In honor of STEA’s recent performance of J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins, I thought I’d start a little series of blog posts on Bach and his contemporaries.
Johann Sebastian Bach is perhaps best known for his prolific writing of music – he apparently composed over 1,000 pieces of music during his 65 years of life. It is interesting to note that Bach was not respected much for his compositions during his own lifetime. Instead, he was famous for his organ-playing skills.
Bach (1685-1750) lived during what is known as the Baroque music era. Each “era” was largely created as a reaction/change to the previous “era”. During the Baroque era, harmony and other elements of tonality (scales, etc.) were stressed and valued highly. Bach himself “discovered” and outlined many of the “rules” that composers have since followed when writing tonal classical music. Baroque composers were also very interested in contrasting sections in the music (i.e. soft, then loud, then soft) and structure (part 1, part 2, part 1).
Although STEA performed Bach’s Double Concerto with several violin soloists, piano and cello, the original composition was written for two solo violins, accompanied by string orchestra (violin, viola, cello, bass). Bach did not have the full orchestra with brass and woodwinds that we do today, and yet he was able to create a complex masterpiece – even more amazingly, not just for one solo instrument, but for two!
Bach wrote many other notable works – among them the Brandenburg Concertos, Violin Concertos in A minor and E major, Tocatta and Fugue for Organ, the English and French Suites and Two-part Inventions for Keyboard, and the St. John and St. Matthew Passions for Choir, just to name a few.