Bach, Johann Sebastian

In 1703, Bach was appointed violinist in the Court Orchestra of Prince Johann Ernst of Weimar, but could have remained only a few months, for, when visiting Arnstadt in the summer of the same year, he was appointed organist of the new church of that place. Bach remained at Arnstadt three years and during that time, having a good organ to play and a choir for which to compose, he produced some works of importance, but had much trouble with the church authorities, who wanted an organist and not a composer. He began at this time some of his church cantatas, which later grew into a long series and also wrote his odd Capriccio on the Departure of a Beloved Brother, when his elder brother, Johann Jakob, left to join the Swedish Guard as oboe player. Each movement of this piece has a descriptive title and it is the only one of all of Bach's works that can be called program music. From Arnstadt, he made his famous journey on foot to Lubeck to hear the organist, Dietrich Buxtehude. He had leave of absence for four weeks, but was so fascinated by the music which he heard that he stayed four months. This, together with the liberties which he took with the service in the way of improvising, brought upon him the severe criticism of the Arnstadt church authorities, but he was not dismissed, which shows that his genius was already appreciated. In 1706, a position as organist at the Church of St. Blasias in Mühlhausen  became vacant and Bach obtained it at a salary of about seven pounds or thirty-five dollars a year together with certain quantities of corn, wood and fish, to be delivered without charge at his door. Upon this salary he was able to marry his cousin, Maria Barbara Bach, by whom he had a family of seven children. Bach's stay at Mühlhausen was very short, for about a year after accepting the position he resigned, to become Court organist to the Grand Duke at Weimar. Here he remained for nine years, from his twenty-third to his thirty-second year, and was made conductor of the Court Orchestra in 1714.

While at Weimar, Bach became not only the finest organist of his time, but the greatest composer for the organ that the world has ever known. While here many of his greatest organ compositions were produced and also a series of church cantatas, which were written as part of the duties of his office. These cantatas hold much the same position in the German church services that anthems do in the service of English churches and they were a very important form of composition. In 1717, Bach was appointed to a position entirely different from those he had occupied before. He was called to Cothen by Prince Leopold of Anhalt, as conductor and director of his chamber music, at a salary of three hundred dollars a year. Here he had nothing to do with church music or organ playing and he gave his attention, chiefly, to writing orchestral music for stringed instruments and composing for the clavichord, and to teaching and traveling with his patron. The life at Cothen was very narrow and uninteresting, compared with that of Weimar and some biographers have thought it necessary to apologize for Bach, because he. accepted this position, others, however, have considered it a kind of breathing space or pause in his busy life, without which, he might not have accomplished the great amount of important work that he did later on.

Trips to Halle, Leipsic and Dresden varied the monotony of his life at Cothen and he also made a journey to Hamburg, to compete for the position of organist for the Jacobi Kirche, whose magnificent new organ attracted him. Things seem to have been very much the same then, as they are today, however, as in spite of the fact that Bach was recognized as the man for the place and the greatest organist of his time, the position was given to an insignificant young man, who could pay four hundred marks for it.