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.)

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