Johann Sebastian Bach
Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2006

Astro-Rayological Interpretation & Charts
Images & Physiognomic Interpretation

to Volume 3 Table of Contents

See pdf file, page 55 for full interpretation

“For the glory of the most high God alone,
And for my neighbour to learn from.”    
(Here speak both the devotee and the teacher.)

I was obliged to woroever is equally industrious will succeed just as well.

(Bach did not exaggerate his own worth. This is a modest remark from a man who had achieved humility by standing on a place from which the whole of music could be seen. He had achieved a “rightly adjusted sense of proportion” and must have been able to compare his music to the heavenly music which, from time to time, he no doubt heard.)

“It's easy to play any musical instrument: all you have to do is touch the right key at the right time and the instrument will play itself.”

(Thus speaks the improvisationalist, who had mastered his art so well that it became spontaneous. There are certain trines in his chart which indicate that, with regard to the flow of musical ideas and expression, effort had disappeared.)

“Music is an agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delights of the soul.”

(The high idealist speaks, but he tempers it with the seventh ray. The phrase “permissible delights” is interesting, and shows him obedient to higher laws—perhaps higher Laws of Harmony).

“I have always kept one end in view, namely . . . to conduct a well-regulated church music to the honour of God.”
(The seventh ray is surely apparent.)

“My present post amounts to about 700 thaler, and when there are rather more funerals than usual, the fees rise in proportion; but when a healthy wind blows, they fall accordingly.”

(Bach had a sense of humor, telling us something about the realities of a musician’s life.)

Bach played the viola by choice; he liked to be “in the middle of the harmony.”

(The viola is a sensitive stringed instrument, perhaps the least spectacular of the four conventional ones—violin, viola, cello and bass. The fourth ray resounds through this statement. Aries prefers trumpets and drums. Cancer and Pisces—more modest and subdued—feel related to the Viola.)

“Since the best man could not be obtained, mediocre ones would have to be accepted.” - Leipzig Councilor Abraham Platz    
(On the appointment of J.S. Bach as Cantor of St. Thomas School by Leipzig Council; the “best man” refers to Georg Philipp Telemann, who was Bach's predecessor as Cantor at Leipzig and went to Hamburg at a higher salary.)

(The great artist so often transcends the appreciation of his contemporaries.)

It is as though eternal harmony were conversing with itself, as it may have happened in God's bosom shortly before He created the world.
(Goethe was a fourth ray soul, the greatest poet-novelist-dramatist Germany has produced.)

The immortal god of harmony.

(Beethoven, reasonably Bach’s only rival in the union of power and greatness, was also a fourth ray soul with, so it would seem, a first ray personality. He is one who should know whereof he speaks. The author suspects that their monadic rays, however, may have been different.)

“My heart . . . beats sincerely for the sublime and magnificent art of that first father of harmony.”—Ludwig van Beethoven       
(Letter to Hofmeister, 1801)

(If the great Beethoven is correct, can there be any doubt about a soul upon the fourth ray of Harmony, Beauty and Art)?

“Not Brook but Sea should be his name.”—Ludwig van Beethoven 
(Bach is German for ‘brook’; quoted in Neuman, Bach, 1961)

Beethoven pays tribute to the massive scope of Bach’s work, the encompassing breadth of his conception.)

“Bach is a Colossus of Rhodes, beneath whom all musicians pass and will continue to pass. Mozart is the most beautiful, Rossini the most brilliant, but Bach is the most comprehensive: he has said all there is to say.”—Charles Gounod

(Again a tribute to Bach’s comprehensiveness, and a hint at the Jupiterian completeness of the second ray.)

A benevolent god to whom musicians should offer a prayer before setting to work so that they may be preserved from mediocrity.”—Claude Debussy, 1963)

(This from a proud French musician, with a sense of humor. However, he spoke truly.)

“When the old Saxon cantor has no ideas, he sets off on anything and is truly merciless. In short, he is unbearable except when he is admirable...However, had he a friend - an editor, perhaps - who would have gently advised him not to write one day a week, for example, we might have been spared several hundred pages in which we must wander through a thicket of joyless measures which unwind pitilessly with ever the same little rascal of a 'subject' and 'countersubject.'”—Claude Debussy, 1917

(More humor and irony, yet a tribute to the relentless creativity of Bach’s genius—even when he had “no ideas”!)

“Bach almost persuades me to be a Christian.” Roger Fry
(Woolf, Roger Fry, 1940)

Just for fun—

“Too much counterpoint—and what is worse, Protestant counterpoint.” Sir Thomas Beecham
(Atkins and Newman, Beecham Stories, 1978) (A great conductor with a wicked sense of humor.)

“The literal heritage, his music proper, has conquered our souls as has hardly any other master’s work. It was hidden and forgotten for a long time, like buried treasure in romantic tales, but finally several generations ago we found it again. We acquired it to possess it.” Paul Hindemith       
(Commemorative speech on Bach given in Hamburg, 1950)

(From one of the great contemporary Germany composers, himself a master of harmony.)

The 1748 Haussmann portrait of the composer.
Born March 21 (O.S.), 1685
Eisenach, Thuringia, Germany
Died July 28 (N.S.), 1750
Leipzig, Saxony, Germany .

Johann Sebastian Bach (21 March 1685 O.S. – 28 July 1750 N.S.) was a prolific German composer and organist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra and solo instruments drew together almost all of the strands of the baroque style and brought it to its ultimate maturity. Although he introduced no new musical forms, he enriched the prevailing German style with a robust and dazzling contrapuntal technique, a seemingly effortless control of harmonic and motivic organisation from the smallest to the largest scales, and the adaptation of rhythms and textures from abroad, particularly Italy and France.

Bach's forceful suavity and vast output have earned him wide acknowledgment as one of the greatest composers in the Western tonal tradition. Revered for their intellectual depth, technical command and artistic beauty, his works include the Brandenburg concertos, the keyboard suites and partitas, the Mass in B Minor, the St. Matthew Passion, The Musical Offering, The Art of Fugue and a large number of cantatas, of which about 220 survive. An example of some of these stylistic traits appears below, in the chorus Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe from the Christmas Oratorio, written in 1734 during his mature period.

Early years
Johann Sebastian Bach was a member of one of the most extraordinary musical families of all time. For more than 200 years, the Bach family had produced dozens of worthy performers and composers during a period in which the church, local government and the aristocracy provided significant support for professional music making in the German-speaking world, particularly in the eastern electorates of Thuringia and Saxony. Sebastian's father, Johann Ambrosius Bach, was a talented violinist and trumpeter in Eisenach, a town of some 6,000 residents in Thuringia/Germany. The post involved the organisation of secular music and participation in church music. Sebastian's uncles were all professional musicians, ranging from church organists and court chamber musicians to composers. Contemporary documents indicate that just the name Bach had come to be used as a synonym for "musician".

Places in which Bach resided throughout his lifeBach's mother died in 1694, and his father the following year. The 10-year-old orphan moved in with his eldest brother, Johann Christoph Bach, the organist at Ohrdruf, a nearby town. There, he copied, studied and performed music, and apparently received valuable tuition from his brother. This exposed him to the work of the great South German composers of the day—such as Pachelbel and Froberger—and possibly the music of North Germans and of the French composers such as Lully, Louis Marchand and Marin Marais. The boy probably witnessed and assisted the maintenance of the organ, a precursor to his lifelong professional activity as a consultant in the building and restoration of organs. Bach's obituary indicates that Johann Sebastian would copy music out of Johann Christoph's scores, but because scores were valuable and private commodities at the time, Johann Christoph forbade Johann Sebastian to do so.

At the age of 14, Johann Sebastian was awarded a choral scholarship, with his older school friend, Georg Erdmann, to study at the prestigious St Michael’s School in Lüneburg, not far from Hamburg, the largest city in Germany. This involved a long journey with his friend, probably partly on foot and partly by coach. His two years there appear to have been critical in exposing him to a wider palette of European culture than he would have experienced in Thuringia. In addition to singing in the a cappella choir, it is likely that he played the School’s three-manual organ and harpsichords. He probably learned French and Italian, and received a thorough grounding in theology, Latin, history, geography and physics. He would have come into contact with sons of noblemen from northern Germany sent to the highly selective school to prepare for careers in diplomacy, government and the military. It is likely that he had significant contact with organists in Lüneburg, in particular Georg Böhm, and visited several of those in Hamburg, such as Reincken and Bruhns. Through these musicians, he probably gained access to the largest instruments he had played. It is also likely that he became acquainted with the music of the North German tradition, especially the work of Dieterich Buxtehude, with music manuscripts from further afield, and with treatises on music theory that were in the possession of these men.

Arnstadt and Mühlhausen (1703–08)
Bach as a young manIn January 1703, shortly after graduating, Bach took up a post as a court musician in the chapel of Duke Johann Ernst in Weimar, a large town in Thuringia. His role there is unclear, but appears to have included menial, non-musical duties. During his seven-month tenure at Weimar, his reputation as a keyboardist spread. He was invited to inspect and give the inaugural recital on the new organ at St Boniface’s Church in Arnstadt. The Bach family had close connections with this oldest town in Thuringia, about 180 km to the southwest of Weimar at the edge of the great forest. In August 1703, he accepted the post of organist at that church, with light duties, a relatively generous salary, and a new organ free of technical defects and tuned to a modern system that allowed a wide range of keys to be used.

It was around the time of his Arnstadt appointment that Bach was embarking on the serious composition of organ preludes. These works, in the North German tradition of virtuosic, improvisatory preludes, already show remarkably tight motivic control (where a single, short music idea is explored cogently throughout a movement). However, in these works the composer was still grappling with issues of large-scale structure, and had yet to fully develop his powers of contrapuntal writing (where two or more melodies interact simultaneously).

Strong family connections and a musically enthusiastic employer failed to prevent tension between the headstrong, precocious young organist and the authorities after several years in the post. He was apparently dissatisfied with the standard of singers in the choir. More seriously, there was his unauthorised absence from Arnstadt for several months in 1705–06, when he visited the great master Buxtehude and his Abendmusik in the northern city of Lübeck. This well-known incident in Bach’s life involved his walking some 400 km each way to spend time with the man he probably regarded as the father-figure of German organists. The trip reinforced Buxtehude’s style as a foundation for Bach’s earlier works, and the fact that he overstayed his planned visit by several months suggests that his time with the old man was immensely valuable to his art.

Despite his comfortable position in Arnstadt, by 1706 Bach appears to have realised that he needed to escape from the family milieu and move on to further his career. He was then offered a more lucrative post as organist at St Blasius’ in Mühlhausen, a large and important city to the north. The following year, he took up this senior post with significantly improved pay and conditions, including a good choir. Four months after arriving at Mühlhausen, he married his second cousin from Arnstadt, Maria Barbara Bach.[1] They had seven children, four of whom survived to adulthood. Two of them—Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach—became important composers in the ornate rococo style that followed the baroque.

The church and city government at Mühlhausen must have been proud of their new musical director. They readily agreed to his plan for an expensive renovation of the organ at St Blasius’s, and were so delighted at the elaborate, festive cantata he wrote for the inauguration of the new council in 1708—God is my king BWV 71, which is clearly in the style of Buxtehude—that they paid handsomely for its publication, and twice in later years had the composer return to conduct it.

Cöthen (1717–23)
The palace and gardens at Cöthen in an engraving from Matthäus Merian's Topographia (1650)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor (BWV 1001) in Bach’s handwritingSensing increasing political tensions in the ducal court of Weimar, Bach began once again to search out a more stable job that was conducive to his musical interests. Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen hired Bach to serve as his Kapellmeister (director of music). Prince Leopold, himself a musician, appreciated Bach’s talents, paid him well, and gave him considerable latitude in composing and performing. However, the prince was Calvinist and did not use elaborate music in his worship; thus, most of Bach’s work from this period was secular, including the Orchestral suites, the Six suites for solo cello and the Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin. This photograph of the opening page of the first violin sonata shows the composer’s handwriting—fast and efficient, but just as visually ornate as the music it encoded. The well-known Brandenburg concertos date from this period. The sound clip is from the opening of the Presto from the fourth Brandenburg concerto, for solo violin, two solo flutes, strings and harpsichord continuo. This shows the cumulative power of the composer's fugal writing; supported by the harpsichord, each instrument enters in succession with a jaunty melody, sounding against a complex web of counterpoint played by those that have already entered.

On 7 July 1720 while Bach was abroad with Prince Leopold, tragedy struck: his wife, Maria Barbara, died suddenly. The following year, the widower met Anna Magdalena Wilcke, a young, highly gifted soprano who performed at the court in Cöthen; they married on 3 December 1721. Despite the age difference—she was 17 years his junior—they appear to have had a happy marriage. Together, they had 13 children.

Leipzig (1723–50)
A 1723 engraving by JG Krügner of St Thomas’s Church, the St Thomas School at a right angle to it at the leftIn 1723, Bach was appointed Cantor and Musical Director of Thomaskirche (St Thomas’s Lutheran Church) in Leipzig, a prestigious post in the leading mercantile city in Saxony, a neighbouring electorate to Thuringia. Apart from his brief tenures in Arnstadt and Mülhausen, this was Bach’s first government position in a career that had mainly involved service to the aristocracy. This final post, which he held for 27 years until his death, brought him into contact with the political machinations of his employer, the Leipzig Council. The Council comprised two factions: the Absolutists, loyal to the Saxon monarch in Dresden, Augustus the Strong; and the City-Estate faction, representing the interests of the mercantile class, the guilds and minor aristocrats. Bach was the nominee of the monarchists, in particular of the Mayor at the time, Gottlieb Lange, a lawyer who had earlier served in the Dresden court. In return for agreeing to Bach’s appointment, the City-Estate faction was granted control of the School, and Bach was required to make a number of compromises with respect to his working conditions.[2] Although it appears that no one on the Council doubted Bach’s genius, there was continual tension between the Cantor, who regarded himself as the leader of church music in the city, and the City-Estate faction, which saw him as a schoolmaster and wanted to reduce the emphasis on elaborate music in both the School and the Churches. The Council never honoured Lange’s promise at interview of a handsome salary of 1,000 talers a year, although it did provide Bach and his family with a smaller income and a good apartment at one end of the school building, which was renovated at great expense in 1732.

Bach’s job required him to instruct the students of the St Thomas School in singing and Latin, and to provide weekly music at the two main churches in Leipzig, St Thomas's and St Nicholas's. In an astonishing burst of creativity, he wrote up to five annual cantata cycles during his first six years in Leipzig (two of which have apparently been lost). Most of these concerted works expound on the Bible readings for every Sunday and feast day in the Lutheran year; many were written using traditional church hymns, such as Wachet auf! Ruft uns die Stimme and Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, as inspiration.

A photograph of the outside of Bach’s apartment at the end of the St Thomas School, taken before its demolition in 1902. Three steps can be seen leading to the front door.To rehearse and perform these works at St Thomas’s Church, Bach probably sat at the harpsichord or stood in front of the choir on the lower gallery at the west end, his back to the congregation and the altar at the east end. He would have looked upwards to the organ that rose from a loft about four metres above. To the right of the organ in a side gallery would have been the winds, brass and timpani; to the left were the strings. The Council provided only about eight permanent instrumentalists, a source of continual friction with the Cantor, who had to recruit the rest of the 20 or so players required for medium-to-large scores from the University, the School and the public. The organ or harpsichord were probably played by the composer (when not standing to conduct), the in-house organist, or one of Bach’s elder sons, Friederich or Emmanuel.

Bach drew the soprano and alto choristers from the School, and the tenors and basses from the School and elsewhere in Leipzig. Performing at weddings and funerals provided extra income for these groups; it was probably for this purpose, and for in-school training, that he wrote at least six motets, mostly for double-choir. As part of his regular church work, he performed motets of the Venetian school and Germans such as Heinrich Schütz, which would have served as formal models for his own motets. The audio excerpt is from the opening of Singet dem Herrn (Sing to the Lord), showing the rich, energetic textures that Bach could produce with two choirs, each in four parts. In this recording, there are three singers to each part.

Having spent much of the 1720s composing cantatas, Bach had assembled a huge repertoire of church music for Leipzig’s two main churches. He now wished to broaden his composing and performing beyond the liturgy. In March 1729, he took over the directorship of the Collegium Musicum, a secular performance ensemble that had been started in 1701 by his old friend, the composer Georg Philipp Telemann. This was one of the dozens of private societies in the major German-speaking cities that had been established by musically active university students; these societies had come to play an increasingly important role in public musical life and were typically led by the most prominent professionals in a city. In the words of Christoph Wolff, assuming the directorship was a shrewd move that 'consolidated Bach’s firm grip on Leipzig’s principal musical institutions’.[3] During much of the year, Leipzig’s Collegium Musicum gave twice-weekly, two-hour performances in Zimmerman’s Coffeehouse on Catherine Street, just off the main market square. For this purpose, the proprietor provided a large hall and acquired several musical instruments. Many of Bach’s works during the 1730s, 40s and 50s were probably written for and performed by the Collegium Musicum; among these were almost certainly parts of the Clavier-Übung (Keyboard Practice), and many of the violin and harpsichord concertos.

The title page of the third part of the Clavier-Übung, one of the few works by Bach that was published during his lifetimeDuring this period, he completed the Mass in B Minor, which incorporated newly composed movements with parts of earlier works. In 1735, he presented the manuscript to the elector of Saxony in a successful bid to persuade the monarch to appoint him as Royal Court Composer. This appears to have been part of Bach's long-term struggle to achieve greater bargaining power over the Leipzig Council. The audio excerpt, from one of the movements that was presented to the monarch, shows his use of festive trumpets and timpani. Although the mass was never performed during the composer’s lifetime, it is considered to be among the greatest choral works of all time.

In 1747, Bach went to the court of Frederick the Great in Potsdam, where the king played a theme for Bach and challenged him to improvise a fugue based on his theme. Bach improvised a three-part fugue on Frederick’s pianoforte, then a novelty, and later presented the king with a Musical Offering which consists of fugues, canons and a trio based on the "royal theme", nominated by the monarch. Its six-part fugue includes a slightly altered subject more suitable for extensive elaboration.

The opening of the six-part fugue from The Musical Offering, in Bach’s handThe Art of Fugue was written months before his death, and was unfinished. It consists of 18 complex fugues and canons based on a simple theme. A magnum opus of thematic transformation and contrapuntal devices, this work is often cited as the summation of polyphonic techniques.

The final work Bach completed was a chorale prelude for organ, dictated to his son-in-law, Altnikol, from his deathbed. Entitled Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit (Before thy throne I now appear); when the notes of the final cadence are counted and mapped onto the Roman alphabet, the word "BACH" is again found. The chorale is often played after the unfinished 14th fugue to conclude performances of The Art of Fugue.

Bach died in Leipzig in 1750, at the age of 65. During his life he had composed more than 1,000 works.

At Leipzig, Bach seems to have maintained active relationships with several members of the faculty of the university. He enjoyed a particularly fruitful relationship with the poet Picander. Sebastian and Anna Magdalena welcomed friends, family, and fellow musicians from all over Germany into their home. Court musicians at Dresden and Berlin, and musicians including George Philipp Telemann (one of CPE’s godfathers) made frequent visits to Bach’s apartment and may have kept up frequent correspondence with him. Interestingly, Georg Friedrich Händel, who was born in the same year as Bach in Halle, only 50 km from Leipzig, made several trips to Germany, but Bach was unable to meet him, a fact that Bach appears to have deeply regretted.

Bach's cross, composer's signature with a single noteBach's compositional style is characterised by contrapuntal textures, linear tonic/dominant harmonic progressions and consistent motor rhythms, which combine to create a sense of forward momentum. As with most other Baroque composers, Bach's music is motivically dense; melodic and rhythmic patterns introduced at the beginning of a work are continually transformed by contrapuntal and melodic inversion, augmentation, diminution, and stretto.

Several notable composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann and Mendelssohn began writing in a more contrapuntal style after being introduced to Bach's music; Beethoven labeled him the Urvater der Harmonie (roughly speaking, the "Godfather of Harmony")[4].

Today the "Bach style" continues to influence musical composition, from hymns and religious works to pop and rock. Many of Bach’s themes—particularly the theme from Toccata and Fugue in D minor—have been used in rock songs repeatedly and have received notable popularity.

Organ works
Bach was best known during his lifetime as an organist, organ consultant, and composer of organ works both in the traditional German free genres such as preludes, fantasias, and toccatas, and stricter forms such as chorale preludes and fugues. He established a reputation at a young age for his great creativity and ability to integrate aspects of several different national styles into his organ works. A decidedly North German influence was exerted by Georg Böhm, whom Bach came in contact with in Lüneburg, and Dieterich Buxtehude in Lübeck, whom the young organist visited in 1704 on an extended leave of absence from his job in Arnstadt. Around this time Bach also copied the works of numerous French and Italian composers in order to gain insights into their compositional languages, and later even arranged several violin concertos by Vivaldi and others for organ. His most productive period (1708–14) saw not only the composition of several pairs of preludes and fugues and toccatas and fugues, but also the writing of the Orgelbüchlein ("Little Organ Book"), an unfinished collection of forty-nine short chorale preludes intended to demonstrate various compositional techniques that could be used in setting chorale tunes. After he left Weimar, Bach's output for organ fell off, although his most well-known works (the six trio sonatas, the Clavierübung III of 1739, and the "Great Eighteen" chorales, revised very late in his life) were all composed after this time. Bach was also extensively engaged later in his life in consulting on various organ projects, testing newly built organs, and dedicating organs in afternoon recitals.

Orchestral and chamber music
Bach wrote music for single instruments, duets and small ensembles. Bach's works for solo instruments – the six sonatas and partitas for violin (BWV1001–1006), the six cello suites (BWV 1007–1012) and the Partita for solo flute (BWV1013) – may be listed among the most profound works in the repertoire. Bach has also composed a suite and several other works for solo lute. He wrote trio sonatas; solo sonatas (accompanied by continuo) for the flute and for the viola da gamba; and a large number of canons and ricercare, mostly for unspecified instrumentation. The most significant examples of the latter are contained in The Art of Fugue and The Musical Offering.

Bach's best-known orchestral works are the Brandenburg concertos, so named because he submitted them in the hope of gaining employment from the Margrave of Brandenburg in 1721. (His application was unsuccessful.) These works are examples of the concerto grosso genre. Other surviving works in the concerto form include two violin concertos; a concerto for two violins, often referred to as Bach’s "double" concerto; and concertos for one, two, three and even four harpsichords. It is widely accepted that many of the harpsichord concertos were not original works, but arrangements of concertos for other instruments now lost. A number of violin, oboe and flute concertos have been reconstructed from these. In addition to concertos, Bach also wrote four orchestral suites, a series of stylised dances for orchestra. The work now known as the Air on the G string, for instance, is an arrangement for the violin made in the nineteenth century from the second movement of the Orchestral Suite No. 3.

Vocal and choral works
Bach performed a cantata every Sunday at the Thomaskirche, on a theme corresponding to the lectionary readings of the week. Although he performed cantatas by other composers, he also composed at least three entire sets of cantatas, one for each Sunday and holiday of the church year, at Leipzig, in addition to those composed at Mühlhausen and Weimar. In total he wrote more than 300 sacred cantatas, of which only about 195 survive.

His cantatas vary greatly in form and instrumentation. Some of them are only for a solo singer; some are single choruses; some are for grand orchestras, some only a few instruments. A very common format, however, includes a large opening chorus followed by one or more recitative-aria pairs for soloists (or duets), and a concluding chorale. The recitative is part of the corresponding Bible reading for the week and the aria is a contemporary reflection on it. The concluding chorale often also appears as a chorale prelude in a central movement, and occasionally as a cantus firmus in the opening chorus as well. The best known of these cantatas are Cantata No. 4 ("Christ lag in Todesbanden"), Cantata No. 80 ("Ein' feste Burg"), Cantata No. 140 ("Wachet auf") and Cantata No. 147 ("Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben").

In addition, Bach wrote a number of secular cantatas, usually for civic events such as weddings. The two Wedding Cantatas and the Coffee Cantata, which concerns a girl whose father will not let her marry until she gives up her coffee addiction, are among the best known of these.

Bach’s large choral-orchestral works include the famous St Matthew Passion and St John Passion, both written for Holy Week services at the St Thomas’s Church, the Christmas Oratorio (a set of six cantatas for use in the Liturgical season of Christmas). The Magnificat in two versions (one in E-flat major, with extra movements interpolated among the movements of the Magnificat text, and the later and better-known version in D major) and the Easter Oratorio compare to large, elaborated cantatas, of a lesser extent than the Passions and the Christmas Oratorio.

In his later years and after his death, Bach's reputation as a composer declined; his work was regarded as old-fashioned compared to the emerging classical style. Initially he was remembered more as a player, teacher and as the father of his children, most notably C.P.E. Bach. During this time, his works for keyboard were those most appreciated and composers ever since have acknowledged his mastery of the genre. Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin were among his most prominent admirers. On a visit to the Thomasschule in Leipzig, for example, Mozart heard a performance of one of the motets (BWV 225) and exclaimed "Now, here is something one can learn from!"; on being given the motets' parts, "Mozart sat down, the parts all around him, held in both hands, on his knees, on the nearest chairs. Forgetting everything else, he did not stand up again until he had looked through all the music of Sebastian Bach"[citation needed]. Beethoven was a devotee, learning the Well-Tempered Clavier as a child and later calling Bach the "Urvater der Harmonie" ("Original father of Harmony") and, in a pun on the literal meaning of Bach's name, "nicht Bach, sondern Meer" ("not a brook, but a sea"). Before performing, Chopin used to lock himself away before his concerts and play Bach's music.[5]

The revival in the composer’s reputation among the wider public was prompted in part by Johann Nikolaus Forkel’s 1802 biography, which was read by Beethoven. Goethe became acquainted with Bach's works relatively late in life, through a series of performances of keyboard and choral works at Bad Berka in 1814 and 1815; in a letter of 1827 he compared the experience of listening to Bach's music to "eternal harmony in dialogue with itself"[6]. But it was Felix Mendelssohn who did the most to revive Bach's reputation with his 1829 Berlin performance of the St Matthew Passion. Hegel, who attended the performance, later called Bach a "grand, truly Protestant, robust and, so to speak, erudite genius which we have only recently learned again to appreciate at its full value"[7]. Mendelssohn's promotion of Bach, and the growth of the composer’s stature, continued in subsequent years. The Bach Gesellschaft (Bach Society) was founded in 1850 to promote the works, publishing a comprehensive edition over the subsequent half century.

Thereafter Bach’s reputation has remained consistently high. During the twentieth century, the process of recognising the musical as well as the pedagogic value of some of the works has continued, perhaps most notably in the promotion of the Cello Suites by Pablo Casals. Another development has been the growth of the "authentic" or period performance movement, which as far as possible attempts to present the music as the composer intended it. Examples include the playing of keyboard works on the harpsichord rather than a modern grand piano and the use of small choirs or single voices instead of the larger forces favoured by nineteenth- and early twentieth-century performers.

Johann Sebastian Bach’s contributions to music, or, to borrow a term popularised by his student Lorenz Christoph Mizler, his "musical science", are frequently bracketed with those by William Shakespeare in English literature and Isaac Newton in physics. Bach’s music was selected for inclusion on the Voyager Golden Records as an example of humanity's best achievements. Scientist and author Lewis Thomas once suggested how the people of Earth should communicate with the universe: "I would vote for Bach, all of Bach, streamed out into space, over and over again. We would be bragging of course, but it is surely excusable to put the best possible face on at the beginning of such an acquaintance. We can tell the harder truths later."

Some composers have paid tribute to Bach by setting his name in musical notes (B-flat, A, C, B-natural; B-natural is notated as "H" in German musical texts) or using contrapuntal derivatives. Liszt, for example, wrote a praeludium and fugue on this BACH motif. Bach himself set the precedent for this musical acronym, most notably in Contrapunctus XIV from the Art of Fugue. Whereas Bach conceived this cruciform melody as a compositional form of devotion to Christ and his cross, later composers have employed the BACH motif in homage to the composer himself.

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