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Introduction to Johann Sebastian Bach

German composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is considered among the most prolific, influential and gifted composers of all time. His vast body of work encompassing every Baroque style – from orchestral to choral to keyboard compositions – still reverberates through classical music today.

But while Bach’s creative genius made history, fewer details are widely known about the man’s personal life off the sheet music pages. Most interestingly – throughout his lifetime, how many children did the great Johann Sebastian Bach have?

Father to 20 Kids Total

While it seems unbelievable today, Johann Sebastian Bach was the father of 20 children total between his two marriages over his 65 year lifetime. At an age when large families were still common, Bach still vastly exceeded the norm!

First Family With Maria Barbara Bach

In 1707 at age 22, Bach married his cousin Maria Barbara Bach. Together they had seven children, including future composer sons Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach who carried on their father’s musical legacy.

Tragedy struck in 1720 when Maria suddenly died, leaving Bach a widower at 35 with multiple young children to provide for.

Second Marriage to Anna Magdalena

Just a year later in 1721, Bach wed again to a much younger singer named Anna Magdalena. Something of a domestic revival began in the Bach home. Over 16 years together, they welcomed an incredible 13 additional Bach children – six sons and seven daughters.

While many offspring did not survive to adulthood, Anna helped raise all stepchildren alongside her own and supported Bach’s thriving career at church posts in Leipzig and elsewhere.

Only 10 Kids Lived to Adulthood

In the Bach era prior to modern medicine, childhood death was tragically common. Of the 20 total children born from both of Bach’s marriages, only ten survived to adulthood:

  1. Catharina Dorothea Bach
  2. Wilhelm Friedemann Bach
  3. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
  4. Johann Gottfried Bernhard Bach
  5. Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach
  6. Johanna Carolina Bach
  7. Regina Susanna Bach
  8. Leopold Augustus Bach
  9. Johann Christian Bach
  10. Johann Christoph Altnikol

The remaining ten kids sadly did not make it to adulthood, not uncommon odds at the time.

Conclusion – Big Family, Big Legacy

While leading one of Europe’s most prolific musical family dynasties both as a teacher and patriarch, legendary composer Johann Sebastian Bach also oversaw an exceptionally large household of his own – 20 children in total with his two successive wives over nearly three decades as a married man.

The grief of premature loss was offset by the joy of nurturing genius sons like C.P.E. Bach that extended his legacy. And thanks to his second wife Anna offering stability amidst grief, Bach enjoyed domestic tranquility despite challenges right up until his death at 65 years old – a family as large as the mark this humble genius left on music itself.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How many wives did Bach have kids with?

A: Bach had children with two wives total – first wife Maria Barbara who birthed 7 kids, and second wife Anna Magdalena who birthed 13 kids.

Q: Did any of Bach’s wives remarriage after he died?

A: No, second wife Anna Magdalena did not remarry after Bach’s death in 1750 and died just a decade later herself.

Q: How many of Bach’s children became composers? A: At least four of his sons became notable composers, most famously C.P.E. Bach and W.F. Bach.

Q: Where did Bach’s large family live primarily? A: While he worked extensively all over Germany, much of Bach’s family life centered in Leipzig where he served as choirmaster in churches.

Q: Did Bach have any famous grandchildren? A: Yes, several grandchildren like Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach went on to regional music fame in Germany capitalizing on the family name.

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