Teen Volunteer Post: Celebrating Bach’s Birthday in 2021

This year, Boston Public Library's teen volunteer program has gone remote! As part of this program, local high schoolers share their thoughts on books, movies, and more on our blog. In today's post, Westford Academy student Mia Ikeda talks about one of her favorite composers, Johann Sebastian Bach, in honor of his birthday. 


Johann Sebatian Bach is known to the world today as one of the most influential composers of Western music. His many instrumental and vocal compositions shaped the Baroque era of music and influenced many future composers. Born in late March to a family of musicians in Eisenach, Germany, this month marks his 336th birthday.

Bach's parents died when he was 10, at which point his brother took over his care. Bach is said to have started keyboard lessons under the supervision of Johan Pachelbel while living with his brother. Throughout his early adult life, Bach gained regard as a very gifted organist.

He worked at various Protestant churches and noble courts throughout his life. When he moved to Kӧthen, Germany, the local prince honored him with the title of Capellmeister. A capellmeister is someone who is in charge of an orchestra. As capellmeister, he composed many secular pieces for the court. It was there he wrote his Brandenburg Concertos. Many of his compositions were for the violin and cello. His pieces for the Viola de Gamba were often written for the prince, who played the baroque instrument.

He later moved to Leipzig and was appointed Thomaskantor, or music director. In Leipzig, he composed both religious and secular music for universities and churches. He did this while fulfilling his duties as the music director.

Throughout his lifetime, Bach’s compositions significantly contributed to almost every aspect of Baroque music. This includes sonatas, cantatas and concertos, as well as vocal and organ pieces of great caliber. His moving works exemplify the hallmarks of the Baroque period and are timeless masterpieces to enjoy today.

Below are some of my favorite performances of Bach's works.

Bach’s ‘Hohe Messe’ (Mass in B minor) - Netherlands Bach Society: Bach’s Mass in B minor, performed by the Netherlands Bach Society. This piece showcases the utter spectacle of Bach’s many styles. This is a truly moving performance that brings out the beauty of each and every voice.

Toccata and Fugue in D minor - Gabor Lahotka: This well known organ piece is brought to life in a majestic performance by the great organist Gabor Lahotka.

Fantasia and fugue in G minor BWV 542 Bach - Leo van Doeselaar: The sheer emotion and musicality displayed throughout this performance absolutely shines through Doeselaar’s expressive performance.

Bach-Chaconne, Partita No. 2 - Midori: Midori’s masterful performance showcases her wonderfully elegant and soulful tone. She is performing at the Köthen Castle where Bach composed the piece.

Playing Bach While Reading Haikus - Twoset Violin: Just for kicks!

Check out these books and albums to further celebrate Bach's life!

Classic FM

BaroqueMusic.org

Britannica.com

Becoming Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach

Hilary Hahn Plays Bach

J.s. Bach: Cello Suites

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