At the age of twenty, Bach traveled 280 miles to visit Buxtehude in Lübeck, where the young man prolonged his visit by several months to further learn and experience the skills of this master of the organ. Exactly what occurred in Lübeck during Bach’s stay is unknown, but it can be surmised that Buxtehude had a tremendous impact on Bach, evidenced first of all by the prolonged visit and by the styles he adopted in his performances and his compositions.
Details of his childhood are uncertain, but his early influence may have been his father who was an organist and school master. Buxtehude would later follow in his fathers’ footsteps; becoming organist of St. Mary’s Church in Lubeck, north of Germany. His post required that he marry the daughter of Franz Tunder, his predecessor, a condition Buxtehude readily complied with. He remained organist at St. Mary’s Church for nearly 40 years, gaining fame and inspiring young composers such as Handel and Bach. Handel visited him in 1703 and Bach did the same two years later.
Bach is said to have walked from Thuringia to Lubeck (more than 200 miles) to hear Buxtehude play.
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