10 Famous works of Bach (b. Eisenach, 1685; d. Leipzig, 1750)
Born into a musical family, Bach received the first musical teachings from his father. In 1695, Bach moved to Ohrdruf after the death of his father where he lived and studied with Johann Christoph. He received education in Eisenach, Ohrdruf and Lüneburg. At the age of 18 he began to work as an organist in Arnstadt (1703-1707) and then Mühlhausen (1707-1708). Between 1708 and 1717 he worked for Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar, first as organist, and later, in 1714, as concertmaster.
Between 1717 and 1723 he worked for Prince Leopold of Cüthen as Music Director
In 1723, Bach was appointed cantor at the Church of St. Thomas, and Music Director in Leipzig, positions he held for the rest of his life. His official duties included the responsibility of supervising the music in the main churches of the city and organizing other municipal musical events.
10 Famous Works
1. Saint Matthew’s Passion BWV 244.
Performed for the first time on Holy Friday in 1729 at the church of Saint Tomas of Leipzig, the work represents the suffering of Christ according to the evangelist Saint Matthew. It is composed by choirs, arias and recitatives; it lasts approximately two and a half hours. The initial choir Kommt, ihr Töchter, and the aria “Erbarme dich, mein Gott” for violin and contralto or the “Mache dich, mein Herze, rien” are possibly the masterpieces of this magnificent work.
2. Brandenburg Concertos BWV 1046-1051.
They are a collection of six concerts for several instruments premiered in 1721 while occupying the position of Kapellmeister in Köthen. They are dedicated to the Marquis Christian Ludwig,
The concert No. 1 in Fa M is a classic that surely everyone will recognize. The No. 3 is an example of true virtuosity taking the speed of the instruments to the extreme.
3. Orchestral Suites BWV 1066-1069.
There are four pieces of various movements that follow the classic schemes of the musical baroque suite. They were composed between 1725 and 1739 in Leipzig. Possibly the best known movement is the Aria of the Suite for orchestra No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068. Listening to all the suites is truly a pleasure for the senses.
4. Sonatas and Partitas BWV 1001-1006.
They are 6 works divided into several movements written for solo violin. The most well-known fragments are the Chaconne of the partita BWV 1004 and the prelude of the partita BWV 1006, although all these pieces, without exception, are true works of art.
5. Variations Goldberg BWV 988.
Originally under the name Aria with various variations was written in 1741, it seems that it was named after the student of Bach, Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, who could have been the person who played it. It has become very famous in the twentieth century due to the two recordings made by the pianist Glenn Gould.
6. Concert for two Violins BWV 1043.
Composed in Leipzig between 1717 and 1723, it is one of Bach’s most recognized works. Of his three movements, vivace, largo and allegro, it is the second the most famous of the three and possibly the most poetic.
7. Cantata BWV 147
For several years the German composer wrote one cantata per week, compositions with an average duration of 30 minutes intended to be performed in the church. It is the cantata BWV 147 under the title Herz und Mund and Tat und Leben possibly the best known of all of them.
8. Cello Suites BWV 1007-1012.
The six suites for solo cello written in the period of Cöten are essential reference works in the world of the violoncello. They have been recorded among others by Pau Casals, Misha Mainsky or Yo-Yo Ma. It is the first suite in G major BWV 1007 best known for its prelude, although its sarabanda is a true work of art.
9. The well-tempered key BWV 846-869.
One of the most experimental works of the German composer are the preludes and fugues composed for clave. In this work, which seems to have been completed in 1722, the composer experimented with all the known keys and it is said that in this work the tonality is based. Bach does a mastery exercise especially in the process of construction of fugues. It is the prelude and fugue in C major BWV 846 the best known.
10. Mass in B minor BWV 232.
Named a UNESCO heritage in 2015, the Mass in B minor is one of the greatest compositions of the Cantor of Leipzig. The santus was composed in 1724, other movements were completed in 1733, and in the last years of his life Bach completed it with new numbers. Possibly the Kyrie is his best-known number.