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The name Johann Sebastian Bach is almost synonymous in modern day with mastery of baroque music composition. He is widely (or universally) recognized as one of three giants of the artform (along with Mozart and Beethoven). Additionally, he was master of the church organ, harpsichord, and an accomplished violinist. Although quite multitalented, musical composition was the driving force of his life. Ironically, maybe tragically, he achieved virtually no success or professional recognition as a composer in his own lifetime. Of the nearly one thousand musical compositions currently listed in the Bach musical catalog (BWV) only a dozen of these were published in his lifetime. Furthermore, some of those were printed at Bach's own expense.
In 1721 he composed Six Concerts for Different Instruments. The work
was sent as a sample (employment application) to Christian Ludwig, the
margrave of Brandenburg. Bach received no reply back, and never got the
job. The compositions fortunately were stored, finally being published
in 1850, a full 100 years after Bach's death. As a stunning example of
the immense futility Bach must have felt, these towering works now well
known as the Brandenburg Concertos propelled Bach into baroque music
immortality postmortem, and the margrave of Brandenburg into mists of
history. Today there are 73 different recordings of the famous work
commercially available. There is much debate over the lack of interest in his Bach's music
during his life. However, the consensus is that many musicians at time
time considered his music technically challenging.
J. S. Bach began his auspicious career in music at the age of fifteen as an organ mechanic and tuner, moving from town to town. He was quickly regarded as a talented technician, and all through his life continued to service his large collection of musical instruments. As noted Bach had no ability to support himself through publishing, (as opposed to his comtemporary Georg Handel, considered a superstar) Bach resorted to a variety of commercial enterprises to support his large family. Some of the minor activities involved selling music books and instruments, but by far his greatest efforts were aimed at Music on Demand.
This business involved composing sometimes vastly complicated pieces
of music (for weddings, funerals etc.) on a few days notice. With the
burden of 20 children to support, Bach seemed quite sufficiently
motivated. Indeed, it has been estimated that an experienced music
handwriter would need 40 years to copy his life's work. From a purely technical prospective, Bach is considered to be the
master of the fugue. Fugues were very popular formats for Baroque
music, involving a sort of dialog between instruments.
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