Johann Sebastian Bach

857 Words Jun 16th, 2018 4 Pages
Johann Sebastian Bach

Bach descended from a long line of distinguished musicians, and, after his death, several of his sons achieved musical prominence. He received his first musical training from members of his family, including his father, who was also a musician. He learned a great deal by studying the scores of other composers, assimilating the best musical practices of Germany, Italy, Austria, and France. Early on, he exhibited the work ethic that made him an extremely prolific composer. One story illustrates the extent of his devotion to his craft: at the age of 20, he walked a distance of 200 miles to hear Dietrich Buxtehude, Northern Europe's most renowned organist at the time, play the organ at Lübeck.

Throughout his career,
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He treats the voices of the chorus like instruments, emphasizing music over text. Though the emotional needs of the text are always considered, his choral works lack the theatrical vocals of opera or the madrigal. The word that perhaps best describes all of Bach's music is reverent. His profound sense of duty to his church and his God is apparent in his respectful approach to composition.

Most of Bach's choral compositions took the form of the Lutheran cantata, which appeared earlier in Italy, but reached its full potential in Germany. The cantata was a relatively new form that combined biblical text and contemporary poetry. Composers set the text to the chorale melodies of early Lutheran tunes.

The chorale melody might be sung by the soprano voice in a hymn-like section of the cantata, also called the chorale. In other movements, the chorale tune might appear as a sort of cantus firmus, a melodic fragment woven into the tapestry of multiple polyphonic lines. These movements would take the form of choral fugues, duets, or arias.

The content of the Sunday Mass influenced the composition of the cantata, varying from single movement works, to pieces with multiple movements divided into choruses, instrumental passages, arias, and recitatives. Let's look at the Cantata No.80 Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott, for an example of such a multi-movement work. This particular cantata has eight movements:

Bach also perfected the Passion, a form
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