Johann Sebastian Bach - George Upton

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[Illustration] from Bach by George Upton


[Title Page] from Bach by George Upton
[Copyright Page] from Bach by George Upton

Translator's Preface

There is no person in musical or general history whose life can be studied by young people with more advantage, or followed in its general characteristics with more profit than Johann Sebastian Bach. The old saying that genius is only the highest capacity for work has sometimes been attributed to him. Whether he originated the saying or not, his life illustrates its truth. His industry was astonishing, whether in adverse or prosperous circumstances, though his remuneration, considering the magnitude of his achievements, now seems a beggarly pittance.

He worked for the highest in his art, and always with the utmost of his ability, and consecrated his work to the divine honor. Upon all his important pieces he inscribed the letters, "S. D. G." (Soli Deo Gloria), "to the glory of God alone." What the simple, God-fearing, art-loving cantor of Saint Thomas accomplished, the world knows. Gounod summed it up in the declaration that if all the music written since Bach's time were lost, it could be reconstructed upon what he wrote. His life was as noble as his music. He was an affectionate father, laboring manfully and incessantly to support his large family; a good citizen, faithfully fulfilling his duties and commanding universal respect; a musician without an equal in the profundity of his knowledge and the richness of his productions; the founder of modern music, the master of the organ, the composer of the highest forms of sacred music; a plain, humble man, despising rank and show, making no boast of his grand achievements, and yet recognized in the court of Frederick the Great as above courtiers and nobility by the title of his genius. "Seest thou a man diligent in business; he shall stand before kings." He was a self-reliant, self-sustained, evenly poised man, plain and unostentatious in his bearing, honorable in his intercourse with men, strong and unvarying in his home love, and guided in every event of life by a strict morality born of sincere religion.

He followed the bent of his genius untrammelled by the accidents or troubles of life, and sought for no higher reward than his own conviction of the worth of his accomplishments. Such a life is to be commended not only to the young student entering upon the profession of music, but to every young person entering upon the duties of life. This little volume, therefore, worthily claims a place among "Life Stories for Young People." Though the original is inaccurate in some small details, which later biographers have corrected, the general story of his life is reliable and nearly every event of importance is included in its pages.

G. P. U.

CHICAGO, 1905.

[Contents] from Bach by George Upton
[Illustrations] from Bach by George Upton


The following is a chronological statement of the most important events in the life of Johann Sebastian Bach:

1685    Born at Eisenach, March 21.
1695    Began his studies with his brother, Johann Christoph.
1700    Chorister at the College of St. Michael's in Luneburg.
1703    Organist of Arnstadt Church. .
1707    Organist of St. Blasius's Church, Mahausen.
1707    Married Maria Barbara Bach.
1708    Court Organist at Weimar.
1720    Death of first wife.
1721    Married Anna Magdalena Wulkens.
1723    Cantor of St. Thomas's School, Leipsic.
1725    Composed first part of "Well-Tempered Clavichord."
1729    Composed St. Matthew Passion Music.
1734    Composed Mass in B minor.
1734    Composed the Christmas Oratorio.
1740    Composed second part of Well-Tempered Clavichord."
1747    Dedicated The Musical Offering to Frederick the Great.
1749    Partly finished the Art of Fugue."
1750    Died at Leipsic in his sixty-fifth year, July 28.