Feuding in Weimar?

(The final years in Weimar as told by Maria Barbara, Johann Sebastian Bach’s first wife.)

It is amazing that we have now lived in Weimar for nearly nine years. Our family has grown quickly during these years and we have made so many wonderful friends. There are so many superb musicians in the courts and towns around the Weimar area, and my Johann is one of them. He is frequently asked to travel to neighboring royal courts and nearby towns to share his musical talents and is becoming very well known throughout the German state.

We have been very happy in Weimar. Johann is very successful and Weimar was where we had decided we wanted to stay forever to raise our beautiful family. Then the feuding started! Feuding you ask? Oh dear yes! The feud is between my husband’s employer, Duke Wilhelm Ernst and his nephew and heir, Ernst August. Unfortunately, my husband has found himself in the middle of their feud and the Duke is not happy in the least.

(This story is one of many in the Bach and Sons organ and media event performed by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, organist with David Jordan, media artist.)


The Bach Family Moves to Cothen

(The move to Cothen as told by Maria Barbara, Johann Sebastian Bach’s first wife.)

I must admit that Johann Sebastian has been discussing with Ernst August and his lovely wife, Eleonore Wilhelmina some ideas about moving on to a better position. Eleonore’s brother is the Prince of Anhalt-Cothen and she thinks the Prince might just have a position for Johann.

Well, it has come to pass. Prince Leopold offered my talented Johann Sebastian the position as Kappelmeister at his court in Cothen. My husband has officially asked to leave the employ of the Duke here in Weimar for this much better position with Princess Eleonore’s brother, the Prince of Anhalt-Cothen.

Unfortunately, though, our Duke Wilhelm with whom my Johann has had a good working relationship, is furious at our “rude request” to leave. Why he has even placed my dear husband in detention with the County Judge. This is such a sad way for my husband to end his tenure here at Weimar. Johann Sebastian, though, is using his hours in seclusion composing beautiful music.

After four long weeks, Johann Sebastian was been freed from his “imprisonment.” Unfortunately though, he was given a notice of “unfavorable discharge” from the Duke-this after nearly ten years of composing, playing for and serving the Duke in every musical way.

After that distasteful episode, we have arrived in Cothen where Johann Sebastian has started his new post as the Kapellmeister in Prince Leopold’s court. The prince not only respects and likes JS, but is paying him a huge salary as well. Why, we are told that the salary is the same as the major domo, the highest office-holder at the court. Moving to Cothen was just what Johann needed to feel challenged and appreciated again.

(This story is one of many vignettes from the multi-media and organ program, Bach and Sons, presented by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist, with David Jordan, media artist.)

Realities of Life for the Bach Family in Cothen

(Catharina Dorothea, Johann Sebastian and Maria Barbara Bach’s eldest child, recounts the realities of life in Weimar for the Bach family.)

Weimar Castle area

It has been a year since my baby brother, the one who was named for Prince Leopold of Cothen, died. It is difficult to know that we have already buried three of my six siblings. Sometimes I can hardly bear it! Yet, I must go on. Even though I am only 12 years old, my mother needs my help with the boys, Wilhelm, Carl Phillip and Gottfreid Bernhard. She needs me to be strong. There is so much work and the burden of caring for our home is heavy.

My father has started working with Wilhelm Friedemann, my oldest brother in his music training. He told my mother that Wilhelm Friedemann possess a precocious musical talent and that we must do everything we can to encourage this little boy. Papa has even composed a Little Clavier Book just for Wilhelm Friedemann and he just loves to play his favorite harpsichord pieces for all of us! It is such a joy. Sometimes Papa even asks me to sing with him. What a joy!

Papa has told us he will be leaving again with the Prince. The Prince wants to “take the waters” in Carlsbad and has asked my father to put together a little band of musicians to go along on the trip. So, Papa will go away again. He does not know how long he will be gone. It may be for many months, but I will be here to help my Mother care for the home and my little brothers.

(This story above is one of many vignettes from the organ and multi-media and event, Bach and Sons, presented by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with media artist, David Jordan.)

A Child’s Perspective On The Death Of Her Mother

(The death of Maria Barbara, first wife of Johann Sebastian Bach as told by their eldest child, Catharina Dorothea.)

My father and the Prince finally returned from their trip! Finally! It was a very sad homecoming for him though, as he came rushing through the door to greet all of us and instead of being greeted with joy at his return, found a sad, forlorn and scared group of children. You see, my mother had died while he was gone. Father is so very very shocked and sad. He did not have a chance to tell my mother goodbye before she died.

Mama was so tired from all the work to run the house by herself that she got sick. It was so sudden that she died before one of my uncles could go to Carlsbad to fetch my Father. Mama was even buried with a few words from the pastor before Father got home. He was certainly shocked to walk into our home and find the boys sad and quiet and me trying my best to take Mama’s place. I don’t know what we will do now but I hope Father does not have to travel again for a while. I am scared of what might happen to us!

(This story above is one of many vignettes from the organ and multi-media and event, Bach and Sons, presented by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with media artist, David Jordan.)

Who Was Anna Magdalena Wilcken?

(The early years in Cothen as described by Anna Magdalena Wilcken Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach’s second wife.)

Johann Sebastian Bach and I were married at his home in Cothen on December 3, 1721. I now am not only Johann Sebastian’s wife but I am also the mother to his four wonderful children, Katharina Dorothea who is now 13, Wilhelm Friedemann who is quite a musician already at age 11, and the younger Carl Phillip Emmanuel and Gottfried Bernhard, ages 7 and 6.

JS Bach and his sons

I now have a new life as a wife and mother, and in that role I am helping Sebastian with the children’s music studies. I also plan to continue my singing from time to time as one of the Prince’s female singers here in the court in Cothen. Lately, I have also found myself helping Sebastian by copying the dozens of parts needed for the instrumentalists and singers for the many performances of his music here at the court.

It was a big decision for me, at age twenty, to marry this great man, but I know we will have a wonderful life together. Sebastian is committed to composing music for his children, his growing number of students and me. He just completed 24 prelude and fugues for us to play. He inscribed it with the words, “for the use and profit of young musicians anxious to learn as well as for the amusement of those already skilled in this art.”

(This story is one of a many vignettes from the multi-media and organ program, Bach and Sons, presented by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with David Jordan, media artist.)

Music for Anna Magdalena

(The later years in Cothen as described by Anna Magdalena Bach, JS Bach’s second wife.)

My husband and I have worked together collecting a group of pieces that I can use for my enjoyment, a Little Clavier Book for me, Anna Magdalena. We have included dances, some chorales, and of course some keyboard exercises. Johann Sebastian has also composed five French suites and other pieces for my little book. What a special gift this is. We are so happy.

Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen

Oh, and have you heard? The new princess here in Cothen does not seem to like music very much. It is a sad time for us as we thought we would make our home in Cothen for the rest of our lives working for a generous prince who loves and appreciates music. But now that Princess Friederica Henrietta is around the court, the Prince seems to have forgotten about his musicians and strives only to please her.

My Johann Sebastian is feeling unappreciated and ignored. This is not something he is used to here at Cothen. We have been talking about his desire to return to church music and our boys seem to be inclined to study so my husband wants them to attend a university–something my Johann Sebastian was never was able to do. It will be difficult to leave Prince Leopold, our great patron! But, I guess it is time for the great Johann Sebastian Bach to look for a new job.

(This is one of my vignettes included in the organ and media event, Bach and Sons, created and performed by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist, with David Jordan, media artist.)

JS Bach Unanimously Elected

(JS Bach elected as Cantor in Leipzig as told by Anna Magdalena Bach, JS Bach’s second wife.)

St. Thomas, Leipzig, Germany

It is June and we have just heard that the post of Cantor at St. Thomas’ in Leipzig is open. My Johann Sebastian will immediately apply for this prestigious post. An added joy to this month is that our first baby was born and we have named her Christiana Sophia Henrietta. Her brothers, Wilhelm Friedemann, Carl Phillip Emmanuel and Gottfried Bernhard and big sister, Catharina Dorothea, are delighted with the baby. Ah, but back to the Leipzig story.

Finally my husband has been asked to come to Leipzig to interview for the post of Cantor at St. Thomas. We have heard that the council is “sorry,” as they say, “that they can’t have the best, and that they will make do with what there is.” Ah, but my Johann Sebastian will show them what a composer and performer he is! Well, that is exactly what JS did! We were told that the entire council, all 32 members, unanimously elected my husband as the new Cantor of St. Thomas in Leipzig.

(One of many vignettes from the organ and media event, Bach and Sons, as performed by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, organist with David Jordan, media artist.)

The Gossip Column of The National Scholars Magazine Includes the Bachs

(The arrival of the Johann Sebastian Bach family in Leipzig as told by Anna Magdalena, Johann Sebastian Bach’s second wife.)

A very famous magazine, the National Scholars’ Magazine of the Neutral Correspondent of Holstein, has written about our move to Leipzig. It is so good, I must quote exactly what they said about the Bach family’s move: “Last Saturday around noon, four coaches with household equipment arrived from Cothen. They belonged to the former royal court Kapellmeister who was called to Leipzig and appointed Cantor at St. Thomas’s. At two o’clock he and his family arrived in two coaches and moved into the newly renovated apartment at St. Thomas’s school.” So, we are in Leipzig now. All seven of us: Catharina Dorothea who is now 15, the three boys and the baby Christiana Sophia. Our apartment is large and beautiful and takes up three floors of a huge old building over a century old.

St. Thomas Choir, Leipzig, Germany

Johann Sebastian is trying to understand his new position. He has to report to so many different people. It really is very tricky because the Kantor, my Johann Sebastian, is basically the music director for all the churches in Leipzig. In his new position as Kantor he has to answer to: the rector of the St. Thomas School; the city council made up of three burgomeisters (mayors of the town); two deputy burgomeisters; and ten assessors. My heavens! How is he going to manage to keep everyone happy? Besides that he has to compose a lot of cantatas, teach at the school, and of course play for all the services, weddings and funerals. We will be a busy family helping him with all this work!

(This story is one of a dozen vignettes from the multi-media and organ program, Bach and Sons, presented by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with David Jordan, media artist.)

JS Bach Trounces Harpsichordist

(JS Bach’s competition in Dresden as related by Anna Magdalena Bach, JS Bach’s second wife.)

The Dresden Court

My husband, Sebastian as I call him, is becoming a more and more famous, not only as an organist but also as a composer and harpsichordist as well. In fact, he just got back from Dresden where he was invited to compete in a competition with the most famous harpsichordist of France, Louis Marchand. And, what a story that is!

Johann Sebastian was thrilled with the invitation to compete against this famous Marchand because, after all, Marchand is the harpsichordist to King Louis XIV of France. Louis

Louis Marchand

Marchand also has several volumes of published compositions and we were told that he plays in a most elegant and refined style.

My husband eagerly went to Dresden a few days before the competition to prepare his competition music. I imagine Monsieur Marchand probably heard Johann practicing, because people are just drawn to JS when he plays!

As my husband told me, the appointed time arrived and a large company of persons of high rank and both sexes gathered for the competition. The Count who was sponsoring the competition was there as well as a large group of onlookers. After all this was a huge event in Dresden between two tremendous performers.

My husband was there and ready to play, but Marchand was not. Everyone waited and waited, including my husband who was to play first. Still the famous Frenchman, Louis Marchand did not arrive! After a very long wait, the guests were informed that Marchand had suddenly left Dresden by the early morning fast coach. My Bach won the competition by default!

Johann Sebastian Bach

I just know Monsieur Marchand heard my marvelous Johann Sebastian practicing and improvising and was scared! Really scared! Marchard realized he might play daily for King Louis XIV of France, the “Sun King,” but that he was no match for the great Johann Sebastian Bach, Organist and Kapellmeister of the Court of Saxe-Weimar! So instead of a competition, the Count and his guests heard a grand concert, performed by the best harpsichordist in the world, my Johann!

(This vignette is one of many in the Bach and Sons organ and media event created and presented by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, organist with David Jordan, media artist.)

I’ll Have An Espresso With That Harpsichord

(The Leipzig years as related by Anna Magdalena, Johann Sebastian Bach’s second wife.)

Our family continues to grow quickly! In fact, since we moved to Leipzig ten years ago, I have had a baby every year. So, yes, our home is getting more and more crowded with our growing family. In addition, many friends and extended family members often stop by for a visit and sometimes even stay for weeks at a time to work with Johann Sebastian and to make music together.

St. Thomas School and the Bach family home

One of our older sons, Carl Phillip describes our home as a “dovecote” and I tend to

agree. There is always something going on but it is in general a harmonious and pleasant home. Why I even have several linnets (beautiful little songbirds with red breasts and foreheads) in our home. They make such a sweet accompaniment to the music of our home. The older children are such a help with all the babies and Johann works hard to provide enough for all of us.

Sadly, though, Johann Sebastian and the rector of St. Thomas School, one of my husband’s many bosses, is a difficult man and their relationship is acrimonious at best. Therefore, to avoid conflict, Sebastian has started spending more and more time at Zimmerman’s Coffee House, which is just down the street from our home.

Pleasantries in Leipzig

At Zimmerman’s, a wonderful group of musicians called the Collegium Musicum, regularly perform there. I think my husband will soon take over the direction of the group. He has already started composing wonderful music for them. He is so happy when he is working with this talented group of musicians.

Prince of Anhalt-Koethen

Johann Sebastian and I had a wonderful New Year’s celebration this year. We were invited to Cothen to play and sing for the New Year’s Day festivities at the Court. It was good to be away from Leipzig for a few days and have the opportunity to see our old friends and make music together. In addition, our dear friend, Prince Leopold, paid us both very well. It brought back so many memories of our grand times in Cothen.

(This vignette is one of many in the Bach and Sons organ and media event created and performed by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, organist with David Jordan, media artist.)