Bach’s Legacy: How Many Children Did J.S. Bach Have?

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How many children did Bach have? There are 20 Bach children in all, but only ten lived through adulthood. Four of the surviving ten Bach children became great musicians and composers like their father, J.S. Bach.

Here is a closer look at the Bach family and their legacy. 

Children With Maria Barbara Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach married his second cousin Maria Barbara Bach on October 17, 1707. She also happens to be five months older than him. How many children did Bach have with his first wife? They had seven children. Only four of those Bach children made it to adulthood.

Catharina Dorothea Bach (1708 – 1774)

Catharina Dorothea Bach was born on December 29, 1708, in Wechmar, Gotha, Thuringia, Germany, to Johann Sebastian Bach and Maria Barbara Bach. She was Bach’s firstborn.

At the time, society was not yet open to allowing women to work in specific fields like composing or writing music, but Catharine was a talented singer. She frequently assisted her father with his work. Catharina Dorothea Bach had one child with Georg Henrich Geissler. She passed away on January 14, 1774, in Thuringia, Germany.

 Johann Gottfried Bernhard Bach (1715 – 1739)

Johann Gottfried Bernhard Bach was one of the ten children of Johann Sebastian Bach and Maria Barbara Bach to make it to adulthood. He was born in Weimar as their fourth child.

He enjoyed an outstanding education while at Thomasschule. In fact, He was tutored both at home by J.S. Bach as a father and in school as a teacher. That was because his father, J.S. Bach, had moved to Leipzig to take up a teaching job in music while taking advantage of its educational opportunities.

Johann Gottfried Bernhard took a job as an organist at the Marienkirche in Muhlhausen in 1735 until he was hired as an organist at the Jakobikirche in Sangerhausen, despite never attending a university in Leipzig. At the time of his death at the tender age of 24, scholars could not conclude if he was a composer like his bloodline. It is worth mentioning that in 1723, he switched careers from music to law in Jena.

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710 – 1784)

Photo of Bach's eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann Bach

The eldest son of J.S. and Maria Barabara Bach, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, was a composer. He was tutored mainly by his father, J.S. Bach, in musical education. In 1729, he furthered his education at Leipzig University. His musical career overlapped the Baroque and Rococo styles.

With an outstanding performance as a composer, the Church of St. Sophia in Dresden appointed him organist in 1733, a post he held until moving to the Liebfrauenkirche at Halle in 1746. However, his work and personal life began to spiral downward. The downward slide in his career worsened shortly after his father’s death in 1750 and even after he married in 1751. All his attempts to secure a change in his post in 1753 and 1778 failed. Baffling, though, was that despite the court of Darmstadt offering him an appointment in 1762, he didn’t accept it.

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach became sentient and touchy later in life. For 20 years, all efforts he made to get another appointment after resigning in 1764 were futile until he moved to Berlin in 1774. While Wilhelm Friedemann Bach never got a normal position matching his skills, he settled for the low income earned from teaching and recitals. However, his abilities were never in doubt among his peers. But he was no longer someone you could depend on for specific posts.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714 – 1788)

Photo of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, one of Bach's children

Johann Sebastian and Maria Barbara Bach’s second surviving son C.P.E. Bach was born on March 8, 1714, in Weimar, Saxe-Weimar, Germany.

A profoundly gifted musician who excelled in his career, C.P.E. Bach was his father’s true successor and a renowned personality in his own right. 

Although he had a law degree, his worldly success came from practicing as a musician, not a lawyer. He was a pioneer composer and reformer of the early Classical era.

His knack for expert application of knowledge gained in musical education training from his father empowered him with the capacity to play a pivotal role as a leader and mentor during his career.

His efforts helped to smooth the transition from the Baroque style to the mercurial Romanticism style of music. Moreover, his pioneering role in classical music’s reformation gave him the unique opportunity to be both a master of the fading and a leader of an emerging musical class. He never once undervalued his father’s surpassing role in all of his musical achievements.

It’s best to describe his stage performances as hypnotic. During his concerts, he became so emotionally involved, drifting into his world, that he appeared both possessed and inspired.

His specific abilities and skills accelerated his rapid rise in the music world, starting in 1740 with an appointment as harpsichordist to Frederick II of Prussia. After securing another appointment as music director in Hamburg in 1767, he resigned from his harpsichordist appointment. During his music career, he became a distinguished publisher, composer, performer, and teacher.

C.P.E. Bach died on December 14, 1788, in Hamburg. At his death, he had many musical works to his credit, definitely one of the Bach children.

Children With Anna Magdalena

J. S. Bach’s second marriage in December 1721 was to Anna Magdalena Wilcke, a skilled singer. They both shared a passion for music, a valued bond in the union. How many children did Bach have with his marriage to Anna? They had, in total, 13 children of their own, despite enduring the loss of seven children who died at a young age. Still, they raised the children from both marriages from 1723 to 1747.

Gottfried Heinrich Bach (1724 – 1763)

He was born in Leipzig, the city his parents had moved to a year before his birth Gottfried Heinrich was the firstborn son of Johann Sebastian Bach and Anna Magdalena Wilcke. He was slightly mentally challenged and yet mastered the skill of playing the keyboard at a young age. Even though he showed great potential, he failed to achieve any tangible goal. There is speculation that he wrote at least one melody for Anna Magdalena Bach, found in the second notebook.

In 1750, after his father’s death, Gottfried Heinrich moved in with his younger sister Elisabeth Juliane Frederica and her husband Johann Christoph Altnickol, a musician in Naumburg, approximately 60 km southwest of Leipzig.

Elisabeth Juliana Friederica Bach (1726 – 1781) 

She was born to Johann Sebastian Bach, 41, and her mother, Anna Magdalena Wilke, 24, on April 5, 1726, in Leipzig, Saxony, Germany.

Elisabeth Juliana Friederica Bach married Johann Christoph Altnikol on January 20, 1749, and they had three children. 

On August 24, 1781, she died at the age of 55.  

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach (1732 – 1795)

photo of Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach

Tutored in music by his father, J.S. Bach, and cousin Johann Elias, he later studied at St. Thomas School.

He was appointed harpsichordist at Buckeburg in 1750 and concertmaster in 1759. As a team with Johann Gottfried Herder, he produced six vocal works. In time, he had numerous musical works on the keyboard, including sonatas, symphonies, oratorios, liturgical choir pieces, motets, operas, and songs. He was a versatile composer, able to adapt to changing circumstances, evident in his style change to satisfy Count Wilhelm’s taste for Italian music.

In 1755, he married Lucia Elisabeth Münchhausen, a singer.

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach’s contribution to the musical field was enormous and duly recognized. 

He was considered a dynamic composer and had a transformational influence on the various areas of music, like symphonies, vocals, etc.

Unfortunately, the bulk of his musical work, preserved in the Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung in Berlin since 1917, was destroyed during WWII.

Johann Christian Bach (1735 – 1782)

Photo of Johann Christian Bach, son of Bach

In Leipzig, Germany, on September 5, 1735, Johann Christian Bach, alias ”English Bach”, the youngest son of J.S. and Anna Magdalena Bach, was born. He was a famous composer in the early classical era. C.P.E. got his early training in music from his father, who died in 1750. He worked with C.P.E. Bach in Berlin afterward.

In 1756, at 20, he studied under the tutelage of Padre Martini in Bologna. Though his music needed a lot of improvement, his good manners got him sponsors, who supported him in his career. He was appointed organist of Millan Cathedral in 1760.

His musical career was transformative and developmental for musicians of the Classical period, like Mozart. He always wrote responsive and inspiring pieces for the musicians of that period.

Johann Christian Bach also had the nickname “London Bach” because he settled in London to be of service to Queen Charlotte. 

Johanna Carolina Bach (1737 – 1781)

Johanna Carolina Bach died at 43 on August 18, 1781, in her burial place in her hometown, Leipzig, Saxony, Germany. She was born on October 30, 1737, in Leipzig, Saxony, Germany, to Johann Sebastian Bach, her father, at 52, and Anna Magdalena Wilke, her mother, at 36.

Regina Susanna Bach (1742 – 1809)

Regina Susanna Bach died at 67 on December 14, 1809, in her burial place in her hometown, Leipzig, Saxony, Germany. She was born on February 22, 1742, in Leipzig, Saxony, Germany, to Johann Sebastian Bach, her father, at 56, and Anna Magdalena Wilke, her mother, at 40.

Bach Children Who Died in Childhood

  • Maria Sophia and Johann Christoph (twins)
  • Leopold Augustus
  • Christiana Sophia Henrietta 
  • Christian Gottlieb
  • Ernestus Andreas
  • Regina Johanna
  • Christiana Benedicta
  • Christiana Dorothea
  • Johann August Abraham

The Prolific Father

So, how many children did Bach have? There are two possible answers. There are 20 Bach children, including those who died in childhood. And, half or ten if you need to know how many Bach children survived through adulthood.


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