Johann Nikolaus Bach

(1669 - 1753)

German organist and composer. Eldest son of Johann Christoph Bach. Attended the University of Jena after leaving the Eisenach Latin School in 1689. Appointed town organist and music teacher at the University at the age of 26, he had already traveled to Italy, where he acquired a documented mastery of Italian. In 1703, on the death of both his father and mother, Johann Nikolaus had the opportunity to change his work. The father had wanted his son, also Johann Christoph (1676 - ?), to succeed him, but the latter was the in Lübeck, probably to hear Buxtehude, as his cousin Sebastian was to do two years later. Nikolaus made the aspplication for the post on his brother's behalf, explaining that the latter was hastening back to Eisenach to give a trial performance, and urging the importance of having the work on the organ of St George's Church concluded under the supervision of a member of the family. He even suggested that if the city fathers thought his brother too inecperienced he, Nikolaus, would be glad to work for the time being until the authorities thought his brother ready. The City Council was definitely not interested in the younger man, however, and instead offered the post to Nikolaus himself. Nikolaus declined, however, not least because he was just trying to persuade the Jena city authorities to build a new organ, a venture that wasd ultimately so successful that it was claimed in 1708 that many organists came to Jena merely for the organ's sake.


The city organist's consummate skill in everything pertaining to the organ made the University authorities invite him subsequently to take charge of their own Kollegienkirche also. Nikolaus carried out all of these duties in both churches up to the age of 80, when, after an illness, he was forced to look for a substitute.


Apart from his work in the two Jena churches and his participation in the "Collegium Musicum," Nikolaus devoted much time to teaching, for which, like his cousin Sebastian, he seems to have had a definite bent. Bach was also successful as a craftsman: like his uncle Johann Michael, with whom he probably studied, he was greatly interested and very proficient in the construction of musical instruments, delighting in planning various improvements.


Nikolaus was no less versatile as a composer than he was as a craftsman. Although only a few of his works have survived, they reveal an artistic personality worthy of his great father.


VIB: Clavier, Organ and Lute in the German Baroque