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June 29, 2020
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A Musical Family: Johann Sebastian Bach and The Bach Family

Author: Administrator
A famous German composer and organ player, Johann Sebastian Bach came from a very musical family. He was born in Eisenach on March 31, 1685. He was the youngest child of Johann Ambrosius Bach and Maria Elisabetha Lammerhirt Bach.

Johann Sebastian Bach was surrounded by music from birth. His father was an organist for St. George's Church, and all his uncles were professional musicians. They included everything from court chamber performers to classical composers.

Bach's father taught him how to play violin and harpsichord when he was very young. Johann Sebastian's famous uncle Johann Christoph Bach taught him the fine art of organ playing.

Sadly, Johann Sebastian Bach was orphaned when he was just 10 years old. His mother died in 1694, and his father died only eight months later. He then moved in with his brother, who was also a famous organist named Johann Christoph Bach. He began to study music in earnest, learning to compose, perform and write music professionally under his brother's tutelage. He also learned to play the clavichord.

At the age of 14, Johann Sebastian was awarded a choral scholarship that allowed him to study at St. Michael's School in Luneberg. The school had a great musical reputation. It was located in Hamburg, which was then one of the largest cities of the Holy Roman Empire.

After his graduation, Bach was given the title of court musician in the chapel of Duke Johann Ernst of Weimar. His reputation as a skilled musician and composer quickly spread, and soon St. Bonafice Church in Arnstadt called on Bach because they needed an organist to play their inaugural concert for a new organ. When they heard him play, they invited him to stay on as their parish organist.

He enjoyed the job, but he took extended absences to study with famous organists and was preoccupied with his composing. In 1706, he moved on to a larger parish in Muhlhausen. Shortly thereafter, he married his second cousin, Maria Barbara Bach. Together, they had seven children, two of which became important composers.

After only a year, Bach left Muhlhausen to become the concert master and court organist at the ducal court in Weimar. This was one of the most productive eras of his life. During this time, he produced many of his famous fugues.

In 1717, he fell out of favor in the Weimar court. When he pushed to be dismissed from his position, he was put in jail for a month before being unfavorably discharged.

Bach was then hired by Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen as the music director until 1723. Many of his famous secular works were composed over these years, as Leopold was a Calvinist and not a big fan of elaborate music in his worship services.

In 1720 Bach's wife died unexpectedly. A year later, he remarried a soprano singer named Anna Magdalena Wilcke. Together, they had 13 children. Six of them survived to adulthood, and all six were talented musicians.

The family lived in Leipzig from 1723 until 1747. Bach wrote many of his most famous works, like motets and his Mass in B Minor, in Leipzig where he served as music director for several churches. In 1747, he moved to Potsdam to serve on the court of Frederick the II of Prussia.

Johann Sebastian Bach died in 1750 of undetermined causes. Some believe a quack surgeon performed an unsuccessful eye operation that caused his death, while others think he suffered a stroke brought on as a complication from pneumonia. He was 65.


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