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Johann Sebastian Bach

Life

Born into a gifted family (see Bach, family), J. S. Bach was devoted to music from childhood. He was taught by his father and later by his brother Johann Christoph, and was a boy soprano in Lüneberg. His education was acquired largely through independent studies. He had an insatiable curiosity about music and sometimes walked great distances to hear the organists Johann Adam Reinken (at Hamburg) and Buxtehude (at Lübeck). In 1703 he became violinist in the private orchestra of the prince at Weimar but left within a year to become organist at Arnstadt.

Bach went to Mühlhausen as organist in 1707. There he married his cousin Maria Barbara Bach, who was to bear him seven children. In 1708 he was made court organist and chamber musician at Weimar, and in 1714 he became concert master. Prince Leopold of Anhalt engaged him as musical director at Köthen in 1717. Three years later his wife died, and in 1721 he married Anna Magdalena Wülken, a woman of considerable musical cultivation who eventually bore him 13 children. In 1723 he took the important post of music director of the church of St. Thomas, Leipzig, and of its choir school; he remained in Leipzig until his death.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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