Johann Sebastian Bach

He was born in Eisenach (1685) and died in Leipzig (1750). Bach was a German composer and virtuoso on keyboard instruments, he was considered one of the greatest musical geniuses of mankind. He composed in Baroque musical style. In his time, he became famous as a performer and improviser, but wasn’t recognised as a composer. Bach's music was perceived as complex and conservative, and after his death was sidelined for almost fifty years. Its rediscovery was made by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, in the beginning of 19th century.

Bach was born into a musical family with two hundred years of tradition. He showed musical talent since childhood. His older brother supported his studies, because his parents died very soon. At fifteen, he has been a choir singer, and before he was appointed organist in 1703, he also worked as a lackey and violinist in Regency band in Arnstadt. In 1707, he married Maria Barbara Bach, with whom he had his first six children. He and his wife moved to Weimar, where he worked as court organist and chamber musician. The Weimar cultural life was much richer and more inspiring than the previous place of work. Bach remained there until 1717 when he became an employee of Princely Court in Köthen. Then he gained a unique position as a composer and bandleader.

Here the Czech lands enter into Bach's life. In July 1720, just when Bach was in Karlovy Vary for two months, his wife in Köthen went ill and suddenly died. A year later, Bach married Anna Magdalena Wilcke, a daughter of a court musician. She gave him another thirteen children, all of which unfortunately died at young age. Anna Magdalena Bach was the closest collaborator of her husband and supported his creative activity until his death.

Bach worked in secular and religious services at various locations in Germany. The most significant places were Weimar, Köthen and Leipzig. Among his best-known compositions are "Brandenburg Concertos", countless organ preludes and fugues, "Well-Tempered Clavier", "Mass in B-minor", "St. Matthew’s Passion", "Art of Fugue", "Musical Offering" and "Goldberg Variations". There are readable influences of Italian music (a form of singing cantatas) in Bach’s works. His great role model for instrumental concerts was Antonio Vivaldi. He also used a form of dance suite in the slow movements, which are evidently influenced by French music.

Bach highly praised the art of his contemporaries. In his youth, he wished to be a pupil of Buxtehude, and happily walked (in October 1705) a 320 km long journey just to listen to him. (He also extended the three-week leave he was given to three months.) Undoubtedly, Bach's extremely original and profound work is its own distinct and conscious synthesis and recapitulation of previous developments in the German, Italian and French music. In the Czech lands, he affected a great number of organists and composers of sacred music.