The Life of Johann Sebastian Bach – a Small Short Biography



Johann Sebastian Bach in Weimar. The small Bach biography will follow below the next image.




The Life of Johann Sebastian Bach – the Work of Johann Sebastian Bach



Johann Sebastian Bach – for many folks Bach means dreamlike music. But some of them want to learn more about the life of Johann Sebastian Bach. For them “Bach on Bach” and Bach ueber Bach” offers a small, exciting biography here (... below the following picture). For all those, who are interested in the life and the work of Bach … in their mother language. Below the next picture, the biography is starting. Did you arrive here after a click on Google, Bing, Yahoo, Baidu or Yandex? If so, that is proof that – aside from the short biography here – there is a section about Bach on my website in your mother language. There are many topics, which are excitingly related to Johann Sebastian Bach. They even provide fun, if you don’t speak English: for instance the many Bach videos. 33 dreamlike pieces of music from Bach and 33 photo themes. That is a total of 1.089 music videos without narrated text. To more information about the whole Bach project please click here or after reading this page at the bottom of this page. It’s the page number one in your mother language. If you clicked to the current page, coming from page 1 in your mother language … then have much fun with the Bach short biography in your mother language.



Johann Sebastian Bach in Paris.






The Life of Johann Sebastian Bach – the Work of Johann Sebastian Bach



The Veit Bach mill in Wechmar – almost torn down.




Wechmar – Where the Bach Story Began



The genealogy of the Bach family of musicians – the largest family of musicians on earth and of all times – is really complicated. Bach experts fight, whether the Bache, how they were called back then, came from Hungary or from a place that was called Ungern. After that, one Bach after the other made music, almost all of them.



Very important for the genealogy of the Bach family of musicians: the Bach place of Wechmar, a small community in Thuringia. Here is the place, where the first Bach made music: Veit Bach, great-great-grandfather of Johann Sebastian Bach.




Eisenach, Thuringia, Germany 



Eisenach: what a nice town, rich in historic treasures.



Johann Sebastian Bach was the eighth child of eight children, the pet of the family so to speak, born on March 21st and on March 31st, 1685 at Eisenach. His father was Johann Ambrosius Bach and his mother was Maria Elisabeth Lämmerhirt.



Rich in historic buildings, monuments and fountains: the Bach town of Eisenach, Thuringia.



The Bachhaus (Bach House) and next door Bach Museum.



The Johann Sebastian Bach monument.



The Bach House at Eisenach back then, around 1900.




The house of birth is assumed some 27 seconds of walk east of the Bach House (Bachhaus) in the area of the Ritter Lane and Luther Street in Eisenach. Wait a minute, how can somebody be born on two days in a month? It’s depending on the calendar you chose. There was already the Gregorian and still the Julian calendar right at that time. It was just changing when Johann Sebastian was born. Scientists fought for centuries, which date is the correct one. Later they agreed that 21st of March is the date of birth. In the age of nine years old Johann Sebastian’s mom died. Shortly after that his dad married again. Then his father’s brother died. And as these two brothers seemed to love each other from the bottoms of their hearts that was to much pain for him – he died too. It is said that Johann Sebastian was a very bad student at that time and he missed a lot of days and hours in school. Other biographers state, the reason was he was needed by his dad to feed the family and perform music as a brilliant singer.




Johann Sebastian in Ohrdruf



Lovely Bach town of Ohrdruf, the residence of Johann Sebastian’s oldest brother.



The beautiful palace at Ohrdruf.



The church of Ohrdruf, where Bach's brother was organist.



After mom and dad of Johann Sebastian had died he moved in with his oldest brother at Ohrdruf. There Johann Christoph Bach was teacher and cantor. He educated young Johann Sebastian playing the piano and the organ. There is a story that the young composer Johann Sebastian tried very hard to get information out of booklet which his oldest brother didn’t want to let him read and he had locked. So Johann Sebastian silently stepped down the stairs at night to the little cabinet with the iron grill and put his little hands through the cabinet door. He managed to grab the booklet and copied it in numerous full moon nights as he needed the rare light to see the notes. When his brother found out he was so angry that he took this copy away and never returned it to Johann Sebastian until Johann Christoph died. Why? We will probably never know until time travel begins in the close future.




Studying "Abroad": Learning in Lueneburg



Where Johann Sebastian Bach was studying with his friend Erdmann: Lueneburg, south of Hamburg in Northern Germany. This place was considered abroad back then.



Johann Sebastian left Ohrdruf when his oldest brother needed all the space as his family grew bigger. Together with his best friend Georg Erdmann, he hiked to Lueneburg. Lueneburg was considered abroad back then, a small town south of Hamburg in the North of Germany. Here he got a scholarship and made some additional money for a living with singing and making music. After finishing school as one of the best he returned to Thuringia and got the first job at Weimar. This sequence was over that fast, that some of the shorter biographies, such as this one don’t mention it. Johann Sebastian had been working at Weimar twice. Look at the pics of his monument at Weimar and you’ll figure out on your own.



The text on the Johann Sebastian Bach Memorial reveals that he lived and worked in Weimar twice.




A First “Real Job” at Arnstadt



City Hall of Arnstadt, its front is restored beautifully.



Johann Sebastian keeps an eye on what's going on in front of Arnstadt's City Hall.


Cute Arnstadt – do you discover the Bach Church in the background?



The Bach town of Arnstadt: so much to discover, so much to experience.



The ruin of Palace Neideck, a tourist magnet at Arnstadt.



Arnstadt, this Bach town is a lovely place in Germany! And a lovely place in Thuringia. What a memorial. Bach as a very young man. He was a rebel with a sense of humor. Today he is just leaning there, relaxed, watching the tourists and what’s going on right in front of City Hall today. After he changed the world of music on earth forever in the last 300 years. At Arnstadt – for the first time in his life – he earned more money than anyone else ever had in this office: he became organist in Arnstadt. And of course he made more money than at Weimar. It is here where he probably met Maria Barbara, his love. It is said that he did the unthinkable! He let a young lady perform music in the church: she sang as an artist. This lady was probably not Maria Barbara, but nobody knows for sure. He got into big trouble because of that. Johann Sebastian decided to marry Maria Barbara, née Bach later. Yes, she was a cousin of Johann Sebastian, however a second cousin. That was absolutely common back then. After all, many of those folks married sisters and brothers of their brothers and sisters. Confusing? That is probably because of my translation. So nothing illegal or unmoral. Just the question: “...do you have a nice brother or sister who I could marry?”. No Facebook, no Google+, no internet. So folks had to find different options. Johann Sebastian and Maria Barbara’s wedding was celebrated at Dornheim, a village some two miles away from Arnstadt which still exists today. Excuse me? What I mean is that Dornheim didn’t disappear. And the Bach’s wedding church, the Bach memorial and a little Bach restaurant are so close to the town of Arnstadt that you should not miss this cute place when you are travelling the path of the great composer and visit Arnstadt.




Just a reminder (... please don't translate this hint ...): please keep the red and bold links into your mother language red and bold, too. As they are important for me to place my hyperlinks later on. Thank you so much. Keep every light blue number attached to your translated text. Thank you much again.



Johann Sebastian Bach at Muehlhausen, Thuringia



The city wall of Muehlhausen. And one of the medieval gates.



One of many churches at Muehlhausen: impressiv!



Very young Johann Sebastian Bach standing beside the basement of his memorial, not on it.


At Muehlhausen, Bach was honored with a much higher payment than the musician in office before him for the second time. He became cantor at the Divi Blasii Church, an impressive cathedral. Bach’s monument in the pedestrian zone left of the church entrance at Muehlhausen reflects this symbolic career even today, as Bach not is standing on the basement of his memorial but beside it. As if he would not yet belong on it. However he only spent one year at Muehlhausen, called the town of gates and churches, which was – by the way – a free town at that time, an exception back then. Johann Sebastian Bach left Muehlhausen for his next destination. A "free town"? We explain that in the next paragraph.


Back in time: feel the era of Johann Sebastian Bach.




Bach's Wedding at Dornheim



The Wedding Church of Bach at cute Bach village of Dornheim, a 30-minute walk from Arnstadt.



A monument remembering the wedding of Johann Sebastian Bach and Maria Barbara Bach.



Johann Sebastian Bach married his love, cousin Maria Barbara at Dornheim, a village close to Arnstadt.



A really likeable small and cosy Bach Restaurant invites visitors to a romantic place at Dornheim.




Bach at Weimar



Famous residents at Weimar: Goethe and Schiller.



City Hall at the Bach town of Weimar.


Market place and beautiful houses at Weimar.



Next? Bach wanted a new job at Weimar, ever since a bright and great place. And again – you know it – he got more money. Yes, both more than he earned before and more than the person before him earned in that position. Almost a decade later, after some nine years, he wanted to move on again. But his royalty wouldn’t agree to that. So Johann Sebastian messed up and was imprisoned for four weeks. It was that easy back then: if you ask to leave but get no answer from your royalty – you are stuck. If you leave anyway – bad luck – you go to prison. Finally Duke Wilhelm Ernst went down in history not for his great doings, but for having imprisoned the greatest musician of all times. So you better be careful who you put behind bars.



Almost hidden close to city hall and the market place: the Johann Sebastian Bach Memorial at Weimar.



Just a wall is left, where once the house stood in which Johann Sebastian and his family lived. There are plans to locate a Bach House on the current parking lot.



The so-called impressive and beautiful Red Palace with the Duchess Anna Amalia Library.



Koethen – A Challenge Even for the Best of the Best


The palace at the Bach town of Koethen.



Rich in history: Koethen, center of the city.


The Johann Sebastian Bach Monument at Koethen reminds of the great composer.



Koethen was the place where Bach could picture himself staying forever. He was accepted as a great musician, his royalty loved and supported him. The world was nice, the place was great. But on returning from a trip with his royalty he found that his beloved Maria Barbara had died. Even worse, she had been buried without his presence. From that point on everything went south. His royalty had married a woman who showed no interest in music at all. So the excitement of Leopold of Anhalt-Koethen for music cooled down as well. After a short time bad things developed. Plus everything around him reminded Johann Sebastian of Maria Barbara. However after half a year he fell in love with a next woman. Still today Bach biographers disagree whether it was just because he needed someone for the kids and the household. But to check this out it is this simple: read two controversial books, which I recommend in my book section of this website, both available in German and English. And decide for yourself. Welcome to the world of the Bach family – see me smiling? Nothing was left in Koethen that could make Bach stay there for more years to come. So he decided to move again.




Bach at Leipzig



Leipzig, what a town, what a cultural heritage!



Latest state of the art meets a glorious past: the University of the Bach City of Leipzig.



The St. Thomas Church at the Bach town of Leipzig.



The most well-known Bach Monument is right next to the St. Thomas Church. (Thomaskirche). Here – and in more churches at Leipzig – he worked for 27 years.



There are two monuments of Bach at Leipzig: the old one is located in a public park, some five steps away from the St. Thomas Church.



Bach had to decide. Although he would have been paid a great deal at Leipzig on the one hand, he had a really big family to feed on the other hand. Plus, as he mentioned in the only existing private letter to his former best friend Erdmann, Leipzig was a very expensive place to live back then. But it was the perfect background for all his children to learn and study at Leipzig. So he decided on this option.




Bach Was the Fourth Choice Only



The only ray of light in a challenging environment of authorities: Johann Matthias Gesner. When Johann Matthias Gesner was principal of the St. Thomas School, time was good for the Bach family at Leipzig.



Can you imagine such a thing: as the council of the town of Leipzig was looking for the next Thomas Cantor, they tried to hire three different musicians first. But all three refused. And this, as it turned out after more than a quarter of a century later, was a very bad omen for the whole cooperation between Bach and the Leipzig authorities. The contract between the master of all musicians and the council of the town of Leipzig was unbelievably restrictive. Even considering that customs were different then to nowadays, the rules were like between villains and masters. Funny thing is that Bach was ordered by contract to create musical works of art, that should not be too long, which resulted much later in the famous St. Matthew Passion, which is a total length of three and a half hours. Bach’s life and work was a steady up and down, while the downs were more often and longer. Keeping in mind that a genius of this degree must be often misunderstood, as few folks recognized the volume of his brilliance – the authorities of the town of Leipzig were the least to do so. It is written and proven by documents that the city council said that if they couldn’t hire the best they had to be happy with a moderate musician. Bach for them was the fourth choice and a moderate musician!




Johann Sebastian Bach's St. Matthew Passion



Believe it or not: the world famous St. Matthew Passion with the first performance in April 1727 wasn’t even mentioned in the daily newspaper back then. A masterpiece not from this earth.



Treasures, very hard to find: an age old postcard showing the old Bach Monument at Leipzig, back then at a different place.




Exciting Stuff Regarding Bach



After his death in 1750 Bach’s work "disappeared" for more than three-quarters of a century. Not for experts of course – but for the general public. To be precise, exactly for 79 years. It wasn't until another musical genius came along, a Bach lover. And this composer reperformed the St. Matthew Passion of Bach in public for the first time since Johann Sebastian's death. Performed in a lighter version, as he felt he could not expect the original version of the audience. That was the true start for the actual fame of Johann Sebastian Bach. This great musician and composer’s name was Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. While almost nobody of the current seven billion folks on earth remembers Johann Sebastian’s once famous four sons, lovers of classical music and musicians all over the world adore the unique composer of Eisenach, Johann Sebastian Bach.



Thanks to Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy we didn’t loose Bach’s outstanding life work. He was the one to reperform the St. Matthew Passion for the first time after 79 years. What a success and what a beginning of the actual career of a genius.




The Grave of Johann Sebastian Bach



Thousands of Bach admirers travel on a pilgrimage to the grave of Johann Sebastian each year – from all over the planet.


Today Johann Sebastian’s grave is inside the Thomaskirche, the Thomas Church at Leipzig after a long and shameful odyssey over the past centuries. Too sad to tell as it started with just hastily burying his remains somewhere. Years later he was exhumed and burried again but finally he found an appropriate place in front of the Lord’s table at St. Thomas Church.



Johann Sebastian Bach’s grave inside the St. Thomas Church at Leipzig, Saxony.



The impressive Johann Sebastian Bach Memorial attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world.



This is the only painting of Johann Sebastian Bach by Gottlob Elias Haussmann that shows what Bach looked like, scientists believe.



A contemporary face has been modeled recently after the only bust by Carl Seffner. Seffner himself modeled Johann Sebastian's bust after the only “authentic” painting of Bach. Plus after Bach’s skull. Yes, only the famous Haussmann portrait is believed to be authentic. But actually – nobody really knows what Bach looked like – as there are so many paintings around – and Bach looks different on every one of them. So I guess, we decide to believe that Bach looked like Gottlob Elias Haussmann painted him.



Was Bach a Hothead?



You might have heard about the story when Johann Sebastian Bach “used” his epee, one reason is he was considered to have a temper. Well, the master at Leipzig once was unhappy with the behavior of one of his students. He complained in front of the city council as the student was a member of the elite families of the town of Leipzig. A bigger issue developed and it got nasty. Bach didn’t succeed. And one night when Bach was walking home, a bunch of his students crossed his way. All of them angry at their teacher. What kind of verbal dispute happened is not told – but imagine yourself in the uniform of a concertmaster, an epee being part of the dress code back then. Wouldn’t you have unsheathed your epee? Not to use it, but just for your own protection? Yes – you would.



Are you through? Now hop to the German version. Explore, what needs no foreign language skills to experience and enjoy.



This website is created keeping in mind that international folks will be cordially invited to learn more – until there is no choice but to learn English or just be happy with the wonderful music of Johann Sebastian. So, from the very beginning, my German and English websites are constructed in a way that will provide fun beyond the language barriers. You are invited to explore more subpages, such as the Bach stamps, his music, and the Bach Picture Gallery. The Bach Music Works for instance: choose any piece at random. Then choose a theme to watch while you listen. Click on the icon and enjoy a dream with both your ears and your eyes. After that try another combination. Even better: check each of the English sections. And a very special secret: open a translation program in the background for one word or another: this helps with even more sections.




One More "Fact"?



Another big deal for countless biographers was the story that Bach had a temper, because it is said that he threw his peruke at one of his students. Again, keep in mind, he was a genius. So – in no field is the difference between two individuals as big as if somebody with no talent at all talks to a genius in his or her special field. And it is a fact that Johann Sebastian Bach even had to teach students who had no clue of music and weren’t even capable of singing in a choir. And many of the students of Thomas School were not musical at all back then. All this is a historical fact, proven in the famous “Erdmann letter”: Bach complained about that fact. He stated that several of his students are quote “...not to use for any music job ...”. Plus some of his students were terribly uninterested. Now imagine the calmest person you know and you provoke this person for days, weeks and even months. Can’t you picture this quiet person go overboard when he or she is tired, stressed out or has a cold? And what did Bach do? Did he throw his stick, the next best violin, a chair, a piano (....correct, I am kidding)? No, he pulled his peruke from his head and threw it in anger. By the way: it’s not told whether the peruke hit or missed its goal. Yes, kidding again.




Invitation to Learn More



A jewel for historic Bach stuff collectors: a postcard from 1907, that is an age of more than one hunderd years.



Why don't you make it an adventure related to Johann Sebastian Bach? Click on the flag above. After that explore each chapter. Some of them are a waste of time if you don't speak German. However, others deliver a variety of fun, as they are not based on speaking German at all. You can expect best rewards in the Bach stamp section, in the Top 33 Bach Music Pieces Section, in the Bach Photo Archive and the small Bach Videos are rewarding, whether there is narrated text or not. Just try one. Click here or on the German flag. Another option, of course, is to return to the navigation on this English "Bach on Bach" website.



Enlarged detail of the card below: see the birth date? Nice try. Bach's birth was in March in both calendars, the Gregorian Calendar and the Julian Calendar.



Falling in love with treasures around Johann Sebastian Bach: one more age-old postcard.




33 Master Pieces (...for the Second Time)



Bach's music again. However: just an appetizer.





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