Discover 5 Fascinating Facts About the Musical Genius Johann Sebastian Bach


Jul 4, 2023
To celebrate the new release of Play Bach on our Pianist App, we’ve put together 5 facts about Johann Sebastien Bach that you might not have known!

To celebrate the brand new release of Play Bach on our Pianist App, we’ve put together 5 facts about Johann Sebastien Bach that you might not have known about. Take a look below.

1. Bach was attacked after complaining about the standard of singers in his choir

As a 15-year old, Bach enrolled to study at St. Michael’s School in Lüneburg; a town 30 miles outside of Hamburg. It was here that he was exposed to a huge range of European cultures, which influenced his playing and compositional style greatly. In August 1703, seven months after the completion of his studies, he became the organist at the New Church (now Bach Church) in Arnstadt.

Despite strong family connections and a musically enthusiastic employer, tension built up between Bach and the authorities after several years in the post. Bach was dissatisfied with the standard of singers in the choir. He called one of them a “Zippel Fagottist” (weenie bassoon player). Late one evening this student, named Geyersbach, went after Bach with a stick. Bach filed a complaint against Geyersbach with the authorities. These acquitted Geyersbach with a minor reprimand and ordered Bach to be more moderate regarding the musical qualities he expected from his students.

2. He was jailed for almost a month

In 1717, during Bach’s time working in Weimar, a colleague of his had him imprisoned for daring to hand in his resignation. He was in jail for almost a month before being released: “On November 6, [1717], the quondam concertmaster and organist Bach was confined to the County Judge’s place of detention for too stubbornly forcing the issue of his dismissal and finally on December 2 was freed from arrest with notice of his unfavorable discharge.”

3. He once won the world’s strangest music contest

In 1717, Bach challenged fellow pianist Marchand to a little piano-playing competition. However, the night before the competition, Marchand overhead Bach performing music, decided to give up, and fled back to France! In place of the competition, Bach entertained the crowd with his own music instead.

4. He was the equivalent of a modern-day sound engineer

He was an expert on the design and construction of the organ. A party that was commissioning a new organ sought him out for input: Was the design right for the building? Would it sound right? Would it be serviceable? Bach would keep an eye on things and run the instrument through trials (he was a keyboard virtuoso) and make sure the customer got what he paid for.

Keep in mind that in the early 1700s, a pipe organ was the high end of high tech stuff. In contemporary terms, think of Bach as a combination of a great songwriter, arranger, orchestrator, conductor, instrumental hero, and sound engineer.

5. He and Handel were blinded by the same eye doctor

Both Bach and Handel underwent eye surgery performed by the same eye doctor, namely Cavalier John Taylor. Following a failed cataract surgery by Taylor, Handel lived with declining vision for the last decade of his life, while Bach died a few months after a surgery for a “painful eye condition” in 1750.  In Bach’s case, not only did his surgery fail, but he also developed a post-operative infection, which was treated with laxatives and bleeding. By the time he dictated his final work, he was blind and died a few months later.

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