Bach, Johann Sebastian

While at Cothen, Bach wrote the first part of his collection of forty-eight preludes and fugues known in German as The Well-tempered Clavier. As Bach's life at Weimar is representative of his work as an organist and a composer for the organ, so the time at Cothen stands for his production for the clavichord and orchestra. While at Carlsbad on one of his many trips with Leopold, Bach's wife died very suddenly. No news could be gotten to him and on his return he found her buried. He was left with four children, and about eighteen months after his wife's death, he married Anna Magdalena Wulkin, a young woman of twenty-one, who was a very fine soprano singer. Thirteen children were the result of this marriage, making a family of twenty in all. These children ranged all the way from idiocy to genius, those who were the most musically gifted belonging to the first family. In 1723, Bach was appointed cantor and musical director of the famous Thomas School at Leipsic, which position he held until his death, at the same time retaining his title as " Kapelmeister of Cothen." From Court conductor to cantor might be considered a step backward, did we not know that Bach was devoted heart and soul to the organ and the composition of church music, and that the position at Leipsic gave him special opportunity for these things. This particular position as cantor, too, had been always held by distinguished men and was differently considered from the ordinary post of the kind. Another very strong reason for Bach s going to Leipsic was that he wished to live in a place where he could have the best of educational advantages for his children, his oldest son, Wilhelm Friedman, being at once entered as a student in the University. As cantor at the Thomas School, Bach was supposed to teach the boys vocal and instrumental music and Latin. The latter work, however, he turned over to an assistant. He was also organist and director of music at the two chief churches of Leipsic, St. Thomas and St. Nicholas, as well as overseer for several lesser churches. He was at the same time, director of music for the city of Leipsic.

The first years of Bach's life in Leipsic were very hard and unsatisfactory, on account of musical conditions at the Thomas School, and it was not until after the death of the rector, who opposed Bach in every way, that he was able to make much progress with the work. His relations with the Municipal Council, by whom he was elected and under whose direction he was supposed to work, were also very unpleasant. This body, which had charge of the city's musical affairs, as well as the Consistory, which looked after music matters for the church, utterly failed to understand Bach and caused him much annoyance in many petty ways. Things became so bad, in 1830, that Bach appealed to Erdmann, an old friend, to find him a more congenial position. But just at this time a new rector, named Gesner, came to the Thomas School and affairs immediately began to mend. Gesner became the firm friend of Bach and aided him in every possible way and, fortunately for the city of Leipsic and the development of music, the great master remained in the town and in his position until his death. Gesner remained at the Thomas School four years, which were the most peaceful, the busiest and most productive of Bach's life. But after these four good years, the old troubles and annoyances with school and church authorities began again and lasted, ever increasing, until his death. The most pathetic thing about all of these unpleasant affairs is that Bach  seems to have been always in the right, but seems also to have had always to deal with the most unreasonable and disagreeable people. His one solace during his busy and troubled days in Leipsic was his home life, which was the most delightful imaginable, his wife and children all being musicians and keenly interested in all musical matters and his house being filled at all times by pupils, who adored him. Grove says: "His art and his family, these were the two poles around which Bach's life moved; outwardly simple, modest, insignificant; inwardly great, rich, and luxurious in growth and production."