Johann Sebastian Bach

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Where there is devotional music, God with his grace is always present.

Johann Sebastian Bach (31 March (O.S. 21 March) 168528 July 1750) was a German composer and musician, notably organist and harpsichordist, but also violinist and violist. Bach is now generally regarded as one of the main composers of the Baroque period, and his works are now considered to be among the greatest in the Western classical tradition.


  • Dem höchsten Gott allein zu Ehren,
    Dem Nächsten draus sich zu belehren.
    • To the glory of the most high God, and that my neighbour may be benefited thereby.
    • Epigraph to the Orgelbüchlein, cited from Carl Hermann Bitter Johann Sebastian Bach (Berlin: Ferdinand Schneider, 1865), vol. 1, p. 145; translation from Rush Rhees (ed.) Ludwig Wittgenstein: Personal Recollections (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1981), p. 182
  • Und soll wie aller Musik also auch des Generalbasses Finis und Endursache anders nicht als nur zu Gottes Ehre und Recreation des Gemütes sein. Wo dieses nicht in acht genommen wird, ists keine eigentliche Musik, sondern ein Teuflisches Geplerr und Geleier.
    • Like all music, the figured bass should have no other end and aim than the glory of God and the recreation of the soul; where this is not kept in mind there is no true music, but only an infernal clamour and ranting.
    • Quoted in Ludwig Prautzsch Bibel und Symbol in den Werken Bachs, p. 7 [1]; translation from Albert Schweitzer (trans. Ernest Newman) J. S. Bach (New York: Dover, 1966), vol. 1, p. 167
  • Bei einer andächtigen Musik ist allezeit Gott mit seiner Gnaden Gegenwart.
    • Where there is devotional music, God with his grace is always present.
    • Annotation in a copy of the Calov Bible, cited from John Butt (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Bach (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 256; translation from ibid., p. 46

Quotes about Bach[edit]

  • Bach is, for me, the touchstone that keeps my playing honest. Keeping the intonation pure in double stops, bringing out the various voices where the phrasing requires it, crossing the strings so that there are not inadvertent accents, presenting the structure in such a way that it's clear to the listener without being pedantic - one can't fake things in Bach, and if one gets all of them to work, the music sings in the most wonderful way.
  • Pongileoni's bowing and the scraping of the anonymous fiddlers had shaken the air in the great hall, had set the glass of the windows looking onto it vibrating: and thus in turn had shaken the air in Lord Edward's apartment on the further side. The shaking air rattled Lord Edward's membrane tympani; the interlocked malleus, incus, and stirrup bones were set in motion so as to agitate the membrane of the oval window and raise an infinitesimal storm in the fluid of the labyrinth. The hairy endings of the auditory nerve shuddered like weeds in a rough sea; a vast number of obscure miracles were performed in the brain, and Lord Edwards ecstatically whispered "Bach!"
  • I would vote for Bach, all of Bach, streamed out into space, over and over again. We would be bragging of course.
    • Lewis Thomas in The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher, on what message to send to an extraterrestrial civilization.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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