Johann Sebastian Bach would never be as appealing for his adventures in life and good looks as, say, Mozart or Beethoven. His famous portrait showing him as an old man in a white wig holding a piece of sheet music scared away many generations of young music lovers. I think that this picture does not do justice to this composer capable of great emotional depth.
Mozart had an exciting death, writing his Requiem in his deathbed, adding popularity points to his character. Beethoven was kind of a romantic hero, and became deaf making him even more appealing. Bach? He never left Germany and his life passed without many interesting facts standing out. Other example of a great classical composer suffering of low popularity because of his not-so-interesting lifestyle is old Haydn, the father of the symphony, who is always overshadowed by the naughty Mozart.
But I think that this injustice also gives greater merit to Bach, in that all his popularity is due to his music, and not any extramusical fact. It is better this way, you can know him much better through his music than through words.
You are fortunate to read this article, you are going to experience the most wonderful and deep music ever composed, you'll start a journey that will last a lifetime. You'll never get tired of Bach's music, if you start here you will love it and explore it for the rest of your life.
The best way to get in touch with Bach's music, or with music by any other composer is starting with the most well-known pieces, the ones you heard in commercials, movies, video games, etc.
I'm almost sure you've heard these pieces somewhere but never knew anything about them:
- Air on the G string: One of the most famous pieces of classical music. It is featured in innumerable movies, anime series, video games, etc. Rock band Procol Harum wrote a song inspired by this piece that became a worldwide hit and it is still heard today: "A whiter shade of Pale".
- Toccata and Fugue in D minor: the most famous piece written for organ. It is always associated with Halloween and horror movies. An orchestral version was featured in Disney's Fantasia.
- Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring: the staple music of weddings.
- Badinerie: a popular ringtone in cellphones. It is a flutists' showpiece.
- Prelude in C major: This piece became famous by the musical setting by Charles Gounod of the "Ave Maria". He based this piece in the prelude.
Click on the resources below to download these pieces and read more about them. This is just to start, in these pages you will find a further guide with more information and essential pieces by Bach to download.