Born: August 9, 1648; Arnstadt, Germany
Died: May 17, 1694; Gehren
Johann Michael Bach was the brother of Johann Christoph Bach and, more notably, the father of Maria Barbara, the first wife of her distant cousin Johann Sebastian Bach. Johann Michael was educated first by his father, Heinrich Bach, and then by the cantor of Arnstadt, Jonas de Fletin, who seems to have groomed in the boy a strong interest in vocal music. In 1665 Johann Michael took over from his brother as organist at the Arnstadt castle chapel,Read more and in 1673 he became the town organist in Gehren, where he also built organs and served for a while as town clerk. He was said to be quiet and reserved (unlike the perpetually piqued J.S. Bach), and was regarded as a highly skilled composer at the time.
Although they are not well known to the contemporary public, Johann Michael's works have survived in a rather large quantity for a "minor" Bach. Among his strongest compositions are his chorale motets, and he has been generally praised for the natural style of his musical declamations of Biblical texts. His motets tend to be homophonic and old-fashioned, though well crafted, and his more ambitious works are strongly influenced by the music of Heinrich Schütz. His extensive series of organ chorales are beholden to the style of Pachelbel, concise and contrapuntal, often in four parts; these pieces in particular are thought to have influenced the young J.S. Bach. Read less