Talk:Johann Sebastian Bach

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Former good article Johann Sebastian Bach was one of the Music good articles, but it has been removed from the list. There are suggestions below for improving the article to meet the good article criteria. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.

Citations for movement sequence[edit]

Someone has just supplied a citation which was "required" for the sequence of movements in the English suites -- but this (like other such "citations" here) is a reference to a recording which lists the movements. This seems quite absurd to me: the sequence of movements can be checked directly by looking at the score, to which there are several links at the end of the article. I cannot see that mentioning any particular recording is any help at all. Am I missing something? I understand the need for verifiability, but some things are self-verifiable, and extraneous references just clutter up the text. Imaginatorium (talk) 14:05, 17 February 2014 (UTC)


Your article says J. S. Bach was born March 31st, 1685. According to all other sources including, and everything else I have heard it was March 21st. The churches in Ann Arbor when I was in college in 1985 had a birthday concert on 1985. So either you are wrong or everyone else is. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:15, 11 March 2014 (UTC)

Due to the change from the Julian to Gregorian calendar, both dates are valid. March 21st in old style dates, the 31st in new style, hence the "(OS 21 March)" notation. See Old Style and New Style dates. Rwessel (talk) 17:50, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
This is an excellent answer. Can we somehow achieve that it doesn't get archived, because the question comes up again and again? --Gerda Arendt (talk) 17:53, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
This page being archived manually (IOW, no automated bot), so we would just leave a note so that the next person doing an archive will (hopefully) not archive the thread/section in question. If automated archived were set up, adding a {{subst:DNAU}} to the thread should cause it to never archive. Alternatively, a footnote like Note 1 in George Washington. Rwessel (talk) 18:53, 11 March 2014 (UTC)

OK, but then George Washington's birthday should be like March 4. And when I looked up Julian calendar it shows the dates going from Sep 2, 1752 to Sep 14, 1752 which is 2 days later (i.e., an additional 11 days more than the 1 day it should be). So why Mar 31 instead of April 1? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:22, 11 March 2014 (UTC)

George Washington was born February 22, 1732 (O.S. February 11, 1731), not at the end of March/beginning of April. Rwessel (talk) 18:53, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
Also, changes in the calendar happened at different times in different countries. The 1752 date is accurate for England and its colonies, but German-speaking countries made the switch much earlier -- in some cases in the year 1700, which was a leap year in the Julian calendar but not the Gregorian, which is why in 1685 there was only a 10-day discrepancy between the two, but an 11-day one in 1732. —Wahoofive (talk) 20:07, 11 March 2014 (UTC)

But where he was was Germany and it was before adoption of the calendar. But this article just furthers my point that Wikipedia is very unreliable and most of the writers have their heads stuck in places where it is too dark to see. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:53, 13 March 2014 (UTC)

Interesting perspective, but quite wrong-headed. Once the Gregorian calendar was introduced somewhere but not everywhere (we're talking 1582 in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Poland only), then until such time as it did gain acceptance everywhere, there's a "comparing apples and oranges" problem. That's because 21 March 1685 in Germany was NOT the same day as 21 March 1685 in Italy, Spain etc. They were in fact 10 days apart. The day Bach was born was "called" 21 March in Germany where they were still using the Julian calendar, but it was the same day as 31 March in the Gregorian. Similarly, it's often been noted that Shakespeare and Cervantes died on exactly the same day, 23 April 1616: except, they didn't. Their deaths were separated by 10 days in real time. Shakespeare's 23 April 1616 (Julian) is equivalent to 3 May 1616 (Gregorian). Do we see Shakespeare's death day now being celebrated on 3 May rather than 23 April? No, but that isn't the point. The very much staggered introduction of the Gregorian Calendar throughout the world is a historical fact, and the only way we can make sense of the mismatch of the calendars at any point in time is to record the date of an event in the calendar in use in that place at that time, as well as recording the date it would have been in the Gregorian calendar had it been introduced there already. Then and only then we can compare apples with apples. This is exactly what we've done with Bach, and Handel, and every Russian person born before 1918, and many others.
Another example: Brahms and Tchaikovsky liked and respected each other personally, but hated each other's music and told each other so. I don't know if they were ever aware they shared the same birthday, 7 May. Probably not, because Brahms was born under the Gregorian calendar, while Tchaikovsky was born under the Julian, and he called his birthday 25 April. But the calendars were then 12 days apart, and they did in fact share the same birthday 7 May (Gregorian). -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 21:30, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
I don't know about Bach, but many people at the time adjusted their birthdays when the calendar change was implemented. George Washington, who until 1752 had celebrated his birthday on Feb. 11, changed it to Feb. 22 so his next birthday would be 365 days later. So in order to know when his birthday fell in a particular year, you need both dates available. (There's also the matter of needing to change his birth year from 1731 to 1732, which you can read about in footnote 1 of the George Washington article.) —Wahoofive (talk) 22:33, 13 March 2014 (UTC)

Changing Bach's Birthday from Julian to Gregorian (O.S. to N.S.)[edit]

I'm surprised that Bach's birthdate is noted in Gregorian rather than what countless sources use, i.,e. March 21. The original German wiki notes it as March 21. Having done Bach research for a good many years, this is the first time I've seen the Gregorian date of March 31. Looking at Bach's contemporaries, the old style date is maintained. Why has this revision been made? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:22, 21 March 2014 (UTC)

Have you read the long discussion immediately above this one?—Jerome Kohl (talk) 23:56, 21 March 2014 (UTC)

Yes. Citing the NS date first is misleading, pedantic and punctilious. This entry on Bach is unique in the entire body of secondary literature in music history (including contemporary scholarship) in drawing unnecessary attention to the "great controversy" of the very gradual adoption of the Gregorian (to the XX century in Russia). Each and every student who is asked to cite the birthdate of Bach will be given censure. Anyone who knows Bach will say "He was born on March 21, 1685." To expect ordinary music students to take the OS/NS differences into consideration is, of course, a misguided project. As a service, this date should be changed. Drawing attention to calendarism has nothing to do with the fact base on which we rely. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:55, 22 March 2014 (UTC)

So what do you suggest? To omit the New Style date altogether or to reverse the order: Johann Sebastian Bach (21 March [N.S. 31 March] 1685 – 28 July 1750) was a German composer, … ? -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 13:22, 22 March 2014 (UTC)
I must say, I agree completely with re the grossly misleading and pedantic use of a date that no other serious reference book uses. It has always mystified me that Wikipedia does this. Grove, the Oxford dictionaries, the Harvard dictionaries, the Encyclopedia Britannica all use 21 March. Not to mention the celebrations in Berlin for Bach's tercentenary on 21 March 1985. The only place you find 31 March is Wikipedia, its mirrors, and a book for school children in New Zealand (which I suspect relies on Wikipedia). Grove doesn't even mention that the date would be 31 in the Gregorian calendar. Why? No doubt because it is a pedantic irrelevance. At the very least, the order should be reversed. But frankly, I'd omit that clutter from an already cluttered lede and put the pedantry in a footnote for those who think it's necessary. Voceditenore (talk) 15:18, 22 March 2014 (UTC)

Also, I was reading about the calculation of Orthodox and, for lack of a better word, Unorthodox Easter. Orthodox use the calendar that's older. The article coincidentally mentions March 21st because that is the considered date of the equinox, but this article ( states that old style March 21 is new style April 3, not March 31. if correct, this article should say Bach was born on April 3. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:08, 2 May 2014 (UTC)

The calendars have continued to diverge since Bach's time. The Gregorian date on Bach's birthday would have been March 31 that year, so if you're, for example, identifying events which took place on the same day in Rome, you'd use March 31, 1685. The fact that there have been three years (1700, 1800, 1900) since then which were leap years in the Julian calendar — but which weren't in the Gregorian — is irrelevant. —Wahoofive (talk) 18:36, 2 May 2014 (UTC)


They censored a valid comment from me they didn't like. Wikipedia has a habbit of doing that to people they disagree with. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:19, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

Removed comment was this. Article talk pages are for discussing improvements to the article. They are not for discussing the article's subject or for expressing your personal opinions about Wikipedia in general, or anything else for that matter. Off-topic comments like yours are regularly removed or archived by other editors. I suggest you read How to use article talk pages. Voceditenore (talk) 13:06, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
I wouldn't have removed the complaint. Tony (talk) 13:13, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
I wouldn't have, either. But that comment did in no way contribute to the article's impovement, and so I didn't revert its removal. cookies crumble ... -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 13:19, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Just to clarify, I didn't remove the comment myself, although I have removed or archived off-topic comments from Talk pages on occasion. I was only explaining why that happened. Incidentally,, your comment would have been just as off-topic had you said "Just more evidence to show if you want reliable information use Wikipedia.". Voceditenore (talk) 13:29, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Indeed. Just to show that I'm consistent, I refer you to this edit. Toccata quarta (talk) 08:16, 6 May 2014 (UTC)

Musique concrète?[edit]

News of a petition, including the signatures of Günter Blobel and J. M. Coetzee, to save Bach's house, which is currently under a car park: [1]! Martinevans123 (talk) 22:17, 31 March 2014 (UTC)

Classical composers[edit]

We've had a couple of reverts with regard to the Category:18th-century classical composers. If you view the category you'll see that they're all composers of music from the Classical period (as opposed to Baroque or Romantic), like Mozart. It doesn't mean composers of classical music broadly defined -- that wouldn't even make sense, since all composers of the 18th century composed that kind of music; none of them wrote jazz or hip-hop. Can we get a consensus on this? —Wahoofive (talk) 22:37, 29 May 2014 (UTC)

Sorry, but I've just had a look at that list and it includes Tomaso Albinoni, Carl Heinrich Biber, François Couperin, Johann Friedrich Fasch, Christoph Graupner, George Frideric Handel, Johann David Heinichen, Johann Joachim Quantz, Jean-Philippe Rameau, and George Philipp Telemann, all of whom are solidly classed as Baroque composers. If we are going to reach a consensus to remove Bach from this category, then his contemporaries and predecessors are really going to have to go as well. I don't find a separate category for Baroque composers. Should there be one? Alternatively, perhaps there should be a "late Baroque" category, as a sub-category of 18th-century composers.Jerome Kohl (talk) 23:33, 29 May 2014 (UTC)

Yeah, those guys don't belong there either. There's really no point in having a category of all 18th-century composers. I was afraid no one would see it if I brought it up on the category talk page, though, so I thought I'd start here. —Wahoofive (talk) 23:58, 29 May 2014 (UTC)

Maybe the problem is that the category contains "18th century" in the name, which is redundant at best, and uselessly exclusionary at worst (Beethoven's not a classical composer?). Where's a better place to address this? —Wahoofive (talk) 00:01, 30 May 2014 (UTC)

Or maybe the category is just redundant with List of Classical era composers. —Wahoofive (talk) 00:04, 30 May 2014 (UTC)

I was a bit baffled when I noticed User:Mokgamen changing articles from Category:18th-century composers to Category:18th-century classical composers: who of the former does not belong into the latter? Looking at the context provided by Category:Classical composers, it seems that "classical" does not refer to Classical period (music) but to Classical music. To avoid confusion about what the category means, I would have preferred to stay with the original name. Now we have 2 categories for 18th-century composers with no obvious distinction criteria. -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 06:07, 30 May 2014 (UTC)

Easy Listening???!!![edit]

This article seems to group alternative versions of Bach's works (very incomplete list) together under the wholly inappropriate banner of "Easy Listening" versions. Neither Wendy Carlos or Jacques Loussier are bracketed in these genre definitions either in life or on Wikipedia's other pages. Carlos is an electronic pioneer who is fundamental to the history of Electronic Music and Loussier is a highly respected Jazz pianist who has a major career spanning the latter half of the twentieth century and beyond. "Easy Listening" as used in this otherwise fine article appears to be a form of slur or the ignorance of the writer to the other forms of music available in the current time. Putting these fine artists together and tagging them with the "Easy Listening" badge is as wantonly wrong as lumping Debussy together with Palestrina and tagging them "Old Skool Classical Stuff". Subject to no objections I would like to rewrite the paragraph in question, expanding the article to show the effect that Bach had on contemporary musicians outside the formal so-called "Classical" music arena, rather than simply the effect these artists had on the "popularity of Bach". I'll start my changes in a week from now if there are no objections. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Humbled By The Knowledge Of Others (talkcontribs) 20:42, 9 June 2014 (UTC)

I agree that the "Easy listening" label adds nothing, really. (The article easy listening took me to something called beautiful music, in an even more wonky sense. Crumbs.) Why not a minor rewrite, avoiding "easy listening"... Imaginatorium (talk) 03:12, 10 June 2014 (UTC)

Lutheran and Episcopal feast day[edit]

I'm adding a mention of this feast day in this article's legacy section, in order to include the Episcopal and Lutheran musicians' memorial on today's list of Holidays and Observances. Lutherans celebrate Bach, Handel and Schutz on the anniversary of Bach's death, and Epicopalians substitute Purcell for Schutz. I'm mentioning the reason here, because all the wikipedia articles for the other musicians mention the feast day. From this talk page, it seems that one or more editors may prefer the article as it is (and don't have the time to track down if/when a previous mention/s was/were removed, much less try to upgrade the status of this article, which seems on a downward trend).Jweaver28 (talk) 11:20, 28 July 2014 (UTC)

Thanks for bringing this up on the article's talk page for discussion. No thanks for immediately making your changes to the article. This has been discussed several times in the past, with no clear consensus. The last time was in July 2013 at Talk:Johann Sebastian Bach/Archive 10#Addition of a Veneration section, before that in August 2012 at Talk:Johann Sebastian Bach/Archive 9#J. S. Bach, an Anglican Saint?? For reasons expressed there by others and me, I still oppose the inclusion of this section. -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 13:22, 28 July 2014 (UTC)
Jweaver, I think I have to agree with Michael on this one. Tony (talk) 14:41, 28 July 2014 (UTC)

Problematic claim and citation in the lead[edit]

"Bach's compositions include the Brandenburg concertos, the Mass in B minor, The Well-Tempered Clavier, two Passions, keyboard works, and more than 300 cantatas, of which nearly 100 cantatas have been lost to posterity.[2]"

Ahum. We're pretty sure that some cantatas have been lost (who knows how many were stored in the Weimar castle that burned down?). But to claim the number as "nearly 100" lacks evidence. Ref 2 is to a solid, well-written piece in the New York Review of Books last February by Gerge Stauffer. He's nice about Gardiner's book, but in the end is very critical about the stretches of the imagination—something that struck me in parts of Gardiner's BBC doco on Bach from a year or two ago. Tellingly, nowhere in the referenced review does the "nearly 100" claim appear; and if it's in Gardiner's book (which I haven't yet read), that should be referenced, with page number.

So I've a mind to remove that clause from the lead. What do people think? Tony (talk) 14:57, 28 July 2014 (UTC)

I am absolutely not a Bach expert, but that whole sentence strikes me as exceedingly odd. Bach's output was enormous, and to list it as "including" just these items would be odd anyway; the "nearly 100" is not plausible. (I mean that we can never know how many were lost, while "nearly" is a limit in the wrong direction.) I suggest changing it to something like "The best-known of Bach's works include...", and add at least "violin and keyboard concertos"... How about "and many sacred and secular choral works" (where "many" could be "over 200" or whatever). Imaginatorium (talk) 16:28, 28 July 2014 (UTC)
Here (fwiw) is the relevant bit from the reference: [2]

"The obituary stated that Bach composed five annual cycles, making a total of approximately three hundred cantatas. Only two hundred or so survive." Imaginatorium (talk) 16:39, 28 July 2014 (UTC)

Which churches in Leipzig?[edit]

According to Spitta's 3-volume biography of Bach, as Cantor of the Thomasschule, 1723-1750, he had responsibility for music in the two main churches, the St. Nicholas Church or Nikolaikirche, and the St. Thomas Church. The article up to today had instead of the St. Thomas Church the "Paulinerkirche" which was the University Church. The WP article on the Paulinerkirche says Bach was Music director there but only for 1723-1725. It seems that Bach actually had worse relations overall with the University than predecessor Kuhnau had had. Anyhow for main responsibilities I am about to change Paulinerkirche to St. Thomas Church and put in a reference to Spitta. Marlindale (talk) 20:06, 23 August 2014 (UTC)

I meant to and did put in Nikolaikirche in place of Paulinerkirche. Interestingly there was already on the page an image of the Nikolaikirche and still is now that I fixed details. So sometime in the past, someone had put in images of the correct two churches, whereas in between, someone had changed the text to put in Paulinerkirche. By the way the story of Bach's relation to other churches seems a bit complicated. Marlindale (talk) 21:41, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
Under Kuhnau, musicians from the University could perform at the churches sometimes, but this apparently no longer happened with Bach, as the organist of the university was in conflict with him - is this important? Marlindale (talk) 21:54, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
The Nikolaikirche is mentioned in the following paragraph, adjoining its image, further evidence that the Paulinerkirche was inserted later, I would say by good faith error. Marlindale (talk) 22:07, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
According to the Malcolm Boyd book 'Bach', Bach's predecessor Kuhnau as Thomascantor was also Music Director for the Paulinerkirche, but Bach only was in charge of "festal" (church holiday?) services there in 1723-25. See Talk of the Paulinerkirche article for more details. Marlindale (talk) 03:04, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
As Kuhnau was music director for all three churches, it seems natural that he could use musicians normally at one church to play at another. Marlindale (talk) 03:04, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
You wrote: "The article up to today had instead of the St. Thomas Church the 'Paulinerkirche'"; that's not what I see in the version before your edit which mentions all three churches. After your edits, the Paulinerkirche, Leipzig, is not mentioned at all anymore; that seems unsatisfactory. You should work the sources you quote into the article without dropping the mention of Paulinerkirche. -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 07:21, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Yes, that's a point well taken, thank you, I will put in something about the Paulinerkirche. Marlindale (talk) 15:44, 24 August 2014 (UTC)

Spitta index, organs, churches[edit]

I looked in Spitta's index for three churches, Thomaskirche, Nikolaikirche, and the third which WP articles (on Bach and itself) call(ed) Paulinerkirche but (the translators of) Spitta call "University Church." What I found in Spitta is about the organs of each church. In vol. II, pp. 281-291. Starting on p. 281, "The organs of the two principal churches [I believe this means Thomaskirche and Nikolaikirche} which, it is true, Bach in his capacity as Cantor was not required to play upon.... were old and worn out. There were two in the Thomaskirche." The larger had been renovated in 1721, with addition of (p. 282) 400 new pipes and mixture stops, "under the direction of Johann Scheibe," co-supervised by Bach and Görner, organist of the University Church. A lot of details of the organ are given. p. 283. "The smaller of the two organs in the Thomaskirche was the older," which despite repairs as late as 1727 "was of very little use, and in 1740 Scheibe had to take it ... away."

P. 286, "The Nikolaikirche contained an organ dating from ... 1597-1598," last repaired in 1692 before Bach's time, and early in his time, 1725, by Scheibe. "In both the Thomaskirche and Nikolaikirche the organs were tuned to 'chorus' pitch."

P. 287 "In contrast to these old organs, which were of only moderate capacity, and liable to get out of order frequently, there had been in the University church since ... 1716 an organ which fulfilled the highest expectations, and which Bach must have chiefly employed when he played for his own pleasure or before other people." This suggests use of it was not part of his work as Cantor, unless perhaps in 1723-1725? Bach himself had been consulted, as a known leading organist, about this new organ and came from Köthen in 1716 to give his written opinion, which Spitta quotes on pp. 288-290. (Then Spitta goes into generalities about use of the organ in Lutheran services of the time: preludes, postludes) Marlindale (talk) 23:11, 23 August 2014 (UTC)