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Meet the Composer - Johann Sebastian Bach

Back to Just for Kids page TARDIS materializingThe TARDIS has materialized with Anke and Ernst, Dr. Bill and K-9. It is early in December, 1740, and they have just knocked on the office door of the great Johann Sebastian Bach, at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany. Bach is in for a surprise when he hears K-9 speak!.

(Message from Gallifrey: If you're using Internet Explorer or Firefox to read this, you're hearing the Bach 2-part Inventions, No. 1 now, played by Dr. Bill. If not, you can listen to it by clicking on the title.)

"You called, master?"

jsbach.jpg (58200 bytes)
Johann Sebastian Bach
born March 21, 1685, died July 28, 1750
(painting from 1746)

Bach: Come in, come in!

Anke: Mr. Bach, we are two students from Vienna; may we visit for a few moments and ask you some questions?

Bach: Why, certainly. But I must ask you to sit down and keep still for just a little while, please, until I can finish this fugue. [three-minute pause] Now then, what can I do for you, young ones?

Ernst: Gosh, did you write that whole page of fugue in just a couple of minutes?

Bach: Well, I've been writing fugues for a long time now; it gets much quicker after many years at it. What did you wish to ask me?

Anke: But, Sir, you weren't even at the harpsichord! How can you tell what it's going to sound like?

Bach: Oh, I can hear it quite clearly in my head. And you will be able to do that, too, when you've listened and studied long enough; it's one of the best ways to practice!

Ernst: I've been practicing a Minuet of yours--the one in G Major.

Bach: I'm not sure which one you mean. Play it for me!

(Poor Ernst, in fear and trembling, manages to play two measures of the Minuet in G Major on the harpsichord.)

Bach: Oh, that! Yes, that's a nice little piece, but I didn't really write it.

Ernst: You didn't?

Bach: No, that came from a notebook of various short pieces I collected for my wife, Anna Magdalena, to study. I wrote some of the chorales and things in there, but most of those minuets and marches and musettes came from somewhere else; we don't even know who wrote them.

Anke: But you did write the Two-Part Inventions?

Bach: Yes, they were for my son, Carl Phillip Emmanuel--or was it Johann Christian? [pause] Actually, I think it was for Wilhelm Friedmann--yes, I'm sure of it. I've had twenty children to keep track of, you know!

Ernst: And you taught them all to play the harpsichord?

Bach: Not only harpsichord, but clavichord and organ, plus theory and composition as well!

Anke: You must stay terribly busy, Master.

Bach: Oh, yes, this church is a busy place. I write a brand new cantata every single week for the Sunday worship service.

Ernst: Was the fugue you just finished part of next Sunday's cantata?

Bach: No, that was an organ solo which I wrote to play for a postlude. But you can write fugues to be sung, as well..

Anke: I don't know what a postlude or a cantata is--I mean are.

Bach: [laughs] A postlude is a solo played after the service is over--the opposite of a prelude, which is played before.

Ernst: Oh, I've played preludes! But what's a cantata?

Bach: A cantata is a work for choir, and it's usually in several movements; it's composed to words which are especially chosen to suit the theme of a particular Sunday or season, like Christmas or Easter.

Anke: You must be writing a lot of Christmas music right now.

Bach: Actually, Christmas will be a little easier for me this time: I wrote a large work for chorus and orchestra about six years ago called "Christmas Oratorio", and I've been asked to perform it again this year.

Anke: I'm afraid I don't know what an oratorio is, either.

Bach: Think of this one as a choir piece about the size of six cantatas. But you two still haven't said what it was you wanted to ask me!

Ernst: Mr. Bach, I think you've already answered just about every question we could ever think of; so I think we'll be going now; and thank you very much--we learned a lot!

Anke: And we wish you a Merry Christmas, Sir!

Bach: And a very Merry Christmas to you, too, my young friends. Come again!



I made this on: 11/30/98
Newest stuff added: 01/30/15
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Reprinting from the Piano Education Page The Piano Education Page, Op. 10, No. 1,
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