Things were going pretty well for Bach in 1720, considering most of the toilets were still outside and iPhones only had 1 inch screens. But then, tragically, Bach’s first wife died while he was on a trip to Carlsbad (not the one with the caverns.) He wasted no time getting his mojo back, however, as he married Anna Magdalena Wilcke the following year, who, although she had the kind of name you had to spell out when asking for restaurant reservations, was a gifted soprano. She was also 17 years younger than Bach, which probably puckered the powdered eyebrows of the local aristocracy, and landed him in the headlines of the local tabloids: “Lokalmatador heiratet junge Küken, damit er mehr Johanns erstellen!” (“Local boy weds young chick so he can make more Johanns!”). And make more they did, as at least 4 more Johanns of various sizes appeared over the next 21 years.
On to Leipzig
In 1723, Bach was appointed Cantor (“Lead Singer”) of the Thomasschule (“Thomas School”) at the Thomaskirche (“Thomas Church”) in “Thomas Town” — sorry, in Leipzig (Official Motto: “Cool! We Have ‘Zig’ In Our Name!”). This began his “choral” phase, where one of his main duties was to compose new “cantatas” (Spanish for “finely milled eighth notes”). Bach composed over 300 cantatas while in Leipzig, although around one hundred have been lost to posterity, which refuses to give them back but is willing to trade for some “Rush: Live” tickets and the Franco-Prussian War. Some of these cantatas include O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort (Oh Ewigkeit, You Dunder Wart!), Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Watch Out, Or You’ll Ruffle All The Stimmes!), and Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (No, Sir; I Do Not Know The Way To Holland).
Choral works including a Mass of something
[pullquote type=”right”]In March 1729, Bach took over the directorship of the Collegium Musicum from Georg Phillip Telemann, who was fired after a losing 1728 season.[/pullquote]In March 1729, Bach took over the directorship of the Collegium Musicum from Georg Phillipp Telemann, who was fired after a losing 1728 season. The Collegium Musicum was a secular performance group which provided Bach with an outlet for his instrumental compositions, as well as more exposure among the public, and important town professionals. It regularly performed in such places as the Café Zimmermann, a local coffeehouse, where young hipsters wearing square spectacles and skinny breeches would comb their beards in appreciation. In 1749, Bach visited King Frederick II at Potsdam (Official Motto: “No, We Don’t Have A Dam Made Entirely Of Pots”), where the King famously challenged Bach to improvise a fugue based on a theme he provided, while juggling 3 china plates and hopping on one leg. Bach was only able to do the fugue part, but it did result in one of his more famous pieces, the Musical Offering, which consisted of fugues, canons, and occasional bursts of small arms fire. His last large work was the Mass in B Minor, considered one of the greatest choral works of all time, along with that boy choir section from You Can’t Always Get Want You Want by The Rolling Stones.
Death brings a Whiter Shade of Pale
As most humans occasionally will, Bach died on July 28, 1750 at the age of 65, just before receiving his first Social Security check for $45.68. He left a legacy of incredibly important works, including Ouvertures, Airs, Gavottes, Passats, Elantras, Bourrées, Settees, Loveseats, Motets, Hotets, Gigues, Pigues and Figues. His Suite No. 3 in D major (BWV 1068, BVD, 10W40 Synthetic Blend) contains an “Air” section, which, as arranged by August Wilhelm, became famously known as Air on the G String, whose title we absolutely refuse to create a joke for. It was famously covered by Procol Harum in its 1967 hit A Whiter Shade of Pale, which really angered Bach, as he could not collect any royalties, being that he was by then completely dead. Although recognized in his lifetime more as a teacher and performer, his stature as a prominent composer began to grow to Shaquille O’Neal-sized importance during the 18th century, as composers such as Felix “The Cat” Mendelssohn began performing his works to enthusiastic crowds, most of them now related to Bach and suspiciously named Johann. Today, he is recognized as one of the most important composers who ever died, leaving a legacy that still has impact on your local NPR station’s playlist today.