Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany on March 21, 1685 to a very musical family. He was taught to play the violin and the organ by his father and after the death of his parents when he was 10 he went to live with an older brother, who taught him to play the clavichord and the harpsichord. He left home when he was 15 to become a chorister at St. Michael’s Church in Luneburg. He studied some of the best choral works of the period and learned the French language. In 1703, he was appointed church organist at Arnstadt.
He obtained a month’s leave of absence to hear the famous organist, Dietrich Buxtehude in Lubeck, but stayed four months instead. This action infuriated the authorities in Arnstadt. In 1707, he obtained a position as organist at Muhlhausen, where he remained for almost a year. His first major appointment came in 1708 when he was appointed court organist and chamber musician to the Duke of Weimar. Here he composed such works as Fugue in C Minor for Organ, the Concertos for Organ and numerous toccatas, fantasias and fugues. He was recognized as one of the greatest composers of his time.
In 1717, he moved to the court of Prince Leopold to become the music director. His duties included the composition of music for court presentations. During this time he composed some of his finest chamber music, such as the six Brandenburg Concertos. He left this position in 1723 to devote himself to church music as the cantor at the Thomasschule in Leipzig. He spent the remainder of his life here composing pieces of church and public presentations, teaching music and training the choir. His superb Mass in B minor was written at this time.
Bach was married twice and had 20 children, although only ten of them lived to adulthood. Four of his sons became renowned as prominent composers. Bach died in Leipzig. Germany on July 28, 1750.
Bach is considered to be one of the great musical geniuses. His works mark the culmination of the Baroque style and represents an epoch in music history. He composed in almost every musical form except the opera. His music is characterized by a grandeur of design and a rigorous precision that has rarely been equaled, His religious works are among his finest accomplishments, some of which rank as the greatest ever composed.