Johann Sebastian Bach

Classical Music: Baroque Composer's Datebook: March 21

"The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul." ~ Johann Sebastian Bach

Biography of Baroque German composer JS Bach - his life, works and influence on classical music. A master of counterpoint or contrapuntal technique, his Baroque music is one of the world's most famous.

Johann Sebastian Bach or simply JS Bach (March 21, 1685-July 28, 1750) was a Baroque German Protestant composer, organist, choirmaster, singer and violinist, the most popular of the musical Bach family. He was born on March 21, 1685, in Eisenach, North Germany. His father, Johann Ambrosius Bach, was a court musician.

He was a counterpoint master known for church music famous for St. John Passion that includes the famous "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring,"  and  St. Matthew Passion.

Considered one of the greatest composers who ever lived, JS Bach's music is enormous, mainly church music. He is best known as the master of counterpoint, his music epitomizing the Baroque polyphonic style. His works, regarded as the greatest of polyphonic music, include orchestral music, e.g., the six Brandenburg Concertos, Goldberg Variations, and concertos for keyboard instrument and violin, orchestral suites, sonatas for various instruments, and unaccompanied cello music. His fugues, Mass in B minor, two Passions (St. Matthew and St. John), hundreds of cantatas, and other choral music are of equal importance.

J.S. Bach's Magnificat, BWV 243.2, BWV 243. This work is a musical setting of the biblical canticle 'Magnificat'.The term 'Magnificat' (Latin for "My Soul magnifies the Lord" is the hymn of the Virgin Mary (from the Holy Bible Luke 1:46–55), used as a canticle in Christian liturgy, especially at vespers and evensong. In the Byzantine tradition, "the Ode of the Theotokos". It is traditionally incorporated into the liturgical services of the Catholic Church at vespers and of the Eastern Orthodox churches at the morning services. Bach's music is scored for five vocal parts (two sopranos, alto, tenor and bass), and a Baroque orchestra including trumpets and timpani. It is the first major liturgical composition on a Latin text by the composer.  

His music echoes who he is - as a musician-thinker and as a man - a superb baroque composer famous for counterpoint, physically and emotionally strong, a religious man who dedicated all his works for the greater glory of God, and a family man who enjoyed his family immensely. His music shines with warmth and great confidence.

Johann Sebastian Bach's prolificacy in composition is echoed in the phrase  "nicht Bach aber Meer haben wir" (English: Not a brook but an ocean have we.)


Johann Sebastian Bach has the same birthday as Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky (born 1839), famous for "Pictures at an Exhibition." Mussorgsky was a member of the Russian group of composers who called themselves "The Five"or "The Mighty Handful."

JS Bach married twice and had more than 20 children, although several died in infancy. His music was "rediscovered" in the 19th century with the "Bach revival" promoted by Felix Mendelssohn.

Video Credit:

Bach, Matthäus-Passion BWV 244. Herreweghe. YouTube, uploaded by Pakito Palote. Accessed March 21, 2017.  (Coro y Orquesta del Collegium Vocale Gent, with Philipp Herreweghe, director; Christoph Prégardien, tenor; Tobias Berndt, barítono; Dorothee Mields, soprano; Hana Blažíková, soprano; Damien Guillon, alto/contratenor; Robin Blaze, alto/contratenor; Colin Balzer, tenor
Hans Jörg Mammel, tenor; Matthew Brook, bajo-barítono; Stephan MacLeod, bajo-barítono)

J.S. Bach: St John Passion, BWV 245 - Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki (HD 1080p). YouTube, uploaded by Ifikratis Vlahos. Accessed March 21, 2017. (Presented by Bach Collegium Japan with Masaaki Suzuki, Conducting. Midori Suzuki, soprano; Robin Blaze, countertenor; Gerd Türk, tenor; Stephan MacLeod, bass baritone; Chiyuki Urano, bass.  Japan, Tokyo, Suntory Hall in Tokyo, 2000.  English subtitles )

J.S. Bach: Magnificat. Anna Nesyba (Soprano I).  Monteverdichor Würzburg.  Monteverdi Ensemble. Matthias Beckert (Conductor).  November 10, 2014, Neubaukirche, Würzburg, Germany.  Uploaded by Monteverdichor Würzburg. Accessed March 31, 2015.

Image Credit:

Johann Sebastian Bach.  Wiki Commons / Public Domain

  • Chambers Biographical Dictionary, edited by Una McGovern (2002)
  • Kennedy, Michael, Ed. (1994) Oxford Dictionary of Music. Oxford OUP.   
  • Latham, Alison, Ed. (2002) The Oxford companion to Music. Oxford OUP.
  • Sadie, Stanley, Ed. (1994). The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music. London: Macmillan Publishers.
(c) Posted March 2012. Updated March 31, 2015. Tel. Inspired Pen Web. All rights reserved.

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