01. Introduction
02. Grammar/Activities:
03. Reading Section
04 Listening Section:
05. Speaking Section:
06. Writing Section:
07 Practice TOEFL tests

Listening Test 1.8


Professor – Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violinist, and violist of the Baroque period. He enriched many established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organization, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, partly from Italy and from France. Many of Bach’s works are still known today; and his cantatas, chorales, partitas, passions, and organ works, and his music is revered for its intellectual depth, technical command, and artistic beauty. Bach was born in Eisenach, Saxe-Eisenach, into a very musical family. His father, Johann Ambrosius Bach, was the director of the town’s musicians, and all of his uncles were professional musicians. His father taught him to play violin and harpsichord, and his brother, Johann Christoph Bach, taught him the clavichord and exposed him to much contemporary music. Bach also sang and he went to the Saint Michael’s school in Lüneberg because of his skill in voice. After graduating, he held several musical posts across Germany. He served as Kapellmeister (director of music) to Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen, Cantor of Thomasschule in Leipzig, and Royal Court Composer to August III. Bach’s health and vision declined in 1749 and he died on July 28, 1750. Modern historians believe that his death was caused by a combination of stroke and pneumonia. Bach was best-known during his lifetime as an organist, organ consultant, and composer of organ works in both the traditional German free genres, such as preludes, fantasias, and toccatas, and stricter forms, such as chorale preludes and fugues. At a young age, he established a reputation for his great creativity and ability to integrate foreign styles into his organ works. A decidedly North German influence was exerted by Georg Böhm, with whom Bach came into contact in Lüneburg, and Dietrich Buxtehude, whom the young organist visited in Lübeck in 1704 on an extended leave of absence from his job in Arnstadt. Around this time, Bach copied works of numerous French and Italian composers to gain insights into their compositional languages, and later arranged violin concertos by Vivaldi and others for organ and harpsichord. During his most productive period, he composed several pairs of preludes and fugues, and toccatas and fugues, and the Orgelbüchern (little organ book), and an unfinished collection of 46 chorale preludes that demonstrates compositional techniques in the setting of chorale tunes. After leaving Weimar, Bach wrote less for organ, although his best-known works were all composed after his leaving Weimar. Bach was extensively engaged later in his life in consulting on organ projects, testing newly built organs, and dedicating organs in afternoon recitals. During the late eighteenth and nineteenth century, Bach was widely recognized for his keyboard work. Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Robert Schumann, and Felix Mendelssohn were among his most prominent admirers. They began writing in more contrapuntal style after being exposed to Bach’s music. Beethoven described him as “the original father of harmony.” Bach’s reputation among the wider public was enhanced by part by Johann Nikolaus Forkel’s 1802 biography of Bach. Felix Mendelssohn significantly contributed to the revival of Bach’s reputation with his 1829 Berlin performance of the Matthew Passion. In 1850 the Bach-Gesellschaft (Bach society) was founded to promote the work. In 1899, the society published a comprehensive edition of the composer’s works with little editorial intervention. During the twentieth century, the process of recognizing the musical as well as the pedagogic value of some of the works continued, perhaps most notably in the promotion of the cello suites, by Pablo Casals, the first major performer to record these suites. Bach’s music is frequently bracketed with the literature of William Shakespeare and the teachings of Isaac Newton. In Germany during the twentieth century, many streets were named and statues were erected in honor of Bach. His music features three times, more than any other composer, on the Voyager Golden Record, a phonograph record containing a broad sample of images, common sounds, languages, and music of Earth that was sent into outer space with the two Voyager probes.

Student – Wow! Do you mean that Bach’s works were sent into space to represent our culture?

Professor – Yes, that’s quite right! Amazing, isn’t it?

Student – Yeah! He would be amazed if he knew that.

Professor – Well, I think so too. Anyway, to finish, Bach’s abilities as an organist were highly respected throughout Europe during his lifetime; although he was not widely recognized as a great composer until a revival of interest and performance of his music in the first half of the nineteenth century. He’s now generally regarded as one of the main composers of the Baroque period and as one of the greatest composers of all time.