Johann Sebastian Bach

(1685-1750)

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

A colossus amongst composers, J. S. Bach was born and lived in Germany throughout his life. He was the most eminent organist of his day and he ranks as one of the finest composers for that instrument. Our ‘Presto Recommends… J.S. Bach (choral and vocal)’ feature is our hand-picked selection of his greatest recordings.

Bach’s various appointments at the courts of Weimar, Cöthen and, finally, St Thomas, Leipzig, required him to compose both secular and church music. Of the former there are the Orchestral Suites, the Brandenburg Concertos and many other instrumental and chamber works.

For the church, apart from the organ music, there are almost 200 cantatas (written at a rate of about one a week) as well as the St Matthew Passion and the St John Passion. The B minor Mass, written towards the end of his life, stands as a fitting tribute to his faith, which was a significant influence to him as a composer, and to his supreme skill.

He was not a musical innovator but rather brought to a climax all the developments of polyphony and fugal writing that preceded him. His eyesight failed him in later years and, like his contemporary Handel, a botched operation - by the same doctor - left him almost blind.

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