An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Bach, Johann Sebastian

(Mar. 21, 1685-July 28, 1750). Dominant figure in the history of church music whose output embraces practically every musical genre of his time except opera. His reputation during his lifetime was earned principally as organ virtuoso and expert in organ construction and design. Bach's musical production falls into three principal categories corresponding to the posts he held. He was born in Eisenach, Germany, and received his earliest musical training in choir schools in Ohrdruf and Luneburg. His early period consisted mainly of organ works while organist at Weimar. His next position, Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Cothen, produced works for instruments and orchestra including the Brandenburg Concertos. His prestigious post in Leipzig produced church works, a large output of cantatas, the St. John and St. Matthew passions, and the B minor Mass. Bach's association with the Lutheran chorale was not in composing new tunes but rather in harmonizing and embellishing the rich body of church song already in existence. Many of Bach's rich and ingenious harmonizations are included in today's hymnals, including The Hymnal 1982, which has twenty Bach chorale harmonizations. He died in Leipzig.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.