Influences | The Bach Dynasty | Early Baroque | Classical

During the early seventeenth century a remarkable dynasty of musicians emerged, culminating in the genius of J. S. Bach. His musical forebears are too numerous to consider individually, but a handful of them were sufficiently accomplished and imaginative as composers to deserve a mention. Their music is increasingly finding a place in present-day concert programming.

Their multifarious gifts and musical versatility embraced singing, playing, teaching, composing and instrument-building. Their skills became legendary in their native Thuringia (central Germany) and their surname synonymous with the science and performance of music. The Eisenach town records relates that in 1672 Ambrosius Bach – father of J. S. Bach – ‘the new director of town music played at Easter upon the organ, the violin, the trumpet and the kettledrums, and also sang, something which has never been known in the history of Eisenach’.

The Roots of Genius

The motet ‘Unser Leben ist ein Schatten’ (‘Our Life is a Shadow’) by Johann Bach (1604–73) paints an affecting picture of the frailty of human life and may have been inspired by the terrible hardship of the Thirty Years’ War. Johann Bach’s brother Heinrich (1615–92) was also an able composer. His sons Johann Christoph Bach (1642–1703) and Johann Michael Bach (1648–94) were the most original of J. S. Bach’s ancestors. Both were fluent in the art of the chorale motet, but it is the vocal concertos of Johann Christoph that perhaps provide the most striking evidence of his talent. He was highly regarded by other members of the family, including J. S. Bach, who described him as a ‘profound composer’ and later Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714–88) added to his father’s opinion: ‘this is the great and expressive composer’.

Influences | Musical Exodus | Late Baroque | Classical


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