Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

Biographies of Poets & Composers: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Bach & Other Composers

Anna Magdalena Bach (Musician, Bach's Wife, Bach's Pupil)

Born: September 22, 1701 - Zeitz, Saxony, Germany
Died: February 22, 1760 - Leipzig, Germany

Anna Magdalena Bach (= AMB) was the second wife of composer J.S. Bach, singer and chamber musician. She was born Anna Wilcken [Wülcken] in Zeitz, Saxony, into a musical family. Little is known of her career as a vocalist but she certainly knew J.S. Bach professionally at Köthen, where he was Kapellmeister from 1717. They married in December 1721, a year and a half after the death of the composer's first wife, Maria Barbara Bach, and settled in Leipzig in 1723. The couple had 13 children, six of whom lived to adulthood, including future composers Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach [49] and Johann Christian Bach [50] (later known as "The London Bach").

Anna Magdalena Bach was an invaluable aide to J.S. Bach's duties as Kantor of Leipzig, copying and transcribing the reams of music he wrote for the city's five major churches; a number of his manuscripts exist only in her hand. J.S. Bach expressed his gratitude by dedicating several keyboard and chamber pieces to her, including the famous collection "The Little Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach" (two volumes, 1722 and 1725), and organized informal concerts at their home so she could have a performing outlet.

When J.S. Bach died in 1750, J.S. Bach left no will and his modest estate was evenly split between Anna Magdalena Bach and the nine surviving children from both marriages. If the subsequent neglect of J.S. Bach's memory reflects scant credit on the Leipzig establishment, then the treatment of his widow reflects none at all. In 1751, church officials evicted Anna from the Kantor's quarters she had called home for nearly 30 years, and she spent the rest of her life scraping by on charity. Why her able-bodied children did nothing to alleviate her poverty is not known. She died at 58 in an almshouse and was buried in an unmarked pauper's grave at Leipzig's Johanniskirche (St. John's Church), where her husband had been laid to rest a decade before. J.S. Bach's forgotten grave was discovered during renovation of the church in 1894, but Anna Magdalena's was not and is now irretrievably lost - the Johanniskirche was destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II. In the 1960's historians began to re-examine the role Anna played in J.S. Bach's life and art, and today there are revisionists who claim she was the actual composer of some of his late music. She is also the subject of a fictionalized film, "The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach" (1968).

Anna Magdalena Bach [1]

Bach Plaque on Geburtshaus von Anna Magdalena Bach, Zeitz [3]

Leipzig's Johanniskirche in the early 1900's. Originally a Gothic structure dating from the 16th Century, it was given a neo-Baroque remodel in the mid-1890s. Gutted by Allied bombs during World War II, the church was demolished in 1949 and its tower blown up in 1963. A park is now on the site. [2]


The Bachs at leisure? Johann Sebastian with his wife Anna Magdalena, 1736 [4] See: Memo-1309

Christiane Lang-Drewanz as Anna Magdalena Bach. [5]
Courtesy New Yorker Films

Christiane Lang-Drewanz as Anna Magdalena Bach. [6]
Courtesy New Yorker Films

Source: Find A Grave Website
Robert Edwards (May 2007)

Anna Magdalena Bach: Short Biography | Discussions: Anna Magdalena Bach | Anna Magdalena as Copyist | Bach Movie: Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach

Bach Family: Sorted by Name | Sorted by Number | Family Tree | Family History | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Bach's Pupils: List of Bach's Pupils | Actual and Potential Non-Thomaner Singers and Players who participated in Bach’s Figural Music in Leipzig | Bach’s Pupils - Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2

Links to other Sites

Anna Magdalena Bach (1701 - 1760) - Find A Grave Memorial
Anna Magdalena Bach (

Ask Alice: Barking, biting and a hole in the head ...the case of Anna Magdalena and Buckie Bear (Music & Vision)
Geburtstag von Anna Magdalena Bach (Bibliothek Universität Halle) [German]



Biographies of Poets & Composers: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Bach & Other Composers


Back to the Top

Last update: Wednesday, June 14, 2017 08:31