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St. Thomas’s Church and organ, Leipzig

Humanity has always been on the move, driven by war and revolution, pestilence and persecution, or simply an insatiable curiosity to see the world. This curiosity is what makes us human.

Not so the Bachs. They stayed put in the same area – Thuringia and Saxony – for generations.

I had always wondered why Johann Sebastian, the most brilliant of the celebrated Bach clan, had chosen to always stay in the same region, apparently incurious about the world beyond, while his more cosmopolitan contemporary, George Frederik Handel, traveled to Italy where he absorbed the different styles, including opera, and to England where he finally settled. The furthest Bach ever traveled was to Lübeck to hear the great organist Buxtehude perform.

The answer is that the Bachs were perfectly happy where they were. There was plenty of work – as court and church musicians, as composers, teachers, performers and instrument-makers, and, as in Johann Sebastian’s case, organ inspector and adviser to builders and princes alike. It was a culturally rich milieu. Bach was also exposed to new music at the courts where he worked, brought by the foreign musicians. His music thus became an amalgamation of the various stylistic and formal elements of his age, and was directly connected to the people, institutions and traditions of that time – a time when greatness was measured not so much by originality as by the mastery of technique.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 –1750) was a composer of the Baroque Era, born into a large clan which already included several significant musicians. Did he enjoy fame during his lifetime? Indeed he did, but as an organist of incomparable virtuosity rather than as a composer.

Having spent a lifetime playing and listening to Bach’s music, I decided to go on a spectacular musical pilgrimage, a well-managed “festival” tour in eastern Germany (the former GDR) organised by Martin Randall Travel (See https://www.martinrandall.com/ .) Here we heard Bach’s music played on the organs, and in the same churches and palaces, where he had worked. The tour began, as Bach did, in the small towns of Thuringia, and ended, like Bach, in the free city of Leipzig.

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We arrived in Frankfurt on a hot summer afternoon, and were swept by coach along the autobahn through a landscape of vast golden wheat fields punctuated with giant wind turbines and ancient oak forests. Now and then the spire of an a little church came into view, nestling in the heart of a red-roofed village, or a castle ruin atop a hill, or black-and-white cows in a barn. Large raptors sailed the skies, and a russet fox, hare or deer flashed across a meadow. Notwithstanding the farming on a modern, industrial scale, I felt excited to be in the same area as one of my favourite composers, who had traversed this land three and a half centuries before.

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    Johann Sebastian Bach’s Germany

Eisenach, Bach’s birthplace, lies 150 km northeast of Frankfurt, and here one can visit the Bachhaus Eisenach, a museum featuring historically authentic living rooms which provide a glimpse into life of the Bach family in the early 1700’s. The modern adjacent building is devoted to Bach’s music, presented by means of a permanent multimedia exhibition.

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The Bachhaus, and Café Toccata, Eisenach

Wandering the streets of Eisenach I was amused to see several eateries named in honour of the great composer, including a Café Toccata and a Restaurant Bach. There are also a number of attractive confectioners with beautifully packaged sweets and chocolates, and konditori selling mouth-watering pastries, the delicious aromas of which float out into the cobbled streets, tempting passers-by to buy their wares.

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St. George’s Church, Eisenach: Vox Luminis conducted by Lionel Meunier

In the beautiful St. George’s Church in Eisenach we were treated to a concert of motets by various Bach “Uncles.” Vox Luminis, a youthful Belgian group of nine singers founded in 2004, was conducted by Lionel Meunier and accompanied on an organ and bass viol. The scores of some of these motets disappeared during WW II, and, incredibly, recently turned up in a library in Kiev! The simplicity of this music appealed to the new Protestant Lutherans who considered the complex polyphony and instrumental accompaniments of Catholic sacred music distasteful. This beautiful, if somewhat sombre music, gives an insight into Bach’s musical heritage, and the sacred milieu in which he worked.

Bach’s mother died when he was only nine years old, followed ten months later by his father, and he was taken into the home of his eldest brother, Johann Christoph Bach (1671–1721), the organist of St. Michael’s church in Ohrdruf. He gave the boy much valuable musical tuition, including introducing him to the music of their illustrious contemporaries.

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Rachel Podger (solo violin), Trinitatiskirche, Ohrdruf

Here in the Trinitatiskirche (St. Trinitatis Church) we heard a recital performed by the English violinist Rachel Podger. This beautiful church, built during the early 18th century, was a fitting venue for a programme of several of Bach’s solo Violin Sonatas and Partitas (Suites.)

The Princely residential town of Arnstadt, about 30 km southwest of Weimar, was next on the itinerary,  and a concert of Bach’s cantatas and a motet (BWV 12, 131 & 227) performed in the Bachkirche (renamed in 1935 from the Neukirche), where Bach was appointed Kantor (organist and choirmaster) in 1703. It was his first significant post, which came with a relatively generous salary – and a brand new organ.

The Bachkirche (formerly the Bonifatius Church and Neukirche) and organ, Arnstadt

Bach remained in this position for the next four years, evidently enjoying being a “young and wild musician”, according to the Bachstadt – ARNSTADT brochure which also wryly relates the anecdote of his having beaten one of his choristers in the town square, presumably for misbehaving during choir practice. There was “also some trouble with the authorities regarding his extravagant keyboard improvisations, and for a young woman being seen in the organ loft with him.” This may have been his future wife, Maria Barbara Bach.

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The Young Bach, Arnstadt, (1985) created by Prof. Bernd Göbel to mark the 300th anniversary of Bach’s birth

It was a deeply moving experience listening to this beautiful sacred music in the pristine white and gold interior of the Bachkirche, sung by the Cantus Cöln, which was founded in 1987 by the renowned lutenist and leading conductor of Early Music, Konrad Junghänel. The programme opened with Bach’s cantata Weinen, Klagen, (Weeping, wailing, fretting fearing) BWV 12, composed in 1714, a setting of St. John’s Gospel Chapter 16 which recounts Christ’s farewell discourse to His disciples.

Arnstadt, founded in 704, is the oldest documented town in Thuringia, indeed in the whole of eastern Germany, and the town centre still retains much of its picturesque medieval charm, with its quaint buildings and narrow alleyways. There is much to see here: the recently-named Bachhaus – an annual rendez-vous for musical reunions of the greater Bach family from all over Thuringia, was restored in 1999 and opened to the public in 2002. Now a small museum, it features a permanent exhibition on the history of the house and its former occupants, and is a centre for cultural discussions and chamber concerts. The Arnstäder Schlossmuseum (Castle Museum) features an interesting permanent exhibition about Bach’s time in Arnstadt, including documents and musical scores. Here, too, the exhibition Mon plaisir is a collection of exquisitely hand-made dolls’ houses, never intended as children’s toys, but a record of the social life – and strata – in a small 18th century German town.

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The Bachhaus and Liebfrauenkirche, Arnstadt

The majestic 13th century Liebfrauenkirche (Church of our Lady) was the most important church in Arnstadt until the Reformation, but later lost its significance and eventually fell into ruin. Today it is in excellent condition, and an interesting example of the Romanesque-Gothic interim period in central Germany, with the nave supported by rounded Romanesque arches, and the crossing and eastern parts displaying the early Gothic pointed design.

By 1707 Bach had become dissatisfied with his working conditions in Arnstadt, and, always with an eye to improving his career prospects, he auditioned for the more significant post of organist at the Blasiuskirche (St. Blaise’s Church) in Mühlhausen, and was accepted. The job came with “85 Gulden, 54 bushels of grain and 6 x 3 score faggots” – and a far superior choir. Later that year he married his second cousin Maria Barbara Bach, and they proceeded to have seven children, of whom four survived into adulthood; Wilhelm Friedman and Carl Philipp Emanuel became significant composers in their own right.

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Mühlhausen town walls

Mühlhausen, located on the Unstrut River, is one of the few remaining German towns still encircled by almost completely intact medieval walls with watch towers. During the 8th century the Franks settled in this river valley, and built their water mills – hence the town’s name. Many of the surviving buildings are constructed in the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architectural styles, along with the stone and half-timbered houses. The town wall, churches and houses date from the town’s heyday which lasted well into the 15th century. These and the narrow medieval alleys and quaint buildings lend the town its distinctive historical character. During the 16th century it became a significant centre of the German Reformation.

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Mühlhausen: the old town square, and the picturesque Linsenstrasse

The Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) dates from c.1300, and is thought to have been where Bach signed his contract with the Blasiuskirche Council. The frescoes on the walls of the Hall depict the town counselors of old, each with an amusing characteristic feature such as a receding chin, pointed beard, or holding a favourite book.

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 The Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) and previous town counselors, Mühlhausen

But Bach clashed with the pastor and congregation at the Blasiuskirche in Mühlhausen, and resigned after only a year. He auditioned at the court of Duke Wilhelm Ernst in Weimar, and was given the dual position of Hoforganist (Court Organist) and Chamber Composer. It is well to remember that, in an age before radio, sound systems and television, if one wanted to hear music, one either had to make it oneself, or pay others to make it for you. Bach’s period in Weimar (1708-1717), where he had the opportunity to work with well-funded, highly professional musicians, marked the beginning of a concentrated period of composition for the keyboard and orchestra, and, as his confidence in his capacities as a composer grew, he began to extend the known forms of the day, and to include in them influences from abroad, such as the Italian concerto grosso form.

Weimar was for several centuries an important centre for the arts, particularly music and literature; many significant figures resided there at some stage of their lives, including Heinrich Schütz, Liszt, Wagner, Brahms, Smetana, Borodin, and Richard Strauss. Great literary figures of the Enlightenment who made their home there were Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Herder, Schiller and Nietzsche. Today Weimar is a lively city thronging with tourists eager to see the house-museums of several of these luminaries, the beautiful Classical architecture and the landscaped parks.

Liszt’s House is particularly interesting, with its large and elegant salon dominated by the great pianist’s grand piano, and comfortable armchairs and couches where his guests sat during his Sunday afternoon matinées. How spell-binding those occasions must have been!

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Liszt’s House and salon, Weimar

Weimar boasts many interesting sights: in the historic centre lies the Markt (main town square), dominated by the old Rathaus (Town Hall), and surrounded by significant buildings such as Cranach House, where Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder (c.1472-1553) lived with his son of the same name.

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The Rathaus on the Markt, Weimar 

The building now houses a small theatre, and this was where we heard the first of three recitals of Bach’s Solo Cello Suites by the British cellist Steven Isserlis (1958-).

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Weimar: Cranach House and theatre (right, painted cream), and Steven Isserlis (cellist)

This internationally renowned musician performs as a soloist – with and without the orchestra, and as a chamber musician – and is also a teacher, broadcaster, recording artist and author. Particularly amusing are his children’s books about the great composers, Why Beethoven Threw the Stew and Why Handel Waggled his Wig. Chatting to Steven after the recital he shared with us an amusing anecdote: his pianist grandfather, newly arrived in Vienna in 1922, was denied occupation of an apartment that he wished to rent. I asked why this was. “Because”, he said, “The 102-year-old landlady refused to take in another musician on the grounds that the previous one had been extremely noisy and spat on the floor.” We waited for further elucidation: “This tenant was none other than Ludwig von Beethoven!” Steven’s sisters play the violin and viola respectively, and “Family music-making was an integral part of my life from an early age.”

Like the Solo Violin Suites, it is not known for whom the Cello Suites were composed, but they are significant as representing the development of secular instrumental music. They had long been relegated to teaching fodder, until resurrected early during the last century by Pablo Casals (1876-1973). He described them as far from austere, “shining with an almost glittering kind of poetry.” This music stretches the performer’s skill to the limits, especially during the rich harmonic and contrapuntal passages during which the instrument doubles as both melody and accompanying bass. The Suites all have a similar format: a Prelude followed by a sequence of dance movements including a pair of galanteries (simple Minuets), and a final Gigue.

Steven performed from memory, and, thus liberated from the score, played with great depth and passion. His particular gift is to convey the sense of personal performance, as if he is playing to each of us personally – speaking from the heart to the heart. His glorious tone can only in part be attributed to his instrument – the magnificent Marquis de Corberon (Nelsova) Stradivarius (1726.) The rest is, I believe, entirely of his own creation. When Steven plays, man and instrument became one, inseparable, delivering a musical and spiritual message from Bach himself which rings down through the centuries, reaching us today.

Also not to be missed in Weimar are the Goethe House, the Duchess Anna Amalia Library, the Albert Schweitzer Centre, the Nietzsche Archive, and the Russian Orthodox Church. Buchenwald Concentration Camp and the Memorial stand on the Ettersberg Hill near the city. The Stadtschloss (City Palace and Museum), or Ducal Palace, was destroyed by fires, refurbished, and enlarged several times through the centuries. This was the seat of the Grand Dukes of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, including Bach’s employers, Duke Wilhelm Ernst and his younger brother Duke Johann Ernst III of the House of Wettin. The Festsaal (Grand Ballroom) is where some of Bach’s compositions were first played, and this was where we heard the St. John Passion, brilliantly performed by the Gabrieli Consort (founded 1982), and conducted by Paul McCreesh. Contrary to the massive forces usually associated with the performance of Baroque choral music – a misconception fostered by Victorian English choral societies – this modest group of singers represents more accurately the sparse resources that Bach had at hand (and which he often deemed inadequate for his purposes.) Fortunately public taste has reverted to this more authentic procedure of musical performance: a chorus of no more than about 16 singers and a dozen instrumentalists.

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Weimar: Ducal Palace, the Festsaal (Grand Ballroom): Gabrieli Consort, conducted by Paul McCreesh

Nothing had prepared me for the emotional impact of this deeply devotional music. To be seated in the Ionic-colonnaded Festsaal of the Ducal Palace where Bach had once played, with its later magnificent crystal chandeliers and Classical decoration, was an experience I shall never forget. The Passion story itself is dramatic, and Bach’s setting is operatic and vividly intense. Each character speaks passionately through the music: the Evangelist (Biblical narration, tenor), Jesus (bass), and various other dramatis personae. The turba (crowd) comments on the action, expressing our feelings, as did the chorus in Ancient Greek drama – and in the new operas of the day – serving to heighten the tension. The action moves swiftly, with little pause for lyrical contemplation, towards the violent dénouement of Christ’s Crucifixion. The penultimate chorus is sung by the people: Ruht woll, ihr heilige Gebeine – Rest well, ye holy bones and members, Which I henceforth shall never weep for, Rest well and bring me, too, to rest! When first heard on Good Friday in the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig in 1724, it must have been most disturbing to the conservative congregation hitherto accustomed to more soulful, unaccompanied versions of the Passion story. Indeed, heedless of the city’s staid traditions, Bach, with his theatrical orchestral renditions, clashed with the authorities in Leipzig as he had elsewhere.

In 1714 Bach was promoted to Konzertmeister (Director of Music) at the Duke’s court in Weimar, a post which entailed composing a new cantata every month for the Palace Chapel, as well as concert music for the Duke’s ensemble.

But Bach eventually fell out of favour in Weimar, requested release, was at first refused, and then finally dismissed in disgrace. In 1717 he became Kapellmeister (Director of Music) at the court of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen. This musical Prince was more appreciative of Bach’s talents and gave him much latitude in his work as a composer and a performer. Because the Prince was a Calvinist and required no music in his worship, most of Bach’s music composed during this period is secular and instrumental: the orchestral suites, the solo cello and violin suites, and the Brandenburg Concertos.

Bach’s wife Maria Barbara suddenly died in 1720. The following year he met Anna Magdalena Wilke at the court in Köthen, a talented young soprano seventeen years his junior. They were married in 1721 and had thirteen children, only six of whom survived into adulthood; Christoph Friederich and Johann Christian became significant composers.

In 1723, after securing the unwilling release of Prince Leopold, Bach auditioned for and was granted the prestigious position of Kantor at St. Thomas’s Church and School in Leipzig.

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St. Thomas’s Church and School, Leipzig

This post included providing music for two other churches as well, the Neue Kirche and St. Peter’s Church, and the musical direction of public functions, and teaching the boys at the Thomasschule singing and Latin. He also had to produce a new cantata for every Sunday and feast day during the Lutheran liturgical year, but he was permitted to employ a deputy when he became too busy. Bach held this position for 27 years, until his death in 1750. Unfortunately it brought him into contact with the political machinations of his employer, the City Council of Leipzig, who decreed that Bach “should make compositions that are not theatrical” – a stipulation that Bach categorically ignored.

Leipzig, which began as an important trade centre during the Middle Ages (around 1015), has an interesting musical history: the Gewandhaus Orchestra was founded in 1743 – the oldest civic orchestra in Germany, Wagner was born there in 1813, and in 1843 Mendelssohn and Schumann founded the Leipzig Conservatoire. Today tourists can visit the Mendelssohn House Museum, a neoclassical villa still containing the original beautiful furniture, displays of some original letters and scores, watercolours by the composer, and family portraits. There are also a concert room, a reference library, and a café-shop where visitors can buy CD’s and other Mendelssohn memorabilia.

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  Mendelssohn-Haus and concert room, Leipzig

There is much of interest in Leipzig, apart from the beautiful old buildings, museums, and significant churches: the Grassi Museum, a vast complex of three museums devoted to musical instruments, ethnology and the decorative applied arts respectively, the Stadtgeschichtliche Museum (City History Museum), the Museum der Bildenden Künste (Fine Arts), and the Schumann and Schiller House Museums. Most important for our group was of course the Bach-Museum on St. Thomas Square, opposite the Thomaskirche and boasting its larger-than-life monument of the great composer, created by the Leipzig sculptor Carl Seffner in 1908.

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Old Bach Monument and the new Monument (1908), St. Thomas Square, Leipzig

A tour of the museum begins with a family tree featuring Bach’s ancestors and their occupations, the “favourite instrument” – the console of a Hildebrandt organ from St. John’s Church, Leipzig, on which Bach had played, displays of “Bach’s Orchestra” with genuine early instruments, an iron chest with the Bach seal, a film studio, a listening room, a research laboratory, and a “Treasure Room” containing original scores and items found in a tomb including a metal clasp. A humble thimble, thought to have belonged to Anna Magdalena Bach, caught my imagination, and I could just imagine her spending the evenings mending all the children’s clothes by candlelight – when she wasn’t busy copying out her husband’s music.

We heard two more solo cello recitals played by Steven Isserlis in the Alte Börse (Old Exchange), constructed during the late 17th century as an assembly room for the Leipzig merchants attending the trade fairs.

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Concerts in the Alte Börse (Old Exchange), Leipzig

Another concert followed in the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall), a proud Renaissance building which has dominated the Markt since 1556.

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Altes Rathaus (Town Hall) and Festsaal, Leipzig

The walls in the Festsaal (Great Hall) therein are lined with the portraits of former town councilors, and it was amusing to observe the wigs and hairstyles of these illustrious gentlemen through the ages, and the changes in fashion. This grand room, with its large open fireplaces and coffered ceiling from which brass chandeliers are suspended, was the perfect venue for a concert of Bach’s instrumental music: several of the Brandenburg and solo concertos, and the Orchestral Suite No.2, played by the youthful Barocksoloisten München, conducted by flautist Dorothea Seel. As we sat listening to this joyful music, the late summer sun came slanting through the windows, through which the black-tiled roof and bell tower with ornate cupola of the Thomaskirche could be glimpsed.

The Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas’s Church) dates from two periods: an early 16th century church that replaced a previous Romanesque building, and the lavishly-decorated church with a Neo-Classical interior designed by the city architect Friederich Carl Dauthe during the 1780’s – after Bach’s tenure. The effect is of a forest of palm trees, somewhat resembling a casino.

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St. Nicholas Church organ, and a performance of the St. Matthew Passion, Leipzig

This magnificent space was where our tour reached its dénouement, with a final concert: a performance of Bach’s equally magnificent St. Matthew Passion, performed by the Gabrieli Consort and Players, again conducted by Paul Mc Creesh. This monumental piece, lasting just over three hours and consisting of 80 sections, is longer than any other Passion before or since. It is scored for two equally-balanced four-part choirs, one of which includes a counter tenor. Bach included in his orchestration several older string and woodwind instruments now no longer in use: a viola da gamba, two oboes d’amore and an oboe da caccia – 26 musicians altogether.

The St. Matthew Passion was first performed on Good Friday in 1727. Encyclopedic in scope, and demonstrative of Bach’s considerable theological scholarship, the work includes every known form of the day, not the least of which was opera seria. It was indeed shockingly operatic to the congregation of his day: “The most monumental dramatic masterpiece before Wagner’s Ring” (Malcolm Boyd.) It is both a mighty assertion of religious faith and a summation of Bach’s art. As in the St. John Passion, the narrative unfolds in the form of recitative sung by the Evangelist (narrator), Jesus (bass), and other dramatis personae, the lyrical, reflective arias, and in the vividly theatrical turba (crowd) choruses, which comment on the action – all the ingredients of opera. The rending of the veil and the earthquake are pure opera. The chorales that punctuate the narrative are set to melodies that would have been well known to Bach’s audience, and provide moments for communal devotion and reflection. While the St. John Passion is dramatic, upbeat, concentrated and outward-looking, the St. Matthew is reflective, downbeat, somber and inward-looking.

I am often asked why Bach did not compose any true opera; there was an opera house in Leipzig at the time, and his contemporaries wrote opera. But it closed down in 1720 due to bureaucratic squabbles and financial difficulties. We know that Bach attended opera performances in Dresden, but he was essentially a devout Lutheran, and poured all his operatic skills into his sacred choral writing.

The remainder of Bach’s time in Leipzig seems – apart from the composition of much glorious large-scale sacred music, including the Christmas Oratorio – one of constant clashes with the authorities and dissatisfaction with his terms of employment: the pay was insufficient for the considerable workload, and the counselors were “very odd and little interested in music, so that I must live with almost continuous vexation, envy, and persecution.” In 1733 he applied to the new Elector, Friedrich Augustus II, for the title of Royal Court Composer, and was granted this in 1736. The object was to achieve greater bargaining power with the Leipzig Council. Apart from these vexations, he worked on the two books of 48 Preludes and Fugues known as The Well-Tempered Clavier, the Clavierübung (the Goldberg Variations) and The Art of Fugue.

In 1747 one of the most famous encounters during Bach’s life took place: he was invited to the court of King Frederick II the Great at Potsdam. Here the musical monarch played a theme for him on one of his fortepianos (a predecessor of the piano, and rather a novelty), and challenged him to improvise a fugue based on this theme. “This was done so happily by the Kapellmeister that not only His Majesty was pleased to show his satisfaction thereat, but also all those present were seized with astonishment.” Later Bach presented the King with the Musical Offering, an impressive work which includes two fugues, various canons, and a trio sonata in a quasi-Rococo style, all based on the King’s theme.

Bach’s last major work was the mighty Mass in B minor, hailed as Bach’s “most universal church work. Consisting mainly of recycled movements from cantatas written over a thirty-five year period, it allowed Bach to survey his vocal pieces one last time and select movements for further revision and refinement.” Although the complete Mass was never performed during the composer’s lifetime, it is regarded as one of the greatest choral works in the Western repertoire.

In 1749, aged 64, Bach’s health began to decline. He was becoming blind, partly due to cataracts, and the British eye surgeon John Taylor operated on him while visiting Leipzig in 1750. The operation was not a success, and, on 22 July 1750 Bach suffered a stroke. Six days later he died at the age of 65.

It is interesting to reflect on what became of Bach’s music after his death. We know that initially his reputation as a composer declined; he was first and foremost an incomparable organist, and when he was no longer around to sustain that reputation, his distinction waned. His music became regarded as rather old-fashioned, and so it was, when compared to the emerging style galant, or Rococo style. Unfortunately much of his music was lost after his death; the poor financial circumstances of family members led to the sale and subsequent loss of many of his unpublished works, including his St. Mark Passion, of which only the text has survived.

During the late 18th and early 19th centuries Bach’s genius was finally recognised by several prominent composers: Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann and Beethoven studied his music and began writing in a more contrapuntal style. Mendelssohn contributed significantly to the “Bach Renaissance” when in 1829 he organised a performance of the St. Matthew Passion in Berlin, and the Bach Gesellschaft (Society) was founded soon after, in 1850.

Another development has been the resurrection and restoration of “original instruments”, with performances and recordings with these softly-timbred instruments making for more historically accurate renditions of “early” music, and bringing alive those times. Noteworthy, too, is Bach’s extensive writing for the harpsichord, elevating it from mere basso continuo to a significant solo instrument.

Bach was lucky to be in the right place at the right time: he was born into a musical environment with the perfect conditions in which his exceptional genius could flourish. It is incredible to think that he sprang from a benignly cultural nowhere to become one of the greatest cornerstones in Western civilization. A master-craftsman and a visionary, he constantly refined his art. Vivaldi and Telemann, his prolific and popular contemporaries, wrote five times as much music as he, but without the same degree of technical command, aesthetic beauty, and intellectual depth.

Bach kept abreast of current trends; there is evidence that he was fascinated by new ideas, and he was of course interested in the music that his sons were producing, which ranged from Baroque and Rococo styles to the early Classical.

Today Bach is revered more than ever. His music is kept alive by continually being interpreted and performed, giving it significance and meaning not only today, but into the future as well. For Bach’s music, like the Kingdom of his God, will surely endure forever.

Bach's grave, St. Thomas's Church leipzig

Bach’s final resting place, St. Thomas’s Church, Leipzig

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