Bach FAQ 92


Is It True that Johann Sebastian Bach Was in Prison Once?


Yes, Johann Sebastian Bach was in prison for four weeks in Weimar. No ifs and buts.


How did that happen? First it's important, that people back in the time of Johann Sebastian Bach weren't free everywhere in nowadays Germany. They had been free, when they were residents in one of the free Imperial Cities. In other cities and villages they didn't just live and work, the actually were possession of the sovereign, in our case it was the duke of Weimar.


Bach worked for Duke Ernst for some nine years. And he was finally appointed concert master. But he was crossed over, when it was his turn to become appointed band master, which is music director. Band master of the ducal band. Bach never was a simple person. And when he was treated unfair, he never hesitated, to complain. Not earlier in Arnstadt, not later in Leipzig.


Bach was bothered by that unfairness so much, as he had felt it. Bay the way, history actually clearly told later that he was way higher qualified for that job than any other musician on earth. Plus he believed "the turn was on him" too. Already at that time he had a first contact to the court of Koethen and the sovereign there. So, Bach decided to move on to Koethen, that was to leave Duke Ernst. He even signed a contract for the job as a music director in Koethen.


He didn't ask his employer, even his owner, but later. In writing. But his owner and employer didn't answer. So Bach was stuck. It was too risky just to leave back then as the soldiers of the duke wouldn't have let Bach go. However, he didn't want to stay too. So, Bach asked for a personal conversation with Duke Ernst, which however seen from the view of Duke Ernst didn't happen with the appropriate respect. Sure, Bach was angered and he really wanted to leave. The duke however didn't actually want to let the star musician go.


Finally the conversation got that nasty, that Duke Ernst had Bach arrested und put him behind bars for full four weeks. The justification: for "stubberness". One month later Johann Sebastian Bach finally was released. Without any honor they let him go.




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