Bach’s output as a composer is so extraordinary that it’s impossible to appreciate all at once. The best way in is to really study The St. Matthew Passion, or the Mass in B Minor, or the Goldberg Variations, and then you will be startled over and over at the specific intricacies, the astonishing brilliance of word painting, the depth of the intellectual underpinning of the pieces, the profound reverence of the uber Lutheran.
I’ve wondered why there is no movie of Bach’s life. A musician friend thinks it’s because he had a fairly boring life. He was a family man with 20 children (10 whom lived past infancy) who worked as an organist and a composer, although his genius to compose wasn’t recognized in his lifetime. He married Maria Barbara, and then Anna Magdalena when Maria died. There is no mysterious “Immortal Beloved” woman that gives some sexiness to Beethoven’s life.
This morning I sang the harmony Bach wrote to Isaak’s Innsbruck tune for O esca viatorum (O Food of Exiles Lowly), which transforms the piece entirely. After the piece our very talented music director Preston Smith elegantly slipped “Happy Birthday” into the organ improvisation that followed on the theme. Bach’s disciples honor the big man in many wonderful ways.
Here's Richter with the second 2 movements of the Italian Concerto. The Andante is very famous, used in many movies for a sad or rainy scene. It doesn't "sound" particularly like Bach. The Presto is typical J.S. fireworks, up and down the keyboard, faster than human fingers have a right to move.