Johann Ernst Bach

Johann Ernst Bach


• 1722 1777


A nephew of J.S. Bach, Johann Ernst was a pupil of his uncle at the Thomasschule in Leipzig from the age of five. Although he later studied law at Leipzig University, early on he returned to his native Eisenach at age 19 to become an unpaid assistant to his father, Johann Bernhard Bach, the town organist and court harpsichordist. Not until seven years later, in 1748, did Johann Ernst become his father's official (salaried) assistant, supporting himself in the interim by practicing law. He succeeded his father in 1749. In 1756 he began commuting to Weimar for the important job as kapellmeister in the combined courts of Weimar, Gotha, and Eisenach, but he confined himself to Eisenach when that fused administrative arrangement was splintered in 1758. He did, however, retain the kapellmeister title and salary in return for performing administrative duties. As a composer of church music, Johann Ernst Bach was in some ways a conservative, objecting to modern trends and praising in print the works of his uncle, Telemann, and other figures of that generation. He won particular praise for the traditional beauty of his chorales. Otherwise, though, he was fairly up-to-date in style, using syncopation and chromaticism somewhat in the manner of his cousin C.P.E. Bach, and splashing dramatic effects through his vocal pieces, which often had elaborate accompaniments, and despite his protestations he fairly represented the current galant style.