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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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.)