With his multiple activities as composer, organist and church music director it is remarkable that JS Bach had time and energy to father 20 children – a musical dynasty that was influential throughout Europe. Equally prolific in the musical sphere his output includes such musical classics as the Air on the G String, the St Matthew Passion and the Brandenburg Concertos.
Born in 1685, Bach grew up in Protestant Germany and trained on a number of instruments, excelling as an innovative keyboard player. Though opportunities to travel were few, he learnt much from the music of Buxtehude and reputedly walked 30 miles to Hamburg to hear the famous organist Reincken. He worked as an organist in Weimar, writing such works as the Toccata and Fugue in D minor, and as director of the court orchestra was expected to create a new cantata each month. With his appointment as Music Director at Cöthen the scope of his compositional activities widened. He combined German, French and Italian styles, writing music in every genre apart from opera.
His final prestigious appointments were as Cantor of St Thomas’s Church in Leipzig, where his rate of elaborate cantatas increased to 150 between 1723 and 1727, and as Court Composer to the King of Saxony in Dresden. His contrapuntal and chromatic style fell out of fashion in his later years, but there was a popular revival in the 19th century led by Mendelssohn, restoring him to his rightful position as one of history’s most resourceful and imaginative composers, effortlessly fusing intellect and emotion.