Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
Bach was during his lifetime famous as an organist virtuoso. As a composer his reputation was restricted to a fairly narrow circle and his music was regarded by many as old-fashioned. His published works today fill many volumes, but in his lifetime fewer than a dozen of his comopsitions were printed, and for half a century after his death this position was only slightly improved until in 1801 the Well-Tempered Klavier was issued. The revival of interest in Bach's music may be dated from the Berlin performance of the St Matthew Passion on March 11, 1829, conducted by Mendelssohn. Systematic publication of his works by the Bach Gesellschaft began in 1850 to mark the centenary of his death.
Bach's supreme achievement was as a polyphonist. His German Protestant religion was the root of all his art, allied to a tireless industry in the pursuit of every kind of refinement of his skill and technique. Sonata form was not yet developed enough for him to be interested in it, and he had no leaning towards the (to him) frivolities of opera. Although some of the forms in which he wrote - the church cantata, for example - were outdated before he died, he poured into them all the resources of his genius so that they have outlived most other examples. The dramatic and emotional force of his music, as evidenced in the Passions, was remarkable in its day and has spoken to succeeding generations with increasing power. Suffice it to say that for many composers and for countless listeners, Bach's music is supreme - to quote Wagner: ‘the most stupendous miracle in all music’.
Read the extended biography here.