Mention great composers to lovers of classical music and it probably won’t be long until Bach’s name crops up.
The Baroque master’s works are revered by many more than 250 years after he wrote them.
Related: Beauty of first great works
In the 1700s, Bach worked through a period of great musical change, when old instrumental forms based on dance suits were giving way to the new structures such as the sonata. Bach proved he could master both.
And there’s the incredible spiritual depth of the church organist who lived for his faith. Generations of all beliefs have been struck by the solemnity, thoughtfulness and joy of this music as well as the acute psychological observations.
Here’s five great places to start with his works:
The St Matthew Passion: Gripping three-hour telling of the Christian story which is more dramatic and complex than any opera of the period. It also contains some sumptuous music.
The Cello Suites: These six pieces written for unaccompanied cello are a huge challenge for players of that instrument and perfectly blend calm meditation with deep interweaving networks of sound.
Brandenburg Concerto No.5: One of his most thrilling works for an ensemble group, notable especially for the enormous and brilliant harpsichord solo in the first movement.
Orchestral Suite No.2: This piece ends with one of his best-known and most electrifying moments, the flute-led high-octane dance known as the Badinerie.
The Well-Tempered Clavier: Bach had an obsession with intricate formal structure and this set of 24 preludes and 24 fugues, one for each musical key, is a top example. A fugue, incidentally, involves themes being woven together in formal patterns. An odyssey for keyboard.