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GenuscropWhy do we continue to hear countless repetitions of the story that Johann Sebastian Bach was forgotten after his death, only to be rediscovered in the nineteenth century? Long refuted, does this myth continue to survive because musicological evidence against it is so rarely heard? Or is it because we, as a society, insist on believing that the greatness of forgotten composers can only be fairly judged with the passage of time?

The Bach legacy begins with the students of Bach who, along with members of his own family, were the pupils at the Thomas School and students at the University of Leipzig. From there, the pedigree branches out in many directions. One branch extends from Bach’s son, Wilhelm Friedemann, to the piano student Sarah Levy, great-aunt of Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, to Arnold Mendelssohn and the church music reform movement of the twentieth century. Another extends from Johann Ludwig Krebs and his composition pupil Louise Adelgunde Gottsched into the circles of the Leipzig Enlightenment. Last, but not least, Bach’s trail can be traced all of the way to East Westphalia, where his nephew Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst, son of Bückeburg Kapellmeister Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach, lived and worked for a time in Minden. There he left behind not only the cantata Westphalens Freude, but also two singing daughters whose ties to the Bach family have been, until now, generally ignored.

New insights into Bach’s musical offspring will be presented in the fourteen lectures of the musicological symposium “Bach: Genius – Genus – Generations” that is taking place in Detmold, Germany on 2 and 3 May 2013. Beyond the life stories of St. Thomas Church choristers, as well as accounts of the University students who studied with Bach in Leipzig, special emphasis will be placed on the contributions that women have made to preserving Bach’s reputation in music history. Alongside Bach’s sons and their compositional work, his daughters and Anna Magdalena Bach will be examined. In addition, the cultivation of Bach in Paris during the French Revolution, in which women played a major role, as well as in the bourgeois musical life of Berlin at the beginning of the nineteenth century, which is illuminated from the perspective of his grandson Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach, will be discussed. With these and other presentations, the event is designed to finally relegate to the realm of legend the story of the forgotten and rediscovered Bach and to introduce a number of interesting personalities and musical works along the way.

Musikwissenschaftliches Seminar Detmold/Paderborn