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Weimar I (1703)

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Young Bach was either unable to afford the university or it held no attraction for him, for in 1703 we find him applying for a professional appointment as organist at the Jacobikirche in Sangerhausen, near Halle. The post was quickly offered, an indication that in spite of his inexperience Sebastian was even then recognized as an outstanding talent. Unfortunately, the duke of Saxony-Weissenfels interposed on behalf of Johann Kobelius and the offer was withdrawn--an affront that Sebastian would remember in writing thirty years later.

Ducal Lackey

Some months afterward we find Bach in Weimar, the capital city of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. There coexisted in Weimar two ducal courts, one of the reigning duke, and the other of his brother. In March of 1703, when he was seventeen, Bach received an appointment as court musician to the latter Duke: Johann Ernst. Seventy years earlier Sebastian's grandfather had worked for the same man! Bach's duty during these months was to play violin in the duke's orchestra, what some people would term a ducal "lackey." In those days court musicians were nothing more than servants; they lived and ate in servant's quarters, were paid servant's wages, came and went by the servant's door, and often performed behind a screen.

Temporary Arrangement

For one who had trained as an organist, Bach certainly did not find in Weimar the musical sustenance that he craved. But for an hungry seventeen-year-old, it was food at least for his stomach. Obviously Bach went to Weimar knowing that it would be temporary. He may have been waiting for a church position, having come to an understanding with the Duke that he would be released from service when the offer arrived. The usual situation for Hofmusicus was that it was dangerous to leave the employ of royal personages without royal permission, as Bach would find out some years later. But in July of that same year an offer did arrive, and Bach left.

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Hanford & Koster Weimar I

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