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March 2014
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Friday: Bach to Basics


On Friday, March 21, WFMT presents an entire day of music by Johann Sebastian Bach, a composer beloved by audiences, and especially by musicians.

J.S. Bach was born on March 21, 1685, lived until 1750. His influence has been felt by Mozart, Mendelssohn, Brahms; and all the way to composers of the present, like Pulitzer Prize-winners John Corigliano and Paul Moravec.

WFMT offers a daylong celebration including a concert at 8:00 PM of the choir for which Bach served as organist and choirmaster, St. Thomas Church in Leipzig; a performance from Valparaiso University. Also on Friday, WFMT presents a Bach special with Studs Terkel at 10:00 PM.

Did you know that Johann Sebastian Bach…

  • attended the very same grammar school as Martin Luther
  • was orphaned at the age of 9
  • was a gifted boy soprano, and sang for his schooling, room, and board
  • stayed on after his voice changed; by that time he played violin well enough for the orchestra; and accompanied the choir at the harpsichord
  • was 18 when he got his first job as church organist
  • was reprimanded for playing “irrelevant ornaments which obliterate the melody and confuse the congregation”
  • was reprimanded for entertaining a girl in the organ loft—he later married her; she bore 7 children, 4 survived to adulthood
  • worked as a violinist and orchestra leader in Weimar (1708-1717), as well as court organist—he began writing heaps of organ works
  • was jailed for a month when he attempted to resign his post in Weimar
  • Bach went on tour with his prince, came back to find his wife dead and buried, his 4 children motherless
  • at 36 married a 20-year-old named Anna Magdalena who bore him 13 more children, though only 6 survived to adulthood
  • Bach’s son, Carl Phillip Emmanuel, was employed as court harpsichordist to Frederick the Great
  • Bach was all but forgotten; Felix Mendelssohn began the Bach revival
  • Richard Shagam
  • Richard Shagam

    In 2008, I had the opportunity to go to Bach’s Birthhouse in Eisenach, where they had a reconstruction of ol’ Bach himself based on the remains unearthed around 1896. Whether it really is him or not, he really ought to lose that wig