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Recently, one of my piano students began working on a piece by J. S. Bach. We were reading the little blurb at the top, which mentioned that, in addition to being one of the greatest composers of all time, he had 20 children.
“Wow,” I said to the student. “Do you watch ‘19 Kids and Counting‘?”
“Well, Bach even beat the Duggars. They just had 19 kids, but he had twenty!”
The boy was suitably impressed.
But the Bach family’s story, as you might guess given the times they lived in, was not as happy as the Duggars’ appears to be.
Johann Sebastian Bach was born in 1685 in Eisenach, Germany. In 1707, he married his second cousin, Maria, and they went on to have seven children. Only four survived to adulthood. Maria died suddenly in 1720. We’re not even sure how or why she died, since she was only 35, although speculations include either an infectious disease, or complications from a pregnancy (her final child was born in 1719).
The next year, Bach met a singer named Anna Magdalena Wilcke. She was 17 years his junior, and they married in 1721, 17 months after Maria’s death. Bach dedicated many pieces of music to Anna, who was a gifted musician in her own right. The children continued arriving — thirteen of them, with six surviving. Many of their children became famous musicians as well.
Anna outlived her husband by ten years, but sadly she died penniless and was buried in a pauper’s grave. Bach was not fully recognized for his genius until after his death, and conflicts among his sons led to the squandering of what money there was.
Did you know about Bach’s 20 children?
Who says the only interesting lives are being lived today? Help your child discover the fascinating lives of many composers with the Child’s Own Book of Great Musicians. I edited the Kindle edition of this book, and it is full of interesting facts and many photos and illustrations that make great composers of the past come alive for a new generation of kids.
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