more information about the life and music of Johann Sebastian Bach, check out these other websites:

The Classical Music Pages: Johann Sebastian Bach
An excerpt from the Grove Dictionary of Music on Bach’s life, as well as a short list of his works.
The J.S. Bach Home Page
A very extensive searchable catalog of recordings of Bach’s music, as recommended by readers. Also home to the Cantatas Project, which is an effort to provide commentary for and translate the texts of all of Bach’s cantatas on the Internet.
Bach Cantatas Website - Home Page
A comprehensive site with in-depth reviews and discussions of various recordings of the cantatas and of performance practices. The links page will connect you to various sites with texts and translations of all the cantatas.
Xinh’s JS Bach Index
A very detailed site about Bach’s Mass in b minor, containing text and commentary as well as pictures of Bach and links to other sites.

Vocal Works Performed by SFBC

Instrumental Works Performed by SFBC

  • Orchestral Suite in C Major, BWV 1066
  • Prelude and Fugue in Eb Major (St. Anne), BWV 552
  • Prelude and Fugue in e minor ("The Wedge"), BWV 548
  • Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068
  • Three chorale preludes from the Orgelbüchlein
    • O Mensch, bewein’ dein’ Sünde groß, BWV 622
    • Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend, BWV 632
    • Ich ruf’ zu dir, BWV 639

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