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Music on this page: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, Cantata No. 61-1 Overture (Choro)
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In the beginning was manslaughter

Biography J. S. Bach

The Bach Dynasty

Bach in a historical context

It started with manslaughter

Erfurt, 27 February 1635: A family celebration is taking place in the house "Zum Affen" on the Krämerbrücke. Landlord Hans Rothländer has invited some town musicians to the christening of his youngest son. A soldier is also among the guests. A contemporary chronicler reports that he falls asleep, drunk on wine. The lady of the house wakes him up with the intention of dancing with him...

"Then he rises, takes the brass candlestick and strikes the nearest man three wounds in the head, then grabs his sword and stabs the other man in the back so that he died 12 hours later. The perpetrator was then caught and executed with a sword in the hospital square."

The victims of this attack were two capable town musicians. The terrible story spread like wildfire far beyond Erfurt.

Johann Bach, organist in Schweinfurt in Franconia and grandson of Bach's ancestor Veit from Wechmar, also hears about this. He immediately sees an opportunity to return to Thuringia and makes representations to Christoph Volbrecht, the director of the Erfurt Stadtmusik.

"He had to apply to be a town musician and that meant he first had to prove that he was of honest birth, that he had studied for five years and then he had to pass the musical test, which meant being able to play 10 instruments!"

zum schwarzen Ross

He is given the house "Zum Schwarzen Ross" on the Krämerbrücke as his home. One of his duties is to play "fine sacred songs" from the city's towers at 10 a.m. on market days. The town musicians also have to play in the churches, both Protestant and Catholic.

From the Krämerbrücke bridge, the Bach family's path leads - both literally and figuratively in a "historical" sense - to the Kaufmannskirche church. This is the place where you can most clearly experience that Johann Bach, together with his brother Heinrich, who also came from Wechmar, founded an entire dynasty of town musicians.

Biography of Johann Sebastian Bach

the young Bach

1685 Eisenach

1695 Ohrdruf

Bach Partitur

1703 Arnstadt

1707 Mühlhausen

1708 Weimar

1717 Köthen

1723 Leipzig

Music example: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, Cantata No. 61-1 Overture (Choro)