From The New Yorker:
Bach immersed himself in music at an early age, as had generations of Bachs before him. An obituary prepared by Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel speaks of his father’s “unheard-of zeal in studying.” That claim is buttressed by a discovery made a decade ago, of the teen-aged Bach’s precociously precise copies of organ pieces by Reincken and Buxtehude. His life was destined to unfold in a constricted area. The towns and cities where he spent his career—Arnstadt, Mühlhausen, Weimar, Cöthen, and Leipzig—can be seen in a few hours’ driving around central and eastern Germany. But his lifelong habit of studying and copying scores allowed him to roam the Europe of the mind. In his later years, he copied everything from a Renaissance mass by Palestrina to the up-to-date Italianate lyricism of Pergolesi. Bach became an absolute master of his art by never ceasing to be a student of it.