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The Bach family was of importance in the history of music for nearly two hundred years, with over 50 known musicians and several notable composers, the best-known of whom was Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750). A family genealogy was drawn up by Johann Sebastian Bach himself and completed by his son Carl Philipp Emanuel.

The Bach family never left Thuringiamarker until the sons of Sebastian went into a more modern world. Through all the misery of the peasantry at the period of the Thirty Years' War this clan maintained its position and produced musicians who, however local their fame, were among the greatest in Europe. So numerous and so eminent were they that in Erfurtmarker musicians were known as "Bachs", even when there were no longer any members of the family in the town. Sebastian Bach thus inherited the artistic tradition of a united family whose circumstances had deprived them of the distractions of the century of musical fermentation which in the rest of Europe had destroyed polyphonic music.

Ancestors of Johann Sebastian Bach

Four branches of the Bach family were known at the beginning of the 16th century, and in 1561 we hear of Hans Bach of Wechmarmarker, a village between Gothamarker and Arnstadtmarker in Thuringiamarker, who is believed to be the father of Veit Bach.

  • Veit (Vitus) Bach (d. 1619) was "a white-bread baker in Hungary" who had to flee Hungary because he was a Lutheran and who "found the greatest pleasure in a little cittern which he took with him even into the mill".
  • His son Johannes Bach (d. 1626) "der Spielmann" (lit. the player), was the first professional musician of the family. "at first took up the trade of baker, but having a particular bent for music" he became a piper.
  • His second grandson Christoph (1613–1661) was an instrumentalist.
  • His first grandson Johann Ambrosius was Johann Sebastian Bach's father.

Others born before 1685

Johann Ambrosius' eldest brother, Heinrich of Arnstadtmarker, had two sons: Johann Michael and Johann Christoph, who are among the greatest of J. S. Bach's forerunners, Johann Christoph being once supposed to be the author of the motet, Ich lasse dich nicht ("I will not leave you"), formerly ascribed to Sebastian Bach and now confirmed to be his (BWV 159a). Another descendant of Veit Bach, Johann Ludwig, was admired more than any other ancestor by Sebastian, who copied twelve of his church cantatas and sometimes added work of his own to them.

Descendants of Johann Sebastian Bach

Family tree

Expanded genealogy


  • The New Grove Bach Family by Christopher Wolff et al., MacMillan 1983 ISBN 0 333 34350 6 provides a substantial treatment of each noted musician in the family

  1. New Grove Bach Family, p. 98, p. 111

See also

  • P. D. Q. Bach, a fictional member of the Bach family
  • Bach , for people named Bach who were not related to JSB.
  • Bach

External links

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