Two or three days after his death on July 28, 1750, the final rites were held in Leipzig, in St. John’s Church, for Johann Sebastian Bach, considered by many the greatest composer who ever lived. Bach was buried in the churchyard of St. John’s. In 1894, his remains were discovered during excavations and were reburied inside.
Although not unappreciated in his lifetime, and not completely forgotten for nearly a century as myth would have it (Mozart and Beethoven both revered him), it’s true that Bach’s real stature was not fully recognized by the wider public until Felix Mendelssohn’s famous revival performance of Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” in Berlin in 1829.
And since Mendelssohn’s 19th century revival, Bach’s Passion settings and cantatas have been staged as operas or ballets in the 20th and 21st. His music has survived arrangements for solo piano, full symphony orchestra, Moog synthesizer, authentic “period” instruments, Japanese koto orchestra, shakuhachi flute, and the various jazz stylings of the Swingle Singers and the late pianist of the Modern Jazz Quartet, John Lewis.
However it was adapted or altered by the passing fashion or fads of the day, Bach’s music continues to touch whoever plays it or listens to it.
Music Played in Today's Program
J. S. Bach (1685-1750) – St. Matthew Passion (SW German Madrigal Chorus; Wolfgang Gönnenwein, cond.) EMI Classics 79544
J. S. Bach (1685-1750) (arr. Chris Brubeck) – Variations on Themes by Bach (Joel Brown, guitar; London Symphony; Joel Revzen, cond.) Koch International 7485
On This Day
1886 - Hungarian composer and pianist Franz Liszt, age 74, in Bayreuth
1922 - Hindemith: "Kammermusik" No. 1, Op. 42a, at Donaueschingen, Germany, with Hermann Scherchen conducting
1938 - Morton Gould: "Second American Sinfonietta," at a New York Philharmonic concert at Lewisohn Stadium conducted by the composer
1982 - Rochberg: opera "The Confidence Man" (after the novel by Hermann Melville), at the Sante Fe Opera in New Mexico
2004 - Jennifer Higdon: "Loco," at the Ravinia Festival, by the Chicago Symphony, Christoph Eschenbach conducting
1750 - Probable date of J.S. Bach's burial in Leipzig (see July 28).
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About Composers Datebook®
Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.
He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.