Tales of the Fugue and Other Baroque Music: A Look at J.S. Bach and F. Handel

The Baroque Period was an important time in musical history. Two men, Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel, will always be remembered as the masters of music during this time period. Although both composers share many similarities to one another, there are also a multitude of differences that makes them both unique.

Johann Sebastian Bach was an influential composer and musician during the Baroque Period. He was born March 5th, 1685 in Germany to musical parents. In fact, he came from an entire line of musicians that usually made a living somehow with music. At age nine, he became an orphan and moved in with his oldest brother. He began his musical journey when his brother gave him his first keyboard lesson. Eventually Bach left his brother’s home for Luneberg. It was here that Bach began singing and playing the organ. After her left Luneberg, he finally landed his first “real” job when we moved to Arnstadt in 1703. In Arnstadt Bach flawlessy and obsessively played the organ, winning him twice as much pay than other organists. Bach then went on to several other places, but for some reason he always stayed in the general vicinity of which he was born. In Mulhausen, in 1706, Bach won a coveted organist position for the city, and in turn began composing vocal church music. His very first “cantatas” turned out to be exceptional. When he tired of Mulhausen, he moved to Weimer, where he had much success. While there, he again took to his favorite instrument, the organ, and began composing masterpieces. He began writing several cantatas, all of which were brilliant. In fact, he wrote almost all of his eighteen organ compostions while in Weimer. Eventually Bach left for a few other places, then ended up in Leipzig, where was a director of music for St. Thomas Church. He lived out the rest of his life here. Some is his most famous works include “The Brandenberg Concerti”, “The Art of Fugue”, and “St. Mathew Passion”. Ironically, most of Bach’s work was not famous until 75 years after he died.

George Frideric Handel, also born in Germany, was another important person during the Baroque period. He was born in 1685, and by age nine he was already a musical genius. By age 11, Handel was composing his own music, and by 18, he moved away to Italy. It was in Italy that he met with several signifigant musicians. He developed his own style and become known as an “up and coming” musician. At age 25, he became the Music Director at the Court of Hanover, but soon after left for England where his opera “Rinaldo”made quite an impression. He settled down to a prosperous career in England, even composing “Water Music” for the King. He also became a composer, and then director of “The Royal Academy of Music”. Because of his compositions while at the “Royal Academy of Music”, Handel won over the English public, marking him as a supremely talented musician. In the last years of his life, Handel became blind, yet still composed. He died in England in 1759. Some of his most famous works include “Messiah”, “Alexander’s Feast”, and “Music for the Royal Fireworks”.

When comparing the two composers, there are several factors that set Handel and Bach apart. First, although both composers mastered the musical styles of the Baroque period, Handel showed more enthuiasm towards the extroverted world of Italian Opera. Bach not only was never known for Opera, but he also was more of an introverted composer. Handel also had to travel to foreign places to absorb different musical influences, while Bach stayed local throughout his entire life. Also, Handel was not born into a musical family, yet he still mastered many instruments including the violin, oboe, organ, and harpischord. Also,Bach tended to write complicated instrumental lines that also complicated the vocals in his music. Awkward intervals are common among many of Bach’s pieces. Handel on the other hand, sticked with a free-voiced choral polyphony. Handel also tends to use improvisation and “going with the flow”, such as in his organ concertos. Bach believed that being elaborant was more important. Handel also seems to prefer human voice in his music, whereas Bach is more inclined to instrumental. Next, Handel’s work came from a world wide perspective and mainly centered around operas, while Bach’s music revolved around cantanas that were made basically for churches and his personal interests. Last, Handel was interested in worldly success. Bach just wanted to make music, and ended his career in the same country he began it. However, although Handel was more famous during his life, most people in today’s society are more likely to have more knowledge of Bach.

Although there are many differences, there are also many similarites. For intance, both Handel and Bach were born in Germany, and only a month apart. Both were also considered the master composers of the Baroque Period. They stand out from the rest of the composers during this period because of the power of their music. Although Bach seemed more into his religion, both composers believed in faith. There are also many similarities in Bach’s canatas that sound like Handel’s opera entitled “Almira”. Finally, both composers had cataracts as they entered old age, forcing them both to undergo surgery.

In conclusion, these two men changed the world of music for the better. With their stark similarities and undeniable differences, the combination of their genuis work has stamped them as two of the most important musicians not only during the Baroque Period, but even in today’s times. Music lovers worldwide still enjoy, look up to, and study the works of both composers.

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