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Johann Sebastian Bach

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Johann Sebastian Bach was born into a musically gifted family and was devoted to music throughput his childhood and adult years. He was taught by his father and later by his brother Johann Christoph, and was a boy soprano in Luneberg. His education was acquired largely through independent studies. In 1703 he became a violinist in the private orchestra of the prince of Weimar but left within a year to become an organist at Arnstadt.

Bach went to Muhlhausen as an organist in 1707. There he married his cousin Maria Barbara Bach; together they had seven children. In 1708 he was made court organist and chamber musician at Weimar, and in 1714 he became concertmaster.

In 1720 Bach’s wife died, and in 1721 he married Anna Magdalena Wulken, a woman of considerable musical cultivation; they had 13 children. In 1723 he took the important post of music director of the church of St. Thomas, Leipzig, and of its choir school; he remained in Leipzig until his death.

In all his positions as choir director, Bach composed religious cantatas: a total of some 300, of which nearly 200 are in existence. Actually I think my church may have used one or more Bach’s cantatas recently. There are also over 30 secular cantatas. The bulk of his work is religious: he made four-part settings of 371 Lutheran chorales, also using many of them as the bases of organ preludes and choral works. He also composed an astonishing number of instrumental works, many of them designed for the instruction of his students. In his instrumental and choral works he perfected the art of polyphony, putting two melodies together unexpectedly,

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