A History of Western Music: W. W.

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Chapter 19 German Composers of the Late Baroque Composer Biographies

Johann Sebastian Bach
Born: March 21, 1685, Eisenach, Germany Died: July 28, 1750, Leipzig, Germany Works Musical Examples Links Return to Just Listen: Era : Composer In his own words.... "Whereas the Honorable and Most Wise Council of this Town of Leipzig have engaged me as Cantor of the St. Thomas School...I shall set the boys a shining example...,serve the school industriously,...bring the music in both the principal churches of this town into good estate,...faithfully instruct the boys not only in vocal but also in instrumental music...arrange the music so that it shall not last too long, and shall...not make an operatic impression, but rather incite the listeners to devotion..treat the boys in a friendly manner and with caution, but, in case they do not wish to obey, chastise them with moderation or report them to the proper place." German composer and organist. Culminating figure of the German Baroque. When we say that a composer such as Johann Sebastian Bach was a genius, what are we really saying? It is easy to call someone a genius, but far more difficult to explain what that means. The word itself tends to intimidate us, and we often feel that it is impossible to bridge the gap and find the human side of genius. So we simply call him or her a genius and are done with it. In the case of Bach, however, his genius is a combination of a number of simpler qualities, all of which point to that human side. First, Bach was a craftsman. He lived in an age in which the composer created works according to the demands of his employer. For Bach, this meant that his various positions demanded different kinds of music. As court organist in Weimar, he produced his most important organ works, and as a composer for the Prince of Anhalt-Cöthen he created music that his patron desired: ensemble music (including the famous Brandenburg Concertos, written for another royal patron, the Margrave of Brandenburg). But his most important and long-term position was as cantor of St. Thomas's Church in Leipzig. Not surprisingly, it is in this period that he wrote the bulk of his great

1722). and perhaps that is as close as we can come. Bach was able to create works in a wide variety of genres. 1722. His Musical Offering is a tour de force of variations and contrapuntal inventions on a theme suggested to him by Frederick the Great. including 2 volumes of Das wohltemperirte Clavier ( The WellTempered Clavier . concertos for 1 and 2 violins. including over 200 church cantatas. they constitute the human elements of that genius. 3. The composer constantly surrounded himself with the music of his contemporaries. he integrated these ideas into his own unique style. by themselves. Bach was also a deeply religious man. In some aspects. They help us to understand why and how Bach created what he did. and in all aspects. 6 sonatas for violin and harpsichord. Mass in B minor (1749) Secular vocal works. sinfonias Organ music. 2. Many of his works seem to be exercises in exploring every conceivable possibility. St. fugues. A second quality we find in Bach is that of a student or an emulator. and 4 harpsichords Chamber music.church music. and his study of these pieces (often involving re-arranging pieces for different combinations of instruments) provided him an insight into a wide variety of national and personal styles. Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue (c. Musical Offering (1747). Bach had a passion for completeness. Because of the demands of his various employers. John Passion (1724). 6 suites for cello. An example of this is his two collections of preludes and fugues. and for 1. including over 150 chorale preludes. including over 20 cantatas Orchestral music. And his Art of Fugue (unfinished at his death) is a compendium of contrapuntal techniques unequaled before or since. the Well-Tempered Clavier . and Die Kunst der Fuge ( The Art of Fugue . capriccios. he has no equal. Magnificat (1723). and passacaglias Back to top . St. explain Bach's genius. 7 motets. 1745?1750). which often strikes the listener as an intensely personal statement of faith. flute sonatas. 6 English Suites (c. His Mass in B minor is not a liturgical work. None of these qualities. Finally. Works Sacred vocal works. Throughout his life. c. 1742). In them. including 4 orchestral suites. But it is in his final works that this encyclopedic quality stands out. Bach explores every possible major and minor key. 6 French Suites (c. providing a breadth of expression not often seen. 6 Brandenburg Concertos. fugues. however. and viola da gamba sonatas Keyboard music. inventions. including 6 sonatas and partitas for unaccompanied violin. Italian Concerto (1735). preludes. much of it reworked from earlier pieces. 1720). His personal Bible is filled with annotations and comments. and this depth of feeling finds its way into his sacred music. 1722). suites. C hristmas Oratorio (1734). Matthew Passion (1727). fantasias. but a summation of his sacred style. Taken together. toccatas. Goldberg Variations (1741?1742). his music is unique. concertos.

80. There is also an extensive index of Bach's works (cross-indexed by title. 80. BWV 853 08:25 Prelude and Fugue No. and recommended recordings (also cross-indexed). Art of the Fugue 04:25 Listening Guide [pdf file . BWV 869 11:36 Prelude and Fugue No. Air 05:23 Mass in B minor. First movement 04:51 Listening Guide [pdf file . Second movement 03:37 Listening Guide [pdf file .Sanctus 05:17 Prelude and Fugue No.353 KB] Brandenburg Concerto No.Musical Examples Cantata No. Bach was part of an incredible musical family that stretched from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth. Last movement 01:41 Listening Guide [pdf file . 4 02:30 Toccata and Fugue in D minor 02:57 Orchestral Suite no. Contains a biographical section that includes a tourist guide to the cities Bach lived in over the course of his life. BWV 232 .Symbolum Niceum: Credo in unum Deum 01:49 Mass in B minor.603 KB] Cantata No. BWV 847 02:57 Prelude and Fugue No. 80. 2.S. The Bach Family J. First movement 04:29 Listening Guide [pdf file .263 KB] Brandenburg Concerto No. key. This site traces the family tree. Includes discussions of works and some portraits. The J. S. from Orchestral Suite No. BWV number. 21 in B flat major. BWV 866 03:14 Back to top Links A General Biography Biographical article extracted from the Grove Concise Dictionary of Music. 8 in E flat minor / D sharp minor. 24 in B minor. BWV 232 . year of composition. Bach Homepage A great place to go for further exploration. 4.603 KB] Cantata No. category.603 KB] Contrapunctus I. Part of Timothy Smith's Bach site at Northern Arizona University. . 3. 3rd mvmt 04:37 Rejouissance.603 KB] Cantata No. 2 in C minor. and instrument). Want Even More? Try Bach Central Station Links to over 300 different Bach sites from detailed analyses of his music to Bach on the electric guitar. Fifth movement 03:36 Listening Guide [pdf file . Also links to other classical sites. 80.

George Frideric Handel Born: February 23. The career that led him there was. the son of a barber-surgeon who wanted him to study law. but he continued to conduct and . George Frideric Handel began his life in Germany. and his first opera. he created a series of works that became some of the most popular in all of the Western tradition. In England. but his position as the leading operatic composer in England was soon challenged. Handel turned to another popular genre. At age seventeen. where he reigned as George I. The next three years were spent in Italy. Over the course of the next twenty years. but almost immediately was invited to England to produce his opera Rinaldo. Handel composed for the general public. but Handel never returned. the oratorio. the most renowned musical figure of his day and a national treasure. This latter style was begun by John Gay with The Beggar's Opera of 1728. In 1712 he again asked leave to go to England. Handel was a man of the world. Handel was a world traveler. first by the advent of a rival opera company (the Opera of the Nobility) and then by the development of a new and lighter style of the ballad opera. Handel continued to write operas in the serious Italian style. Johann Sebastian Bach (born less then a month after him). London Works Musical Examples Links Return to Just Listen: Era : Composer English composer. Handel's output as a composer declined in his later years. In an interesting irony. the royal patron he left behind followed him to London in 1714 as the successor to the English throne. He died an English citizen. Where Bach composed for the church and for his patrons. a complete contrast to that of his contemporary and fellow countryman. His request was granted. Handel showed great musical talent at an early age. was a rousing success. And where Bach was a man who never left his native country. his Messiah (1742). Almira. Halle. Where Bach was primarily of man of God. Most famous among these was his telling of the life of Jesus. Composed in all genres. and the "Hallelujah Chorus" from this work is arguably the most immediately recognizable piece of Western classical music. As the popularity of Italian opera faded. the young Handel went to Hamburg. It was for his former employer that Handel wrote his Water Music . 1759. but primarily remembered for his operas and oratorios. 1685. Germany Died: April 14. German by birth. He returned to Germany in 1710 to take the post of music director for the elector of Hanover. He was soon composing in the Italian style that he heard and played. in almost every way. where his operas were extremely popular and where he continued to perfect his operatic style. and his father allowed him to study with a local organist and composer. where he played violin in the opera orchestra. His return to Hanover was short-lived. the first of the Hanoverian kings.

it was at the end of a performance of Messiah that he collapsed. dying three days later. Indeed. Molto voglio from Rinaldo 02:57 Listening Guide [pdf file .perform (he was a brilliant organist). a bibliography. 1724). No. Rejoice Greatly! 04:57 Listening Guide [pdf file . Utrech Te Deum (1713). including solo and trio sonatas Keyboard music. concertos for oboe.497 KB] Messiah. Allegro. Nos. Back to top Musical Examples Messiah.497 KB] Messiah. Israel in Egypt (1739). including Water Music (1717) and Music for the Royal Fireworks (1749). detailed list of works. and dances. Includes a small portrait gallery. including Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (c. 17. and Jephta (1752).497 KB] Messiah. fugues. No. other sacred vocal music. . from Water Music 02:18 Listening Guide [pdf file . Judas Maccabaeus (1747). and Orlando (1733) Oratorios. including Esther (1718). 1713). No. Solomon (1749).507 KB] I know that my Redeemer liveth. and an outline and text for Messiah (with audio clips).497 KB] Mvmt 1. Acis and Galatea (masque. Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar. Works Operas (over 40). Overture 03:12 Listening Guide [pdf file . Alexander's Feast (1736).415 KB] Back to top Links A General Biography Biographical article extracted from the Grove Concise Dictionary of Music. including harpsichord suites. anthems and Latin church music Secular vocal music. 44. Sampson (1743). Hallelujah Chorus 03:48 Listening Guide [pdf file . preludes. arias Orchestral music. organ.497 KB] Messiah. including Almira (1705). horn Chamber music. Rinaldo (1711). 1718). Glory to God 02:06 Listening Guide [pdf file . including solo and duo cantatas. 18. Cecilia's Day (1739). from Messiah 06:07 Aria.507 KB] Alla hornpipe. No. 14-16. Belshazzar (1745). airs. Messiah (1742). There were shepherds 01:20 Listening Guide [pdf file . Ode for St. from Water Music 03:00 Listening Guide [pdf file . I.

.A Basic Recording Library From the ClassicalNet site. Handel's House in London Handel lived in the same house from 1723 until his death (interestingly. two centuries later (in 1969) Jimi Hendrix lived in the house next door for a short period of time). An online guide to the museum. A listing of recommended recordings of the basic Handel repertoire.

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