The Bach Family

Johan(nes) Hans Bach (c1550-1626). Stadtpfeifer of Grimmenstein, Gotha, Arnstadt, Erfurt and Eisenach.

Caspar Bach (c1570-1640s). Stadtpfeifer of Gotha 1619, then Arnstadt 1620-1633.

Johann Bach (1604-73). Stadtpfeifer of Schweinfurt, then Erfurt in 1630s.

Signr. (Singer/Signore) Pagh (before 1672) (composer)

Heinrich Bach (1615 – 1692). Composer and Stadtpfeifer of Erfurt 1635-41, then Stadtpfeifer of Arnstadt from 1641.

Christoph Bach. Stadtpfeifer of Erfurt 1642, then Arnstadt 1654.

Johann Michael Bach (composer) Born: August 1648 (baptized: August 9, 1648) – Arnstadt, Thuringia, GermanyDied: May 17, 1694 – Gehren, Thuringia, Germany. The German composer, Johann Michael Bach, received a solid musical training from his father, Heinrich Bach, and from the Kantor in Arnstadt, Jonas de Fletin; the influence of the latter may account for his early interest in vocal music.

Johann Ludwig Bach (1677-1741) (composer)

Veit Bach (d. c. 1619) was a miller who, according to Johann Sebastian Bach founded the Bach family, which became the most important family in western musical history. Veit’s son, Johannes Bach (c. 1550-1626) was the grandfather of Johann Ambrosius Bach, J.S. Bach‘s father.
Evading religious persecution in Hungary (or possibly modern Slovakia), Bach, being a Protestant, settled in Wechmar, a village in the German state of Thuringia. His descendants continued to live there until Christoph Bach, grandfather of J.S. Bach, moved to Erfurt to take up a position as municipal musician or “Stadtpfeifer” (lit. “town piper”).

Hans Bach, Apprentice to the Gotha town piper.

You find the village of Wechmar 6 miles from Gotha on the road to Wandersleben. The recently renovated building of the Obermuehle mill dates back to the year 1585: From here the musicians’ family Bach went on their way through centuries, churches and concert halls. The miller, baker and zither-player Veit Bach lived here with his son Hans, who was an apprentice of the Gotha town-piper, his grand-sons Johann, Heinrich and Christoph Bach were to become professional musicians in Erfurt, Weimar and Arnstadt

Johann Ambrosius Bach (father of J S Bach), Stadtpfeifer of Arnstadt, and Eisenach 1671-95

Johann Ambrosius Bach and Sebastian Nagel were town pipers of Eisenach and Gotha respectively.

Ambrosius Bach was in the service of Eisenach as town piper since 1671. By an auspicious coincidence, Sebastian Nagel, town piper of Gotha and friend of Johann Ambrosius Bach, happened to be in Eisenach on the third weekend in March 1685. Whatever brought him to the town at this time, he most likely joined his fellow town piper Bach for a performance, probably one in need of reinforcement by outside musicians. They were used to helping each other out—it made sense for the musicians from the two towns, eighteen miles apart and seats of neighboring ducal courts, to team up for special occasions. Nagel and Bach, each in his capacities as town piper, director of town music, and member of the ducal capelle, the court’s performing ensemble, were in charge of such events.

The (stubborn) town councillors of Eisenach prevented him from taking employment elsewhere. Johann Ambrosius was both a court and town musician (Wait). He moved to Eisenach in 1670 and was appointed as a town musician in 1672. Before moving to Eisenach Johann Ambrosius was a council musician in Erfurt. The councillors of Erfurt asked him to move back to resume this job (with better pay) in 1684, but Eisenach’s council would not release him.

Johannes Bach (1612-32). Stadtpfeifer of Arnstadt.

Johann Balthazar Bach (1673-91). apprentice Stadtpfeifer to his father Johann Ambrosius.

Johann Christian Bach (1640-82). Stadtpfeifer of Eisenach.

Johann Christoph Bach (1645-93), uncle of Johann Sebastian Bach and the most gifted before JS Bach, was organist at Georgenkirche in Eisenach and Stadtpfeifer of Erfurt.

Melchior Bach (1603-34). Stadtpfeifer of Arnstadt.

Nicolaus Bach (1618-37). Stadtpfeifer of Arnstadt.

Johann Gottfried Walther In 1732 the organist of the Stadkirche in Weimar, Johann Sebastian’s cousin Walther, published his Musicalisches Lexicon, mentioning for the first time biographical information regarding the composer. See the illustration from his book of a church concert.

Richter, Bernhard Friedrich, Stadtpfeifer und Alumnen der Thomasschule in Leipzig zu Bachs Zeit. :, BachJb, Vol. 4 (1907), 32-78.

By the 15th century, most German civic authorities maintained a wind band, its principal instruments were by the 16th century the cornett and sackbut, but each player mastered many instruments. The Leipzig Stadtpfeifer probably reached their peak during the time of Kantors Knüpher, Schelle and Kuhnau; Bach’s complaint in 1730 that they were partly retired, and partly nowhere near in such practice as they should be, undoubtedly reflects a decline which took place after 1720. In the second half of the 17th century, the Stadtpfeifer were an uncontested élite among professional musicians: they enjoyed significant privileges and almost total control over their string-playing associates (the Kunstgeiger) in the Ratsmusic, or civic musical establishment. Indeed, nearly all Stadpfeifer began their careers amongst Kunstgeiger and were later promoted to the more prestigious wind band.

Two sisters of Anna Magdalena Bach, themselves daughters of a court trumpeter at Zeitz, married court trumpeters at Weißenfels, and both Gottfried Reiche, who served J.S. Bach as senior Stadtpfeifer in Leipzig, and I. E. Altenburg (1734-1801), who published an important history and tutor for the natural trumpet in 1795, came from Weißenfels.

Since the end of the fourteenth century, most good-sized German towns had supported a small ensemble of Stadtpfeifers (city wind players) and Kunstgeigen (skilled string players). Often these people were one and the same. They provided music for every conceivable kind of civic event, from piping the hours or marking the comings and goings of eminent personages, to playing for the inevitable weddings, banquets, and funerals. A first-rate town band was an important symbol of affluence and status; German instrumentalists were renowned and coveted throughout Europe during the Renaissance for their virtuosity and versatility. In Hamburg in the earlier part of the seventeenth century, the city’s music was led by the great English composer William Brade and the violin virtuoso Johann Schop. By the century’s end, however, the band had deteriorated, suffering from cronyism and other kinds of corruption. The town council abolished it sometime after 1695. In Leipzig, the Stadtpfeifer survived into the eighteenth century, although J.S. Bach remarked on their uneven abilities in one of his many contentious memoranda to the town council. The privileged position of the Stadtpfeifer was undermined by the emergence of another sort of ensemble, the collegium musicum.

The Stadtpeiffers of Leipzig

In J S Bach’s day a member of the Leipzig musicians’ guild was called a “Stadtpeiffer” – town piper. Every one of these “union” members was expected to play violin, oboe, viola, cello, flute, horn, and trumpet.

Town pipers in J S Bach’s orchestra

In 1730, in a memorandum submitted to the Leipzig Town Council, Bach described his orchestra as “four Town Pipers, three professional fiddlers, and one apprentice. “Modesty forbids me,” he wrote, “to speak at all truthfully of their qualities and musical knowledge.”

The compositions for official use at court were written expressly for the court orchestra. The records of the Anhalt archives give a clear picture of the men employed under Bach, and of their musical abilities. The names of the trumpeters, the woodwind, the string players are all known.

The ‘municipal orchestra’ was not big enough for the accompaniment of cantatas, for which at least 12 players were needed. Only 4 town pipers, three violinists and one apprentice was available.

Bach certified on 24th July 1745, that one town piper was ‘proficient on all the usual instruments, namely the violin, the oboe, the transverse flute, the trumpet, the horn and the rest of the bass instruments’.

Gottfried Reiche (1667-1734) was born in the court town Weissenfels. Weissenfels was known as a place with a long tradition of trumpet playing. Reiche stayed in this town until he was 21. Then, in 1688 he went to Leipzig. In Leipzig he became an assistant Stadtpfeifer for J. S. Bach. Reiche was promoted to Senior Stadtpfeifer in 1706. When the trumpeter Johann C. Genzmer died in 1719, Reiche became Senior Stadtmusicus. As with other Stadtpfeifers, and in particular his earlier Leipzig predecessor, Pezel, Reiche was also a composer of socalled “tower music” (Turmmusik). In Johann S. Riemer’s Ms. Chronik preserved in the Stadtarchiv, Leipzig, for Wednesday, Oct. 6, 1734, there is the following report:
“On precisely this day the highly skilled and most artistic musician and Stadtpfeifer, Herr Gottfried Reiche, the Leucopetra-Misnicus and senior member of the municipal company of musicians in this place, suffered a stroke as he was going home and dropped dead in the Stadtpfeifer-Allee not far from his house where he was taken. The reason for this was on account of the enormous strain he suffered the night before while blowing [the trumpet] for the royal music, his condition having been greatly aggravated from the smoke given off by the torch-lights.”

His extraordinary virtuosity is illustrated not only by the difficult fanfare which he is shown holding in his hand, but above all by the numerous brilliant trumpet passages evidently written for him by Bach. Reich died the day after performing at the festivities of the anniversary of the King’s election on 5 Oct 1734. On the 5th, before the musicians in the procession, went 600 students carrying wax torches. Reich died of a stroke on 6th, “because he had strained himself on the previous day playing for the royal celebrations, and the smoke of the torches had given him trouble

There’s his picture at The Csibas, on p. 21-22 of their book “Die Bleichblasinstrumente in J. S. Bachs Werken” [Merseburger, 1994] indicate that among the most probable trumpeters who could handle Bach’s 2nd Brandenburg were 1) Ludwig Schreiber, 1st trumpeter at the court in Köthen, 2) Johann Caspar Wilcke [last name spelled in various ways], Bach’s father-in-law, trumpeter at the court of Weissenfels, or a Stadtpfeifer (City Piper) from the surrounding region. These are all conjectures, because there is simply no evidence to back up any of these claims.

Children of Johann Sebastian Bach’s First Marriage – to his Cousin Maria Barbara (married 15 June 1707):
Catherina Dorothea (eldest child), born Dec 1708,
Wilhelm Friedmann, born Nov 1710, was taught Clavier from age 9 (at least), died 1744 in Berlin,
twins born Feb 1713, but died soon after birth,
Carl Phillip Emanuel, born March 1714, studies Law in Leipzig and Frankfurt, became Director of Church Music in Hamburg, died 1788,
Johann Gottfried Bernhard, born May 1715.

Anna Magdalena Bach In 1721, Bach was married for the second time to Anna Magdalena Wilcke. She was a professional Soprano singer and the youngest child the town trumpeter Johann Caspar Wilcke and Margaret Elisabeth Liebe.(Liebe came from a family of trumpeters and Wilcke was a court trumpeter. It is known that she was under contract [as a singer] to the court of Prince Leopald from 1721 onwards.

Children of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Second Marriage to Anna Magdalena Wilke (married 3 Dec 1721):
Elisabeth: married Altmikol (Organist at Naumberg and pupil of Bach) in 1749,
Johann Christian, music master to Queen Charlotte – London, died 1742,
Johann Christoph Friedrich, became Kaperlmeister to the Court Buckeburg, died 1795
Regina Susanna, died 1809 – she lived to see her father’s work recognised – in a Biography of JS Bach written by J N Forkel (Director of Music, Göttingen University)- “an invaluable national inheritance, such as no other nation could match”.
The Csibas, on p. 21-22 of their book “Die Bleichblasinstrumente in J. S. Bachs Werken” [Merseburger, 1994] indicate that among the most probable trumpeters who could handle Bach’s 2nd Brandenburg were:

  1. Ludwig Schreiber, 1st trumpeter at the court in Köthen,
  2. Johann Caspar Wilcke [last name spelled in various ways], Bach’s father-in-law, trumpeter at the court of Weissenfels, or
  3. a Stadtpfeifer (City Piper) from the surrounding region.

These are all conjectures, because there is simply no evidence to back up any of these claims

Cyriacus Wilche (* – 1667) Not much is known of him, other than that he was Anna Magdalena Bach’s grandfather. He wrote a Battaglia for Strings

Receipt in Leipzig University Archives:
May 5, 1738. 58 thalers, 50 thalers for me and 8 thalers for the town pipers. This sum represents the fee for a private performance of the cantata Wilkommen, ihr herrschenden Götter der Erden.

1736, Trouble in Leipzig
Bach quarrelled with the University and Church Authorities about the style and content of his music. They wanted him to work to their rules and regulations, which he felt were too limiting for his art. They said he was failing to do his duty. This led to penalties. Bach’s salary was reduced because they said he was not fulfilling his contract properly. The choir deteriorated because Saint Thomas’ school began to accept “unmusical” boys. Worse of all…. “The usual subsidies for students assisting in the performances were cut, and the seven town pipers, whose situation was desperate, received no official assistance”

Picture of Johan Ambrosius Bach  Young J S Bach  J S Bach’s birthplace  See also Notes & Queries