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Johann Sebastian Bach

Biography

Born: 1685   Died: 1750   Country: Germany   Period: Baroque
Johann Sebastian Bach was better known as a virtuoso organist than as a composer in his day. His sacred music, organ and choral works, and other instrumental music had an enthusiasm and seeming freedom that concealed immense rigor. Bach's use of counterpoint was brilliant and innovative, and the immense complexities of his compositional style -- which often included religious and numerological symbols that seem to fit perfectly together in a Read more profound puzzle of special codes -- still amaze musicians today. Many consider him the greatest composer of all time.

Bach was born in Eisenach in 1685. He was taught to play the violin and harpsichord by his father, Johann Ambrosius, a court trumpeter in the service of the Duke of Eisenach. Young Johann was not yet ten when his father died, leaving him orphaned. He was taken in by his recently married oldest brother, Johann Christoph, who lived in Ohrdruf. Because of his excellent singing voice, Bach attained a position at the Michaelis monastery at Lüneberg in 1700. His voice changed a short while later, but he stayed on as an instrumentalist. After taking a short-lived post in Weimar in 1703 as a violinist, Bach became organist at the Neue Kirche in Arnstadt (1703-1707). His relationship with the church council was tenuous as the young musician often shirked his responsibilities, preferring to practice the organ. One account describes a four-month leave granted Bach, to travel to Lubeck where he would familiarize himself with the music of Dietrich Buxtehude. He returned to Arnstadt long after was expected and much to the dismay of the council. He then briefly served at St. Blasius in Mühlhausen as organist, beginning in June 1707, and married his cousin, Maria Barbara Bach, that fall. Bach composed his famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BWV 565) and his first cantatas while in Mühlhausen, but quickly outgrew the musical resources of the town. He next took a post for the Duke of Sachsen-Weimar in 1708, serving as court organist and playing in the orchestra, eventually becoming its leader in 1714. He wrote many organ compositions during this period, including his Orgel-Büchlein. Owing to politics between the Duke and his officials, Bach left Weimar and secured a post in December 1717 as Kapellmeister at Cöthen. In 1720, Bach's wife suddenly died, leaving him with four children (three others had died in infancy). A short while later, he met his second wife, soprano Anna Magdalena Wilcke, whom he married in December 1721. She would bear 13 children, though only five would survive childhood. The six Brandenburg Concertos (BWV 1046-51), among many other secular works, date from his Cöthen years. Bach became Kantor of the Thomas School in Leipzig in May 1723 and held the post until his death. It was in Leipzig that he composed the bulk of his religious and secular cantatas. Bach eventually became dissatisfied with this post, not only because of its meager financial rewards, but also because of onerous duties and inadequate facilities. Thus, he took on other projects, chief among which was the directorship of the city's Collegium Musicum, an ensemble of professional and amateur musicians who gave weekly concerts, in 1729. He also became music director at the Dresden Court in 1736, in the service of Frederick Augustus II; though his duties were vague and apparently few, they allowed him freedom to compose what he wanted. Bach began making trips to Berlin in the 1740s, not least because his son Carl Philipp Emanuel served as a court musician there. In May 1747, the composer was warmly received by King Frederick II of Prussia, for whom he wrote the gloriously abstruse Musical Offering (BWV 1079). Among Bach's last works was his 1749 Mass in B minor. Besieged by diabetes, he died on July 28, 1750. Read less
Bach: The Art of Fugue / Angela Hewitt
Release Date: 10/14/2014   Label: Hyperion  
Catalog: 67980   Number of Discs: 2
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Glenn Gould - The Complete Bach Collection
Release Date: 10/30/2012   Label: Sony  
Catalog: 196114   Number of Discs: 44
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Bach: St. Matthew Passion / Kozena, Padmore, Rattle
Release Date: 09/30/2014   Label: Berlin Philharmonic  
Catalog: 140021   Number of Discs: 3
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Bach: The Six French Suites / Sergey Schepkin
Release Date: 11/11/2014   Label: Steinway & Sons  
Catalog: 30046   Number of Discs: 2
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Vivaldi, Bach: Magnificats, Concerti / Savall
Release Date: 12/09/2014   Label: Alia Vox  
Catalog: 9909   Number of Discs: 2
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Work: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988

Browse 1-25 of 208 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Charles Rosen - The Complete Columbia and Epic Album Collection
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 301476 Release Date: 12/02/2014   Number of Discs: 21
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Béla Bartók,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Georges Bizet  ... 
    Performer:  Charles Rosen,  Paul Jacobs,  Robert Casadesus,  Isaac Stern  ... 
    Conductor:  Frederik Prausnitz
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
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  • 2.
    Bach: Goldberg Variations (Including Documentary) / Zhu Xiao-mei
    Label: Accentus   Catalog: 20313 Release Date: 10/28/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Zhu Xiao-Mei
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  • 3.
    Bach: Complete Edition
    Label: Brilliant Classics   Catalog: 1116165 Release Date: 09/02/2014   Number of Discs: 142
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Remy Baudet,  Theunis Van der Zwart,  Erwin Wieringa,  Pieter-Jan Belder  ... 
    Conductor:  Pieter-Jan Belder,  Ludwig Güttler,  Thomas Zehetmair,  Kurt Masur  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Musica Amphion,  Virtuosi Saxoniae,  Amsterdam Bach Soloists  ... 
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  • 4.
    Bach: Goldberg Variations on Guitar / Marco Salcito
    Label: Dynamic   Catalog: 7699 Release Date: 07/29/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Marco Salcito
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  • 5.
    L'Oiseau-Lyre - The Baroque Era
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002072902 Release Date: 06/17/2014   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Thomas Augustine Arne,  William Boyce,  John Blow,  Henry Purcell  ... 
    Performer:  Catherine Bott,  Libby Crabtree,  Michael George,  Emma Kirkby  ... 
    Conductor:  Christopher Hogwood,  Philip Pickett,  Joshua Rifkin,  Christophe Rousset  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of Ancient Music,  Westminster Abbey School Choristers Choir,  New London Consort Orchestra  ... 
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  • 6.
    Howard Karp: Concert Recordings (1962-2007)
    Label: Albany Records   Catalog: 1492 Release Date: 05/20/2014   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Robert Schumann,  Franz Liszt,  Leon Kirchner,  Franz Schubert  ... 
    Performer:  Howard Karp
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  • 7.
    Bach Masterworks - The Original Jackets Collection
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001929902 Release Date: 12/10/2013   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Hertha Töpper,  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,  Maria Stader,  Ernst Haefliger  ... 
    Conductor:  Karl Richter,  John Eliot Gardiner,  Rainer Kussmaul,  Reinhard Goebel  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Orchestra,  Munich Bach Choir,  English Baroque Soloists  ... 
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  • 8.
    Bach: Keyboard Masterworks / Andrew Rangell
    Label: Steinway & Sons   Catalog: 30024 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Andrew Rangell
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  • 9.
    Das Alte Werk - 50-CD Collection
    Label: Teldec   Catalog: 46438 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  George Frideric Handel,  Orlando Gibbons  ... 
    Performer:  Herbert Tachezi,  Gustav Leonhardt,  Frans Brüggen,  Jeannette Van Wingerden  ... 
    Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt,  Gustav Leonhardt,  Werner Ehrhardt,  Giovanni Antonini  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Concentus Musicus,  Leonhardt Consort,  Studio for Early Music  ... 
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  • 10.
    Bach: Goldberg Variations / Michael Tsalka
    Label: Paladino Music   Catalog: 32 Release Date: 10/29/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Michael Tsalka
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  • 11.
    Bach: Goldberg Variations / Robert Costin
    Label: Stone Records   Catalog: 8029 Release Date: 10/08/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Robert Costin
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  • 12.
    Piano Seasons / Grete Sultan
    Label: Wergo   Catalog: 4043 Release Date: 10/08/2013   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Arnold Schoenberg,  John Cage,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Franz Schubert  ... 
    Performer:  Grete Sultan
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  • 13.
    Bach: Goldberg Variations / Jeremy Denk
    Label: Nonesuch   Catalog: 535452 Release Date: 09/30/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Jeremy Denk
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  • 14.
    Bach's Goldberg Variations For Two Pianos By Rheinberger/Reger
    Label: Twopianists (Label)   Catalog: 1039213 Release Date: 09/24/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Nina Schumann,  Luis Magalhaes
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  • 15.
    Bach: Goldberg Variations / Charles Rosen
    Label: Newton Classics   Catalog: 8802206 Release Date: 09/24/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Charles Rosen
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  • 16.
    Bach: Goldberg Variations / Pierre Hantai
    Label: Naive   Catalog: 40029 Release Date: 08/06/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Pierre Hantaď
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  • 17.
    Bach: Goldberg Variations Played On Harpsichord, Piano, Organ, String Trio
    Label: Brilliant Classics   Catalog: 94621 Release Date: 07/30/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Elena Barshai,  Pieter-Jan Belder,  Yuan Sheng
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Amati String Tio
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  • 18.
    Archiv Produktion 1947-2013
    Label: Archiv Produktion (Dg)   Catalog: 001833572 Release Date: 06/18/2013   Number of Discs: 55
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Anonymous,  Adam de la Halle,  Raimbaut de Vaqeiras  ... 
    Performer:  Helmut Walcha,  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,  Hermann Töttcher,  Maria Jung  ... 
    Conductor:  Karl Ristenpart,  Fritz Lehmann,  Maurus Pfaff,  Safford Cape  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Karl Ristenpart Chamber Orchestra,  Bach Festival Orchestra,  Frankfurt Music School Chorus  ... 
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  • 19.
    Goldberg Variations  - A Film By Axel Arno /  Daniel Propper
    Label: Skarbo   Catalog: 1048 Release Date: 04/30/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Daniel Propper
    DVD: $24.99
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  • 20.
    Bach: Goldberg Variations / Sokolov
    Label: Melodiya   Catalog: 1002049 Release Date: 02/12/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Grigory Sokolov
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  • 21.
    Rzewski, Bach: Variations / Christopher Hinterhuber
    Label: Paladino Music   Catalog: 37 Release Date: 01/29/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Frederic Rzewski,  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Christopher Hinterhuber
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  • 22.
    The Art Of Transcription: J.S. Bach Arrangements For String Trio By Dmitry Sitkovetsky
    Label: Nimbus   Catalog: 6199 Release Date: 11/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Dmitri Sitkovetsky,  Yuri Zhislin,  Luigi Piovano
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  • 23.
    Murray Perahia - The First 40 Years
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 191256 Release Date: 11/06/2012   Number of Discs: 73
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Béla Bartók,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Robert Schumann  ... 
    Performer:  Murray Perahia,  Michael Cox,  Leonore Smith,  Kenneth Sillito  ... 
    Conductor:  Murray Perahia,  Bernard Haitink,  Zubin Mehta,  Sir Colin Davis  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,  Amadeus String Quartet members  ... 
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  • 24.
    Bach: Goldberg Variations (1955 & 1981 Recordings) / Glenn Gould
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 541182 Release Date: 10/30/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Glenn Gould
    CD: $11.99
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  • 25.
    Glenn Gould - The Complete Bach Collection
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 196114 Release Date: 10/30/2012   Number of Discs: 44
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Glenn Gould,  Charles Libove,  Leonard Rose,  Jaime Laredo
    Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein,  Vladimir Golschmann,  Pablo Casals
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbia Symphony Orchestra,  Marlboro Festival Orchestra
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