Who was J.S. Bach?

J.S. Bach (1685–1750) was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He enriched established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France.

Bach's compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg Variations, the Mass in B minor, two Passions, and over three hundred cantatas of which around two hundred survive. His music is revered for its technical command, artistic beauty, and intellectual depth.

Bach's abilities as an organist were highly respected during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time. (adapted from Wikipedia)

There is a rich online repository of information describing the life and works of J.S. Bach. Some useful and interesting sites are listed in our Useful Links section – happy browsing!

Useful links

Australian voices on J.S. Bach

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
Quote J.S. Bach (from ABC Classic FM – 21 March 2013)

Bach saw that music can be transformational, and that music that reflects on the love of God can bring others to ponder that love. That is made clear again and again in the words of his cantatas; that there is a personal response that is expected of us to this great act of love in Jesus Christ.
The Very Revd. Dr. Andreas Löwe, Dean of Melbourne St. Paul’s Cathedral in The Melbourne Anglican, February 2013

There is an unbroken line from Luther through to Bach’s 300 cantatas. Nothing in music can be compared with them and in some ways they are a fulfillment of Luther…Luther said time and time again, ‘First there is the Word of God (the Bible), then there is music’ and we find the embodiment of that in J.S. Bach.
Douglas Lawrence, Australian Chamber Choir and Director of Music Scots’ Church Melbourne in The Age, 19 April 2012

Today’s Symposium once again illustrates that while it is easy to view geographical and cultural isolation as a problem, in fact it can be a great advantage since it could lead to startlingly fresh understandings of mainstream European repertoire, with audience’s gaps in knowledge enabling them to receive works relatively free from preconceptions.
Professor Kerry Murphy, Head of Musicology at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, Symposium ‘Bach in Australia’ The University of Melbourne 15 September 2012

Bach’s choral music requires our full engagement and can never be mere background music…. Ultimately, it is the active engagement of the whole person – mind, body and soul – that draws me to Bach as a theologian.
The Very Rvd. Dr. Andreas Löwe, Dean of Melbourne St. Paul’s Cathedral in The Melbourne Anglican, September 2010

Only rapturous waves of applause could confirm that this was a rare and exceptional performance. What a better way to celebrate the Thomaner tradition, Bach’s 324th birthday on March 21 and the approaching Holy Week but by living through the cathartic experience of the passion of Christ amongst angelic voices and sounds!
Daniela Kaleva in Australian Stage Review 20 March 2009 on J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion, performed by the Thomanerchor and MSO conducted by Oleg Caetani at Melbourne Recital Centre, Melbourne

JS Bach: an extraordinary human being – a painting

In the words of the painter, Katharina Rapp:

In music and art in general, we are at risk of putting a genius up on a lonely pedestal, forgetting that he was made of flesh and blood. In the case of J.S. Bach, I am convinced that it was particularly his family life that led to his understanding of the human being. He experienced love and loss, birth and death, and every nuance in between.

When Hans Schroeder mentioned that he was playing with the idea of using an image for future programmes that was not a copy of the famous Haussmann portrait - as used by the Bachfest Leipzig 2012 - but something modern, more accessible, this sparked my interest. And when we eventually agreed that I should paint something that celebrated Johann Sebastian, I was both terrified and thrilled. How could I do justice to a man so revered? There was no point in copying an existing portrait, so bearing in mind that art imitates life (or was it the other way round?), I looked into his private life. Bach loved his wife, he loved his food and drink, and he loved his children. Imagine the conversations around the dinner table, by candle-light. Imagine the constant practice in every corner of their household, the screaming babies.

I wanted to show ‘Johann Sebastian Bach the human being’, so that a new generation, perhaps uncomfortable with the conventional, serious approach, might open their hearts and minds, and wonder how such beauty could come out of domestic chaos.

Katharina Rapp, www.studiorapp.com