Johann Bernhard Bach

(1676 - 1749)

German organist and composer. Elder son of Johann Egidius Bach. Clearly an eminent organist, because after he had served at Erfurt's Kaufmannskirche his reputation was so high that he was called away from Thuringia to the city of Magdeburg, However, he returned to his native state when, on the death of the great Johann Christoph Bach (6), the position as Eisenach's organist 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 th 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 Ambrosius Bach] as musicus instrumentalis. All three are renowned and experienced in their asrt. 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 apprecviated all the more the talent opf his organist, who also supplied him with delightfuil 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.


There was a great friendship between Bernhard and Johann Sebastian, 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, JohannErnst, whose teacher he subsequently became. Sebastian, above all, thought highly of Berhard';s creative work.


Not many of Bernhard's compositions have survived. They consist exclusively of smaller works for the keyboard instruments and suites for string orchestra.


VIB: Clavier, Organ and Lute in the German Baroque