“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.”
Today is the day we remember the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach, a composer of such prodigious productivity that we feel fairly certain we only know of but a portion of his output.
Most of the music he wrote has been thought to have been lost, possibly to such mundane uses as the wrapping of fish. His organ music is of such outstanding quality that, over 250 years after his death, we still have nothing to equal it, much less surpass it.
Estimates vary, but it’s thought that we only have, perhaps, from a quarter to a third of his actual output. And we know of around 1120 works.
Writing new music for church services each and every week of the year, for your entire career, will certainly drive those totals up.
Oh… and he also fathered 20 children…
And you thought Barbara Cartland was prolific…
Name a genre of instrument, and you can be sure Bach not only wrote for it, but that the music he produced is still an essential part of the canon.
Unaccompanied suites, partitas and what not for cello, violin, and all manner of keyboard instruments.
Teaching pieces that are better than anything most others ever wrote – such as the Goldberg Variations, or The Art of the Fugue.
Concertos for every instrument he could get his hands on.
Orchestral works, such as the Brandenburg’s, and the orchestral suites
And choral music to die for.
The cantatas, choral preludes, motets… and the Passions…
The St. Matthew’s Passion is considered to be one of the most sublimes pieces of music ever written.
The B Minor Mass.
The list is endless… kinda… just as well to list all 1120 works that we know of.
There isn’t a composer since the time of Bach (who was worth anything) who didn’t acknowledge the debt he owed to Bach. Every musical thing we have, to this day, we owe to the trail blazed by Bach.
Being an ex-violinist, I think I’ll end with the Concerto for Two Violins.
Performed by the greatest violinist, for my money, of the 20th century – David Oistrakh, along side his son, Igor.
Given when David lived, the recording is in mono; but don’t let that distract you from the music.
As it was said somewhere else on this blog, the music is the important thing; not the excellence (or the lack there of) of the quality of performance.
Listen to the music… not the recording…
Image found here.