Happy Birthday, Bach!

Let me start out by saying that so many interesting things happened today! Otto von Bismarck became Chancellor of the German Empire (1871), the Butler Act prohibited the teaching of evolution in Tennessee (1925), Charles Lindbergh received the Medal of Honor for the first trans-Atlantic flight (1928), Martin Luther King led 3,200 people on a civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama (1965), and that’s not even all.

But I had to address one event in particular: Johann Sebastian Bach was born today in 1685!

Photo courtesy of baroquemusic.org.


Johann Sebastian Bach was born during the Baroque period in Eisenach, Germany to a musical family. As a child he learned how to play the violin, harpsichord, and organ, and was a skilled soprano until his voice changed. He had a religious education which affected his life and his work.

The final aim and reason of all music is nothing other than the glorification of God and the refreshment of the spirit.
― Johann Sebastian Bach

Bach’s parents died by the time he was 10, so he lived with his eldest brother, Johann Christoph, for a few years until Bach received a scholarship to a school in Lüneburg. While at Lüneburg, he met local organist George Böhm and discovered French instrumental music, both of which influenced him greatly.

At age 18, Bach received his first job as a musician at Duke Johann Ernst’s court in Weimar. After that, Bach held positions in Arnstadt, Mühlhausen, and Cöthen.

Finally, Bach ended up at Leipzig, where he lived and worked for the last 27 years of his life.

During his life, Bach was better known for his organ playing than his composing. Today, we remember him for such works as Toccata and Fugue in D minor, the Brandenburg Concertos, the Well-Tempered Clavier, and Mass in B minor.

I think that if I were required to spend the rest of my life on a desert island, and to listen to or play the music of any one composer during all that time, that composer would almost certainly be Bach. I really can’t think of any other music which is so all-encompassing, which moves me so deeply and so consistently, and which, to use a rather imprecise word, is valuable beyond all of its skill and brilliance for something more meaningful than that — its humanity.

-Glenn Gould, Canadian pianist known for his interpretation of the keyboard music of Bach

And now, let me share my favorite piece of Bach’s work, Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major (my favorite is Prelude).


What is your favorite masterpiece by Bach?







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