Bach biography - Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach

A Baroque Master

  • 21.3.1685
    Birth in Eisenach as the sixth child of Johann Ambrosius Bach and his wife Elisabeth. His father was court musician and director of the town music in Eisenach. The extensive Bach family had already produced many successful musicians.

  • 1694
    Death of his mother Elisabeth

  • 1695
    Death of his father Johann Ambrosius. The upbringing and education of the nine-year-old Johann Sebastian fell to his brother Johann Christoph in Ohrdruf.

  • 1700
    Bach was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious St. Michael's School in Lüneburg.

  • 1703
    Bach, now 18 years of age, was appointed organist in Arnstadt. He received the considerable annual salary of 85 guilders.

  • 1705
    Bach requested a four week vacation in order to study under the great organist Dietrich Buxtehude in Lübeck. The four weeks, however, became four months.

  • 1706
    His employers took Bach's long absence very much amiss and also complained about his ¨complicated” chorales.

  • 1707
    Bach became organist in Mühlhausen and married his distant cousin Barbara Bach. The first great cantata came into being.

  • 1708
    Bach became court organist in Weimar. His reputation as a composer and organist was spreading.

  • 1710
    His oldest son Wilhelm Friedemann Bach was born in Weimar.

  • 1714
    Birth of his son Carl Philipp Emmanuel.  Appointment as Konzertmeister with the requirement to compose new cantatas for church services.

  • 1717
    The ¨Little Organ Book¨, a collection of choral preludes, was written. Appointment as court music director to Prince Leopold von Saxony-Anhalt in Köthen. In later years Bach described the time in Köthen as the happiest period of his life.  It was during this time that the six Brandenburg concertos were composed.

  • 1720
    Death of Barbara Bach while her husband was away on a journey. The couple had had four children. Half a year later Bach married Anna Magdalena Wülcken.

  • 1722
    Bach wrote the ¨Well-Tempered Clavier¨ and the ¨Little Book for the Piano¨ for Anna Magdalena Bach.

  • 1723
    Bach became cantor at St. Thomas' Church and director of music to all the churches in Leipzig. One of his duties was to perform a piece of church music based on prescribed biblical texts every Sunday.  Thus in the course of time 300 cantatas came to be written, of which around 200 are still in existence.

  • 1729
    Partly in order to improve his financial situation Bach assumed responsibility for an orchestra, the student orchestra ¨Collegium Musicum¨ that Georg Philipp Telemann had founded. For this ¨Collegium Musicum¨ he composed orchestral works and concertos.

  • 1724
    First performance of the St. John's Passion in Leipzig.

  • 1727
    First performance of the St. Matthew's Passion in Leipzig.

  • 1733
    Composition of the B Minor Mass in Leipzig.

  • 1734
    First performance of the Christmas Oratorio in Leipzig.

  • 1735
    Birth of Bach 's youngest son in Leipzig. He was later known as the ¨Milan Bach¨ and the ¨London Bach¨.

  • 1736
    Appointment as Electoral Saxon Court Composer.

  • 1737
    For two years Bach relinquished leadership of the ¨Collegium Musicum¨.

  • 1741
    Composing of the Goldberg Variations.

  • 1744
    Composing of the Well-Tempered Clavier part two.

  • 1747
    Journey to Berlin and reception by King Frederick I of Prussia. Appointment as a member of the ¨Society of the Musical Sciences¨. His son Christian Friedrich became the court musician in Bückeburg.

  • 28.07.1750
    Bach's death in Leipzig. Towards the end of his life he had become blind and two unsuccessful operations had only made the condition worse.  Of the twenty children from his two marriages nine survived, one of them being his famous son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, who in 1768 became Telemann's successor as musical director to the principal churches in Hamburg.

Bach Lebensreise: Bach biography