The next concert from Oxford Bach Soloists on 19 November features music by Vivaldi, Bach and Mozart – three of the greatest composers in the world of classical music. We find out a bit more about the background to these famous composers…

We start with Bach – possibly music’s most sublime creative genius and from a vast musical family consisting of over 70 cantors, organists and composers over many generations. JS Bach composed towering masterpieces in every major Baroque genre (except opera) including sonatas, concertos, suites and cantatas, as well as innumerable keyboard, organ and choral works.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) on engraving from 1857. German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist and violinist. Engraved by C.Cook and published in Imperial Dictionary of Universal Biography, Great Britain, 1857.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) on engraving from 1857. German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist and violinist. Engraved by C.Cook and published in Imperial Dictionary of Universal Biography, Great Britain, 1857.

Born in 1685 – the same year as Handel – when he was 19, Bach walked 450 miles to hear the great organist Buxtehude play. Married firstly to his second cousin Maria and having 7 children, he later married Anna Magdelena and had a further 13 children.

When Bach tried to move jobs on 1717 his employer put him in jail to stop him escaping. It is said he wrote his ‘Little organ book’ here behind bars. In later life his eyesight was failing and an botched operation by English surgeon, John Taylor – who also treated Handel – only made matters worse.

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi

Vivaldi was certainly one of the most productive composers of the Baroque era. His vast output included some 46 operas and an astonishing 500 concertos! Born in Venice in 1678 he was sent off to join the priesthood at the age of 15. After 10 years he received his Holy Orders and earned the nickname “il prete rosso” (the red priest) from the distinctive colour of his hair.

Vivaldi etching

From 1703 Vivaldi was maestro di violino at the Pio Ospedale della Pieta, one of four girl’s orphanages in Venice. But he did have a reputation for having an eye for the ladies despite it being forbidden by his ‘dual’ position. Nevertheless, one of Vivaldi’s students – Anna Tessieri Girò – became his favourite prima donna and accompanied the composer on his travels, along with her older half-sister Paolina. There has been much speculation about the nature of the relationship between the three of them!

Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart

And that brings us to Mozart – and yes, above is the full name he was christened with in 1756 – although he was often known simply as Amadeus, the latin version of one of his middle names. Certainly one of the most gifted musicians in classical music, his compositional genius is often described as ‘divine’, but he also became a great conductor, virtuoso pianist, organist and violinist. Mozart’s music includes operas – the first written when he was only 11, symphonies, concertos, chamber works, choral, instrumental and vocal music.

Mozart etching

Mozart grew up in a musical hothouse – his sister Anna Maria a musical genius and his father Leopold a respected composer. They all went on a huge European tour in 1763 performing to the great and the good. When in Rome, the 12 year-old protégé heard Allegri’s Misereri and astonishingly, he later wrote it all out from memory. Italy, with it’s colourful language and love of opera was to inspire many of Mozart’s all time operatic favourites.

When his advances toward Aloysia Weber were turned down he married her sister Conatanza instead! However, his prolific life was suddenly cut short at the age of 35 and there has been much speculation as to the reasons why ever since.

Hear wonderful concertos, cantatas and choral singing from these colourful and charismatic composers in the splendid setting of New College Chapel on 19 November.


Sunday 19 November 3.15pm
New College Chapel, Holywell Street, Oxford, OX1 3BN

Magnificat RV 610

JS Bach
Organ Concerto in A minor BWV 593 (after Vivaldi RV 522)

JS Bach
Cantata: Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich (For Thee, O Lord, I long) BWV 150

Offertory: Inter natos mulierum (Among those born of women) K 72


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