A composer quiz. Which composer lost both parents at the age of 10? Who started a 180 mile journey on foot to join a choir at the age of 15? Who returned from a summer tour with a prince and court musicians to find his spouse had fallen ill and died during his absence? Which composer worked in 6 different cities before finding a job that would last for nearly 30 years? Who was not even recognized as a great composer until his music was rediscovered more than 50 years after his death?
Many disappointments and hardships plagued this composer although each setback seemed to ignite his creativity. Instead of giving up he allowed his circumstances provide him with opportunities. When he became the unwilling victim of a private quarrel between employers, this composer spent his "idle" time writing a cycle of organ chorale preludes--enough to last for an entire year. While serving under the Calvinist prince Leopold who didn't require elaborate music in church, he focused on secular music, composing orchestra suites, cello suites, violin concertos and other keyboard works.
We usually associate amazing accomplishments of our mystery composer. He was skilled at singing, violin, viola da gamba, harpsichord and was the finest organist of his day. He was a prolific composer and a gifted improviser. His abundant creativity spilled into his personal life too--he was father to 21 children!
In his later years, this composer became the Cantor for the city of Leipzig. His duties were to organize the music for four churches and assemble choirs for the church services. He also wrote the cantatas that were the centerpiece for each Sunday's service. He wrote approximately 300 cantatas! The works were crafted these to convey the mood of the biblical text of the day. And each was dedicated with these words: Soli Deo Gloria, To the Glory of God Alone.
Have you guessed yet? Johann Sebastian Bach is the mystery composer. In spite of his hardships Bach lived to the age of 65 and wrote more than 1,000 pieces. One of his last unfinished compositions was a fugue based on the letters of his name. In fact he was a master of the baroque forms of fugue and canon. At the end of his life he wrote tremendous works of a musical genius--the B Minor Mass, the Musical Offering, and The Art of the Fugue, which catalogs fugues and canons.
A belated happy birthday to Johann Sebastian Bach, born on March 21st. In this video you can see and hear Bach's fascinating Crab Canon from the Musical Offering.