The Music and Life of
Johann Sebastian Bach

Peter Medhurst at the piano
Review of the talk by Peter Medhurst
on January 23rd 2019

We were very pleased to welcome the return visit of Peter Medhurst, who gave a wonderful lecture on the life and music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Peter enhanced his talk by playing snippets of Bach’s music on the recorder and the piano, and singing some pieces.  This all made the occasion very entertaining and a delight.

He began by singing a song listing Bach's family members.  He then went on to say that Bach had two wives and twenty children, most of whom became musicians.

Portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach 1746Johann Sebastian Bach (March 1685 – 28 July 1750) was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period.  He is known for instrumental compositions such as the Brandenburg Concertos and the Goldberg Variations as well as for vocal music such as the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor.  Since the 19th-century Bach revival, he has been generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.

Bach began his professional musical career in Weimar, eventually leaving because of disagreements with his employer and moving on to Köthen, where he wrote the six Brandenburg concertos.

Bach's compositions include hundreds of cantatas, both sacred and secular.  He composed Latin church music, Passions, oratorios, and motets.  He often adopted Lutheran hymns, not only in his larger vocal works, but also in his four-part chorales and his sacred songs.  He wrote extensively for organ and for other keyboard instruments.  He composed concertos, including those for violin and for harpsichord, and suites, as chamber music as well as for orchestra.  Many of his works employ the genres of canon and fugue.

Peter demonstrated how Bach used counterpoint and ornamentation in his music to show strong expression and emotion typical of the baroque style.  He also revealed Bach's clever use of reversal and inversion of note sequences, including those based on his own surname.

Johann Nikolaus Forkel, a friend of one of Bach’s sons, wrote Bach’s biography but the pictures of Bach were not of him.  Bach’s family tried to meet each year and sang a spontaneous song together.  Bach died in obscurity.

Peter was so effective in his presentation of Bach’s life and music, never referring to any notes.  It was a very enjoyable afternoon and so informative.

Thank you, Peter Medhurst.  We hope you will visit us again soon.

Hazel Vine


Related links

Peter Medhurst's website
Johann Sebastian Bach - Wikipedia article