There are many wonderful composers I admire but there are two composers I always return to and play nearly every day: J. S. Bach and F. Chopin. This post is about Bach.
I find Bach's music more than just beautiful. If I'm feeling rather down, playing or listening to Bach helps me become calm and focused. When happy and elevated, playing Bach is a great way to express this joy. I find Bach's music soothing, meditative, cleansing, balancing and- well, I could go on and on.
Why is this? Why does Bach's music have this effect on so many people?
Albert Einstein once said: "This is what I have to say about Bach: Listen, play, love, and keep your mouth shut". Meaning, don't talk too much about Bach, just enjoy his music.
So I won't try and explain this riddle many have unsuccessfully attempted to solve but I would like to write a few sentences about this great composer.
Born in 1685 to a family of musicians, Bach had a difficult childhood, losing both his parents at an early age. After his years at school he found work as an organist in different places in North East Germany. Unlike other composers of his time who traveled around Europe, Bach stayed in the same small area his entire life. However, his piano music has titles such as French suites, English suites and Italian Concerto and is obviously influenced by music from these places he never visited.
Bach had 7 children with his first wife and 13 with his second, Anna Magdalena ,but most of them didn't live very long. (I once told this to a 7 year old piano student who exclaimed: "Wow! so they needed to have 20 iPads at home!") Some of his children became well known composers later on. His second wife, Anna Magdalena was a musician herself and the whole Bach household was centered around music as can be seen by the Anna Magdalena Notebook.
Bach could have remained unknown
During his life Bach was known as a fantastic organist and improviser rather than a composer. He became what he is in music today thanks to the composer Felix Mendelssohn who discovered his music 70 years after Bach died. Mendelssohn practically saved Bach's music from disappearing into forgetfulness and made him known to the wide public. There is evidence that Mozart and Beethoven awed Bach and studied his work so he was known to professional musicians but was considered an "insider tip". Hard to imagine this nowadays, but Bach could have remained an unknown composer!
A Milestone in the History of Western Music
You can read about Bach's revolutionary achievement in proving that closing the circle of 5ths is possible at the beginning of this pianoways post.
The Well Tempered Clavier I and II (WTC) is considered by many as being "The Musical Bible" and the fundament of western music. These two volumes that contain 24 preludes and fugues each, inspired many composers to do the same: Chopin, Shostakovitch, Scriabin and many others went through the circle of 5ths and wrote a prelude and sometimes a fugue in each key
Here is a You Tube link to the full WTC played by Richter
Bach the teacher
J. S. Bach taught his students to do what all musicians were expected to be able to do in those days: compose, arrange, improvise and perform.
Many of his piano masterpieces were intended as composition and counterpoint exercises for his students (composed for the harpsichord- the piano didn't exist yet). Therefore, you will find piano pieces by J. S. Bach on all levels of difficulty, the easiest ones being the ones in the Anna Magdalena book.
Playing and listening to Bach will do you a lot of good! Take the time, make the effort and connect to perhaps the greatest music master of all times.
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