Johann Sebastian Bach has had a family full of musicians. In what seems like an odd family tradition, he started himself in writing and composing music and did it well, although he did not always receive the respect he deserved in his own life-time. He spent his earlier career principally as an organist, mainly at the court of one of the two ruling Grand Dukes of Weimar. In 1717 he moved to Cöthen as Court Kapellmeister to the young Prince Leopold and in 1723 made his final move to Leipzig, where he was hired as Cantor at the Choir School of St. Thomas, with responsibility for music in the five principal city churches. In Leipzig he also eventually took charge of the University Collegium musicum and kept himself busy with the collection and publication of many of his earlier compositions. All through his life, Bach was preoccupied with the improvement of organs, and also the organ of the Weimar court chapel was remodelled by Heinrich Trebs on Bach's instructions. Particularly in the period 1708-1714, Bach is supposed to have been concentrating on organ playing and composing: most of his major organ compositions stem from the “Weimar period”. Bach wrote most of his major organ compositions in Weimar, like Orgel-Büchlein, all but the last of the so-called eighteen "Great" chorale preludes, and most of the preludes and fugues.
Even though there was widespread neglect for almost a century after his death, Bach is now known and taught as one of the greatest of all composers. Bach wrote a very large amount of choral music, particularly in connection with his job at Leipzig, where he prepared complete cycles of cantatas for use throughout the church year, but also to the larger scale settings of the Latin Mass and the accounts of the Passion from the gospels of St. Matthew and of St. John.
Bach’s main achievement was with being able to expand on the frameworks of the national schools, while keeping a good name for himself. He also did a lot of “numerical symbolism” which lots of people have found in his music since his time. Because he did this, he’s highly recognized as one of the geniuses of western civilization, even by people that really aren’t into music.
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