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6 Things You (probably) Didn’t Know About JS Bach

Wed Feb 12 2014

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The Works returns on 19 March with a performance of  Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3  in G (along with Vivaldi’s concerto in D for violoncello da spalla).  To prepare for the upcoming concert, we present you with 6 little known facts about JS Bach.

1) Bach married twice in his lifetime and fathered a total of 20 children, however only 13 survived into adulthood.

2) He believed in the mystical power of numbers and often incorporated the numbers 14 and 41 into his musical works, because they derived from the numerology values of the letters in his own name.

3) Bach was quite competitive. He once challenged fellow harpsichordist Louis Marchand to a keyboard duel in 1717.   However, afraid of suffering an embarrassing defeat, Marchand fled on the day of the duel.

4)  Bach was once imprisoned for attempting to resign from one of his employers.  While  locked away he did what anyone in jail would do and composed a book of organ studies!

5) Although he is mostly known for composing sacred pieces, Bach also wrote a few secular gems.  ‘Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht‘ (‘Be still, stop chattering‘) was a mini comic opera, in which the characters were addicted to coffee.  It most likely premiered in a Leipzig coffee-house.

6) Bach’s eyesight deteriorated as he aged.  It was made even worse by a botched surgical procedure by English ocular specialist John Taylor.

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One Comment

  • Re: point (6) — this was the same charlatan who made Handel blind!

    David Samuels Tue Mar 11 2014