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Bach (bäkh), German family of distinguished musicians who flourished from the 16th through the 18th cent., its most renowned member being Johann Sebastian Bach (see Bach, Johann Sebastian). Johannes or Hans Bach, c.1550–1626, was a Thuringian carpetweaver and a musical performer at festivals. His sons and descendants were noted organists and composers. One of his grandsons was Johann Ambrosius Bach, 1645–95, violinist, town musician at Eisenach, and father of Johann Sebastian Bach. Johann Sebastian's eldest brother, Johann Christoph Bach, 1671–1721, was organist at Ohrdruf. When his parents died he took Johann Sebastian, his youngest brother, into his home and taught him. Of the 20 children of Johann Sebastian, several were well known as musicians. The eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, 1710–84, was made organist at the Sophienkirche in Dresden in 1733 and later (1746–64) organist and musical director at the Liebfrauenkirche in Halle. He was a brilliant organist and well-known composer, but he did not live up to his father's hopes and, after a dissolute life, he died in misery. A younger son was Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (see Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel), and the youngest son was Johann Christian Bach (see Bach, Johann Christian).
See P. Young, The Bachs (2 vol., 1978–79); C. Wolff et al., The New Grove Bach Family (1983).
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1. Johann Christian , 11th son of J. S. Bach. 1735--82, German composer, called the English Bach, resident in London from 1762
2. Johann Christoph . 1642--1703, German composer: wrote oratorios, cantatas, and motets, some of which were falsely attributed to J S Bach, of whom he was a distant relative
3. Johann Sebastian . 1685--1750, German composer: church organist at Arnstadt (1703--07) and Mühlhausen (1707--08); court organist at Weimar (1708--17); musical director for Prince Leopold of Köthen (1717--28); musical director for the city of Leipzig (1728--50). His output was enormous and displays great vigour and invention within the northern European polyphonic tradition. His works include nearly 200 cantatas and oratorios, settings of the Passion according to St John (1723) and St Matthew (1729), the six Brandenburg Concertos (1720--21), the 48 preludes and fugues of the Well-tempered Clavier (completed 1744), and the Mass in B Minor (1733--38)
4. Karl (or Carl) Philipp Emanuel , 3rd son of J S Bach. 1714--88, German composer, chiefly of symphonies, keyboard sonatas, and church music
5. Wilhelm Friedemann , eldest son of J S Bach. 1710--84, German composer: wrote nine symphonies and much keyboard and religious music
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