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JS Bach: where to start with his music

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/aug/26/js-bach-where-to-start-with-his-music

theguardian.com

JS Bach: where to start with his music
With religious music so involving he could inspire faith in non-believers, the German composer’s sense of harmony makes him a shared reference point for all classical composers

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The Music Of Bach

The Music Of Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was called the immortal God of Harmony by none other than Beethoven himself. The composer’s music inspires a feeling of love, reverence and even spirituality.

His most popular piece of organ music is Toccata and Fugue in D minor, which is a soundtrack used in many movies. A popular wedding sound is Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring while a cigar company used Air on the G String in a primetime TV ad when TV could advertise such stuff.

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Johann Sebastian Bach: Early Life

  • Born in 1685 in Germany, Bach was in a dynasty of musicians, though his mother and father died before he turned ten.
  • Even as an orphan, he got into what he loved, starting with organ music as a court musician, composing for church services.
  • This added a flavour of the devotion and love in his music at an early age. He started compiling instrumental music in Cöthen, moving away from his earlier style and using a more diverse range of instruments.

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Johann Sebastian Bach: The Finest Years

  • Bach’s shifting to a cosmopolitan city in Germany resulted in a sort of serendipity that helped him compose his finest music like Magnificat, and about 200 cantata.
  • He composed gems like Christmas Oratorio and two great gospel compositions for Good Friday: St John and St Matthew.
  • Bach left incomplete a final collection called The Art of Fugue when he died in 1750.

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Bach: The Music Of Harmony

For many musicians, Bach is the ‘alpha’, a shared point of reference, a starting language of how music can be made, and how it can sound. His work is timeless and covered by countless composers, jazz players and patrons. In his instrumental works, his music had a sense of balance and harmony which is found in nature, in the trees, the moon and the sky.

Pieces like the Six Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin and The Well-Tempered Clavier provide a glimpse of the other shore of the universe. The works are precise, complete, and mathematically balanced. They feel satisfying after hundreds of years as they carry a theme where each repetition and transformation fits like a jigsaw puzzle. This was never repeated or fully emulated by any other musician ever since.

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