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The Obscure J.S. Bach: Why the Baroque Master remained a mystery for over a century!

johann sebastian bachBach wasn't always a famous composer. Find out why the Baroque Master remained a mystery for over a century! 

Believe it or not, Bach's music largely disappeared shortly after his death. Part of the reason for Bach's relative obscurity is that he was part of a very large musical family. In other words, he was just another talented musician in the bunch. Even two of his children - Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach and Johann Christian Bach - pursued music after Bach died. They were not as famous as he was, although their works are still played today.


Being only one of many Bachs, he established an excellent regional reputation, but did not gain fame internationally with his work. During the Baroque, being a composer was much less glamorous than later times, like the Classical Era. A composer was just a skilled tradesperson. Bach was just a choir director, nothing special. For all of these reasons, Bach was not well known after his demise.

Bach was famous only regionally and his fame was largely due to his amazing performances (and not so much his compositions). Many of Bach's works were created not as masterpieces but as part of his job. As director, he hadto create a cantata a week. He had helpers notate the music. Sometimes he didn't write it out, but improvised off of ideas on the organ.

Why do we know about Bach today ? In the 1820s, composer Felix Mendelssohn "discovered" Bach's music and led a mini-Bach revival. Bach's music gain much popularity, and that is when Bach became the household name that he is today. There could be an absolutely phenomenal composer today churning out work after work as part of his or her job. Maybe 200 years from now they will be famous!

Sad to say, most composers don't become famous until they are decomposing!


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