J.S. Bach

The core of is the set of four-part harmonized chorales. I have added a few other chorale based pieces, but they are extra bonuses.

If the piece is not on these two lists, it is not on the site. Unless I live to be 150 years old and have very little else to do, I doubt that most of the organ chorales will make it to the site.

Johann Sebastian Bach (Johann Sebastian Bach, 1685-1750) is often presented by music historians as the opposite of Handel. And indeed, Bach did not compose music for the theater, he promoted mainly German musical traditions and in his time was known more as a virtuoso church organist than as a composer. However, both German composers mastered the technique of polyphony and created great works.

Biography. In Germany (mainly Thuringia) in the 17th century. there lived an extensive Bach family, which included many musicians. Eisenach’s musician Johann Ambraziej, like other Bachs, taught his children music. One of his sons – Johann Sebastian Bach – became a famous organist and composer.

When Johan Sebastian was nine, his mother died, and a year later his father died. The orphan was taken under the care of his older brother Johan Kristof, Ordorf’s organist. Later, J. S. Bach studied at various schools, and at the age of 17, he was already a well-prepared musician, learning to play the violin and viola, play the harpsichord, play the organ, and conduct a choir. At eighteen he started working independently. At first he worked as an organist in churches in Arnstadt and Mühlhausen. This is where he started making music. Bach’s later work is divided into three periods. They are named after the cities where Bach worked.

In Weimar (1708–1717), Bach worked as court musician and organist. There was a rich library in the palace, where Bach had the opportunity to get acquainted with the works of composers from other countries. Since his main duties were to play the organ in the palace church, it was during this period that Bach mainly composed for the organ.

In Kėten (1717–1723) Bach was the head of the palace chapel – Kapellmeister. The Duke of Käten was very fond of music and had a good band in which Bach played and conducted. During this period, Bach created his most important instrumental works: music for orchestra, harpsichord, and other instruments.

In Leipzig (1723–1750), Bach held a prestigious position – he was St. Thomas’ church cantor and city music director. Bach had to take care of the city’s musical life, create and rehearse a new cantata every Sunday, lead the choir and a small church orchestra. In addition, Bach also taught at St. Thomas Church in the operating school. In Leipzig, Bach mainly composed church music: he wrote cantatas, created great vocal-instrumental works. As musical fashions changed, Bach’s works seemed old-fashioned, so in the last decade of his life, Bach composed and performed less. At the end of his life, the composer became completely blind.

Works. Bach composed more than 1,000 works: cantatas, masses (the most famous being Mass in B minor), passions (“Passion according to Matthew”), works for organ (Toccata and fugue in D minor), concertos for various instruments and orchestra (of which 6 “Brandenburg Concerts”), piano works – suites, preludes and fugues, inventions, etc.

Style. Bach’s work is considered the pinnacle of baroque music. He perfectly mastered the techniques of polyphony, created complex compositions that surprised with their ingenuity, richness of ideas, rationality and at the same time expressiveness. Bach was particularly close to the style of church music, which he also enriched with elements of theatrical music. Of the musical forms, Bach was particularly skilled in creating fugues. Being an excellent performer (he played the organ, harpsichord and violin), he also wrote difficult instrumental parts in his compositions. Bach’s work combines the traditions of the old masters of polyphony, German song (lyd), Protestant chorale and instrumental music of various Baroque composers. This composer managed to create a unique musical style, and his works are now heard all over the world (after Bach’s death, his music was kind of forgotten, but the Romantics revived it in the 19th century, when they began to perform Bach’s great works again in concerts).