Bach, Johann Sebastian

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German musician and composer

Bach was born in Eisenach, the eighth and last child of Johann Ambrosius and Maria Elisabeth Bach. His mother died in 1694 and his father in 1695. The nine-year-old orphan and his brother Jacob were then raised by an older brother, Johann Christoph, aged 24, an organist in Ohrdruf (there were five surviving children in all).

Bach's family was already known on both sides as a musical dynasty (The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians lists 75 members of the family), and Johann Sebastian grew up to be the most gifted of them all, one of the most famous organists and composers in history. Just before his 14th birthday, Johann left his brother's family to make his own way in the world, first as a paid chorister in Lüneberg, then as musician and composer in Weimar, Arnstadt, Mühlhausen, Köthen, and finally Leipzig.

Bach married twice and had 20 children, a number of whom also became famous musicians and composers. He was primarily famous in his lifetime as an organist and harpsichordist, especially for his skill at improvising; his compositions were thought to be old fashioned. After his death his music was largely forgotten until interest was revived by Felix Mendelssohn in the 19th century.


Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia, 1993-97
New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie. 20 vols. (London: Macmillan, 1980)
Rachlin, Ann, and Hellard, Susan. Bach. (Hauppage: Barrons, 1992) (Famous Children Series)
The Cambridge Companion to Bach, edited by John Butt. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997) (Cambridge Companions to Music)
Hanford, Jan, and Koster, Jan. "J.S. Bach Home Page." [Includes portraits]. Available at:


17th Century
18th Century
Music and Dance
School-age Years, Adolescence
Orphaned (Both Parents)
Adoptive/Foster Family Included Birth Child(ren)
Wealthy, Famous, Noble or Divine Adoptive or Foster Families
Child Left Care While Still a Child, but With New Parents' Blessing
Adoptees/Fosterees from Wealthy, Famous, Noble or Divine Birth Families
Parent(s) Died, Disappeared or Became Incapacitated
Birth Siblings Placed Together
Birth Sibling(s) Separated
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