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)

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)