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Johann Bernhard Bach [18] (Composer)

Born: November 1676 (baptized: November 25, 1676), Erfurt, Thuringia, Germany
Died: June 11, 1749 - Eisenach, Thuringia, Germany

The German organist and composer, Johann Bernhard [Bernard] Bach studied with his father, Johann Aegidius Bach [8]. He also studied briefly with his second cousin J.S. Bach in Weimar.

About 1695 Johann Bernhard Bach took up his first post, as organist at the Kaufmannskirche in Erfurt. Clearly an eminent organist, because after this post his reputation was so high that he was called away from Thuringia to the city of Magdeburg. However, in 1703 he returned to his native state when, on the death of his uncle, the great Johann Christoph Bach, the position as Eisenach's organist and court harpsichordist was offered to him. Working at the fine organ, remodelled according to his predecessor's instructions, must have suited him, for he remained until his death in 1749. Shortly after his arrival in Eisenach, the general musical activities in the town were greatly improved by the efforts of two outstanding conductors who served there in succession, the eminent virtuoso, Pantaleon Hebensreit, and the energetic Georg Philipp Telemann. A contemporary writer, Johann Limberg, described the local musical conditions as follows: "on this [new] organ every Sunday graceful music is performed in honour of the Lord, often with kettledrums and trumpets. The Council has engaged for this purpose Hr J. Konrad Geisthirte as Cantor, Hr J. Bernhard Bach as organist and Hr J. Heinrich Halle [the successor of Johann Ambrosius Bach] as musicus instrumentalis. All three are renowned and experienced in their art. Recently the church music has been really perfected, as the newly appointed church musicians, who are all outstanding, have been commanded to the organ loft so as to be heard for the glory of God and the edification of the congregation. This whole body of musicians is under the direction of Hr Telemann, a man of profound knowledge and eminent invention." Telemann stayed for four years only, and after his departure the music-loving Duke Johann Wilhelm may have appreciated all the more the talent of his organist, who also supplied him with delightful orchestral suites. Bernhard's salary was eventually almost doubled and remained undiminished even when, in 1741, Eisenach became part of the principality of Weimar and its ducal band was dismissed. The repeated rises in salary show the esteem in which he was held, particularly at court. He died in Eisenach. Johann Bernhard was the father of Johann Ernst Bach, who became his colleague during the last year of his life.

Not many of Johann Bernhard Bach's compositions have survived. They consist exclusively of smaller works for the keyboard instruments and suites for string orchestra. Some of the organ works are in copies by one of his Erfurt pupils, Johann Gottfried Walther. The obituary notice of 1754 says that Johann Bernhard 'composed many beautiful overtures in the manner of Telemann', no doubt particularly referring to his use, in the French tradition, of programmatic movement titles.

There was a great friendship between Bernhard and Johann Sebastian Bach, who were related both on their fathers' and on their mothers' sides. Bernhard was the godfather of Sebastian's third son, Johann Gottfried Bernhard, while Sebastian acted in the same capacity for the Eisenach organist's eldest son, Johann Ernst Bach, whose teacher he subsequently became. Johann Sebastian, above all, thought highly of Bernhard's creative work, and evidently valued his orchestral suites, for he had four of them copied (he himself was involved in some of the copying) for his Collegium Musicum in Leipzig.


4 overtures for orchestra:
g, ed. A. Fareanu (
Leipzig, 1920)l G; e; D, ed. K. Geiringer, Music of the Bach Family (Cambridge, Mass., 1955): all D-Bds

Organ works:
fugue, F, ed. H. Riemann (
Leipzig, n.d.); fugue, D, ed. A. G. Ritter, Zur Geschichle des Orgelspiels, ii (Leipzig, 1884) [ed. G. Frotscher as Geschichle des Orgel-Spiels und der Orgel-Komposition (Berlin, 1935-6, enlarged 3/1966)]; Chaconne, Bb

Organ chorales:
Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ; Vom Himmel hoch: both ed. Diethard Hellmann, Orgelwerke der Familie Bach (Leipzig, 1967); Christ lag in Todesbanden; Nun freut euch liehen Christen: both ed. in EDM, 1st ser., ix (1937); Wir glauhen all an einen Got! [3 versions]; Jesus, Jesus, nichts als Jesus


Source: The New Grove Bach Family (by Christoph Wolff, MacMillan London, 1983); Sojurn Website; HOASM Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (March 2006)

Bach Family: Sorted by Name | Sorted by Number | Family Tree | Family History | Discussions

Works previously attributed to J.S. Bach

Fantasia for keyboard in C minor, BWV 919
Ciacona for keyboard in B major, BWV Anh 82 (?)
Ciacona for keyboard in A major, BWV Anh 83 (?)
Ciacona for keyboard in G major, BWV Anh 84 (?)

Works performed by J.S. Bach

Orchestral Suites in E minor, D major, G major, G minor, G minor - performed by J.S. Bach & Collegium Musicum in Leipzig c1730

Use of Chorale Melodies in his works


Chorale Melody


Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ

Links to other Sites

HOASM: Johann Bernhard Bach
Bach, Johann Bernhard: Biography (Sojurn)
Johann Bernhard Bach (Wikipedia)

Johann Bernhard Bach (
Bachdiskographie - Bach-Familie: Johann Bernhard Bach 1676 [German]


H. Kühn: Vier Organisten Eisenachs aus Bachischem Geschlecht, Bach in Thüiringen: Gahe der Thüringer Kirche (Berlin, 1950)
S. Orth: Zu den Erfurter Jahren Johann Bernard Bachs (1676-1749), BJb, lvii (1971), 106

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