Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach on 21 March 1685 and died in Leipzig on 28 July 1750. He was the youngest son of Johann Ambrosius Bach, a town musician, from who whom he probably learnt the violin and the rudiments of musical theory. From 1700 to 1702 he attended St. Michael's School in Lüneburg where he sang in the church choir and probably came into contact with the organist and composer Georg Böhm.
Bach was appointed organist and chamber musician to the Duke of Saxe-Weimar in 1708 and in 1717 was appointed Kapellmeister at Cöthen. With no chapel duties, Bach concentrated on instrumental composition which included his violin concertos and the six Brandenburg Concertos as well numerous suites and keyboard works.
In 1723 Bach was appointed Thomaskantor in Leipzig where he remained for the rest of his life. During his early years in Leipzig he composed prodigious quantities of church music, including four or five cantata cycles, the Magnificat and the St. John and St. Matthew Passions. He was by this time renowned as a virtuoso organist and in constant demand as a teacher and an expert in organ construction and design. Later in Leipzig, Bach produced his great Mass in B minor and the Christmas Oratorio.
The course of Bach's musical development was not deflected, though not entirely uninfluenced, by the changes in musical style taking place around him. Together with his great contemporary Handel (whom chance prevented him ever meeting), Bach was the last great representative of the Baroque era.
Bach choirs in England
The great longstanding British choral tradition over the centuries continues to inspire amateur singers. Handel's Messiah must have inspired many choirs to develop further into Baroque choral music and particularly Bach's St. Matthew Passion which has been performed in English in this country for over a century.
During the first part of the twentieth century many Bach Choirs were established to continue past traditions and to develop the appreciation of the English Oratorio but particularly the Baroque period and the great music of J. S. Bach.