For a long time, virtually nothing was known about Johann Sebastian Bach’s early years. Since the mid-2000s, however, the sources have been getting better and better. Reason enough to take a closer look at Johann Sebastian Bach’s childhood and teenage years.
1) Bach and Luther were neighbors (well... with almost 170 years distance 😉)
Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach on March 21, 1685. There, in the fall of 1521, Martin Luther had translated the New Testament from Greek into German.
2) Bach was an orphan
Johann Sebastian Bach’s mother died in 1694, when Bach was just 9 years old. His father died just one year later.
3) Bach grew up with his brother
After the death of his parents, Johann Sebastian Bach lived with his brother Johann Christoph. The latter was 14 years older than Johann Sebastian and worked as an organist in Ohrdruf.
4) Bach sang in the school choir
Johann Sebastian Bach attended Latin school and sang in the school choir. He also learned to play the organ from his brother Johann Christoph.
5) Bach built organs when he was 10 years old
In 1695, the Ohrdruf organ was given a general overhaul. Johann Sebastian Bach, who was only 10 years old, was actively involved and acquired his first knowledge of organ building.
6) Bach was a very capable organist at the age of 13
Researchers have long speculated about the musical abilities of the young Johann Sebastian Bach. However, a copy discovered in 2006 shows that Bach was already able to play the most demanding organ works of his time at the age of 13. He must therefore have had an enormously high level of playing technique.
7) Bach was also a violinist
At the age of 18, Johann Sebastian Bach worked as a violinist for six months. He was in the service of Duke Johann Ernst III in Weimar.
8) Bach walked 250 miles to learn something
Johann Sebastian Bach wanted to further his education – and therefore decided in 1705 to study with Dietrich Buxtehude in Lübeck. For lack of financial means, he made the entire 250-mile journey on foot. He stayed in Lübeck for several months and arbitrarily overstayed his vacation – his employer was not amused.
9) Bach was married to his cousin
At the age of 22, Johann Sebastian Bach married his cousin Maria Barbara.
Would you have known everything? Johann Sebastian Bach is one of those figures in music history of whom it is hard to imagine that they were also once young. Bach’s late life, on the other hand, is well researched (did you know, for example, that Bach and Handel had the same ophthalmologist?).
In fact, there is still a lot of research to be done on Bach’s early years – but light is slowly coming into the darkness.