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A Bach A to Z

A to Z - V
V is for Veit Bach

Veit Bach (d. before 1578) was Johann Sebastian Bach's great-great-grandfather and the founder of the Bachs as a musical dynasty; he is often confused with another Veit (d 1619) of whom little is known and who may have been a son or nephew. Though a baker by profession, Veit senior played the cittern (a Renaissance-period instrument combining elements of the lyre and guitar, and played by means of a quill plectrum). The Bach histories are specific that Veit marked 'the beginning of music in his descendants'.

Veit was from Wechmar, a town which lies between Gotha and Arnstadt in the Central German region of Thuringia . The rise and subsequent decline of the Bach family is intimately bound up with the demographics and political landscape of this part of the country. Though composed of a patchwork of small courts, and riven with political splits, the region was united by its Lutheran faith; coincidentally, the absence of any major city or court with its attendant opera company and orchestra meant that starry talents were unlikely to come in from outside - yet the requirements of civic and princely prestige created a fertile market for skilled, practical musicians.

Given that musicians tended to learn from each other, such conditions were more likely than not to encourage the emergence of musical dynasties, as musical families intermarried and proliferated: in Thuringia, music revolved round not just the Bachs, but also the families of Hoffmann, Lämmerhirt and Wilcke. Johann Sebastian's mother was a Lämmerhirt, his first wife Maria Barbara, a Bach, and his second wife Anna Magdalena, a Wilcke.

Johann Sebastian lineage through to Veit is through his father Johann Ambrosius (1645-1695), organist, violinist, singer, percussionist and court trumpeter in Erfurt and Eisenach; through his grandfather Christoph (1613-61), court and town musician in Weimar, Erfurt and Arnstadt; and through his great-grandfather Johann [Hans] (1550-1626), baker, carpet-maker, and latterly, professional minstrel and fiddler. Records indicate that the musical dynasty spawned by Veit Bach came to number 53 organists, Kantors and town musicians spanning three centuries. 

Graeme Kay

    Read what others have said..

    david stedeford of yetminster
    Where are the descendants of JS Bach today and what are they doing? Are any of them musicians?

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