Johann Ludwig Bach

Johann Ludwig Bach


• 1677 1731


Johann Ludwig Bach, "the Meiningen Bach," was a second cousin of Johann Sebastian Bach. Johann Ludwig Bach was born in Thal, a small municipality just outside of Eisenach, where his younger and considerably more famous second cousin was born. At the age of 11 Johann Ludwig Bach entered the Gotha Gymnasium for studies in theology, but ended up pursuing the Bach family trade of music instead. It is not known where Ludwig Bach's musical training came from, except that it is obvious from his music that he was fully familiar with Italian models and stylistic devices.

In 1699, Bach joined the band as a violinist in the court of Meiningen, working in the service of Prince Bernhard I, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen. Bernhard promoted Bach to the position of Kantor in 1703, but at about the time of Bernhard's death in 1706 Bach attempted unsuccessfully to gain appointment to a similar post at Eisenach. Convinced to stay by Bernhard's successor Duke Ernst Ludwig I, Johann Ludwig Bach was ultimately promoted to Kapellmeister in 1711, a job Bach would hold for the rest of his days. When the Duke died in 1724, Bach composed the music used in the funeral service. Johann Ludwig Bach did not long outlast his patron, dying at the age of only 54 in 1731.

As Bach's primariy professional association was with an orchestra, one would expect a large number of instrumental works from his pen. To date only a single orchestral Suite in G and the oddly named Cantata-Symphony may be laid safely at his door. Johann Ludwig Bach's sacred choral music, however, is plentiful, consisting of two masses, a Magnificat setting, 23 sacred cantatas, 11 motets, the Funeral Music for Duke Ernst Ludwig, and a secular cantata, "Klingt vernügt." Johann Ludwig's music was well known to Johann Sebastian Bach, who in 1726 programmed 18 of Johann Ludwig's sacred cantatas for performance in lieu of his own at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. One of his creations, the cantata Denn du wirst meine Seele nicht in der Hölle lassen, was long misattributed to Johann Sebastian Bach and once assigned the catalog number BWV 15. Johann Ludwig's son, Gottlieb Friedrich Bach, was a skilled portraitist who sketched many of the images of the Bach family that we know today, including the remarkable "Meiningen pastel" of Johann Sebastian Bach.