Die Kunst Der Fuge in D minor

Largo ma non troppo from the Double Violin Concerto in D minor

Johann Sebastian Bach, born in 1685 in the Thuringian town of Eisenach, was one of many members of a family with immense musical aptitude. As specialization leads to ever greater talents, it is not surprising that the Bach kin would birth one of the greatest musical geniuses in history. Johann Sebastian would create the works later celebrated as divine by some of Europe’s greatest masters of several art forms.

Introduced to the art of the violin and the harpsichord by his father, and to the organ by his uncle, Bach was an enthusiastic student, and very soon mastered these instruments thoroughly enough to become Kapellmeister of various churches in Germany. Early on, he studied some of the best German church music available, and the great organ traditions of Hamburg, as well as French and Italian music (the latter via Vivaldi). He was deeply inspired by the concertos held by, and the discussions on arts held with, organist and composer Dietrich Buxtehude. Bach’s love for German church music made him organize a collection of its finest works, while his own contributions and musical ideas were initially met by confusion and bewilderment. His genius was, however, also very much encouraged; the highly cultured Duke of Sachsen-Weimar was during a time one of Bach’s employers. Another employer, Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen, who, according to Bach, "knew music as well as he loved it," was one of the individuals to make the master’s potential be heightened by an appropriate environment.

Bach’s genius is shown by his complete mastery of both intellectual Renaissance polyphony and passionate Baroque harmony. His immense depth of intelligence (noted by for example mathematics professor Theodore J. Kaczynski) is shown in the former – where seemingly independent lines of improvised melody create the most stable of structures – while the profundity of his piercing soul discovers definitions of reality and transcendence through the latter. It is through the balance of these elements that Bach enables a both universal and highly refined art to be created; Goethe once described it as "eternal harmony in dialogue with itself." Also, Bach was – just like Beethoven almost a century later – a great musical economist, in that the simple foundations, on which his music was built, served as gateways for the infinite amount of variations and possibilities to be produced by this German’s exceptionally sharp brain.

With these qualifications, Bach perfected practically every musical style of his time (except for opera), and laid the foundation for a music that would be a very much alive form of art for the next 150 years. Though at his time, he became known as a rather old-fashioned composer, and together with Händel, Bach was the last prominent guardian of the Baroque era. His last decade was dominated by contrapuntal art, and "Die Kunst der Fuge" came to be his last creation – later considered a pinnacle of European music – before he died in 1750.

© 2006 mock Him productions in association with CORRUPT

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