Essay On J.S.Bach

20 Children of Johann Sebastian Bach

There wasn't one single child of Johann Sebastian Bach living in the Bachhaus in Eisenach, Thuringia, Germany. Learn why.

The question, how many children Johann Sebastian Bach actually had, is what you find here and there on the internet plus you find wrong answers here and there, too. How it's common on the internet. You find many answers, but after that you have to check carefully, which one of your finds is correct. And which are not. 20 children is correct. And it's important not to confuse both data, it's what happened to me when I was writing my two websites about Bach – the one for you and the "Bach on Bach" website, which is better for grownups and older students – that is the difference between the number of Bach's siblings and the number of Bach's children.

Okay, explained so very compactly together, you probably can remember it well: Johann Sebastian Bach was the eighth of eight children of Johann Ambrosius Bach, so that had been 8 siblings. However Bach himself had 20 kids. Did you get the difference? He was number 8 but he had 20 children.

What is a little bit strange is, how many children died early in their life back then, that is to say in their first year, or even worse, during birth. Or they never reached adulthood. Of course still today not all humans become grownups, still many children die: Less die in the highly industrialized countries, more in the developing nations. But it was different back then. With his first wife Maria Barbara – by the way it was a cousin of Johann Sebastian Bach, however a second cousin, that is why her name was Bach, before she married plus after that, too – Johann Sebastian Bach had 7 children. Three of those died, until their mother died at age 35 absolutely unexpected, before Johann Sebastian came back from a business trip.

Back then they married even much oftener, because a woman became pregnant or because a daughter had to be taken care of or there were so many more different reasons. When a wife died, after some children were born, these men often married even soon again, because the children and the household suffered. Many Bach biographers believed, that Johann Sebastian Bach as well married again for that reason. However, one biographer believes, that it's absolutely different, when it comes to Bach and he thinks, that firstly 18 months – that is the time, Bach and his second wife took – does not point to the fact, that Johann Sebastian was looking for a "new" mother for his kids. Secondly the second wife of Johann Sebastian Bach, Anna Magdalena, was a well-known singer too and she earned quite a good portion of money at the same court like Bach. Finally the children of Bach got used to the situation after 18 month, that no mother did the household and they improved the chores more and more. I believe, this one Bach biographer was right

Johann Sebastian Bach had 13 more children with Anna Magdalena. However than half of that number died, before they reached adulthood. So, this was quiet a different life back then, compared to what we – so that is to say at least the most of us – it know today. So every few years one of the siblings died and Anna Magdalena practically was pregnant constantly around the year, too. There is something you could calculate for me: In the "Facts, facts, facts" chapter you will find all birth dates, pregnancy is nine months long and the one of you who sends me the result and proof first, how many years and how many months Anna Magdalena was pregnant, from her wedding until the birth of her last child, and how many months she was not, the one will be mentioned here – if he or she likes that –  published with his or her name "eternalized for all times". Why I don't calculate that for you here?

When I was little and attended school I was the fastest in calculating always. However ... it just was wrong always. Plus I won't tell you whether I had to stay down a year a class once or twice.

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99 Music Calendars, Composers Calendars and Bach Calendars

A broad survey, encompassing Baroque music in England, France, Italy, and Latin America, as well as Germany, is offered by Stauffer 2006; here one can view Bach through the wide-angle lens of 17th- and 18th-century art music. An excellent starting place for Bach in particular is the Wolff and Emery article in the venerable Grove Music Online. A bare-bones but up-to-date survey is found in Glöckner 2008. Küster 1999 touches on all of Bach’s music and is another good, general survey. Emans, et al. 2000– is a huge work in progress, jam-packed with information.

  • Emans, Reinmar, Michael Heinemann, Sven Hiemke, and Siegbert Rampe, eds. Das Bach-Handbuch. Laaber, Germany: Laaber-Verlag, 2000–.

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    A multivolume reference work, projected to encompass seven volumes; four volumes published as of 2010. Substantial articles by many different contributors. Four volumes have appeared to date: a Bach lexicon (2000), Bach’s Latin church music (2007), Bach’s keyboard and organ works (2007–2008), and Bach’s passions, oratorios, and motets (2009). Three others (cantatas, chamber and orchestral music, and Bach’s world) are in preparation.

  • Glöckner, Andreas, ed. Kalendarium zur Lebensgeschichte Johann Sebastian Bachs. Enl. ed. Edition Bach-Archiv Leipzig. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2008.

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    Chronological listing of documented events in Bach’s life and contemporary performances of his music.

  • Küster, Konrad, ed. Bach Handbuch. Stuttgart and Weimar, Germany: Metzler, 1999.

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    A hefty tome, including the editor’s own four-hundred-page survey of Bach’s vocal music, plus in-depth treatment of the organ music, keyboard music, chamber and orchestral music, and several late works (Musical Offering, The Art of Fugue, canons) by other contributors. Includes important introductory essays on politics, reception, performance practice, and theology.

  • Stauffer, George B., ed. The World of Baroque Music: New Perspectives. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2006.

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    An excellent introduction to Baroque music, this collection of a dozen essays includes contributions on Bach’s practice of reusing his own music and on the St. John Passion.

  • Wolff, Christoph, and Walter Emery. “Bach, Johann Sebastian.” In Grove Music Online.

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    A bit dated since its first appearance in 1980, this (Grove Music Online) encyclopedia article nonetheless remains a good overview of Bach’s life and works. Includes a useful tabular list of works. Available by subscription.


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