One of the greatest German composers, Johann Sebastian Bach, was born in Eisenach. The Bachhaus Eisenach is dedicated to the life and works of Bach, an unforgettable visit between tradition and modernity awaits the visitor.
Actually, I had assumed that I would spend my visit to the Bach House Eisenach in the composer’s birthplace. But the beautiful half-timbered house, which is about 550 years old, was mistakenly made into his birthplace in the middle of the 19th century. More on this later….
Johann Sebastian Bach in Eisenach
The Bach family was a family of musicians. Johann Ambrosius Bach took up the post of head of the council musicians in Eisenach in 1671. He moved with his family into a rented flat at Rittergasse 11. Later he bought a house in Fleischgaß (presumably now Lutherstraße 35), although it no longer exists today. Whether he also lived there or only bought the house to obtain his citizenship rights is not known. Therefore, the exact place of birth of Johann Sebastian Bach can only be guessed at. What is certain, however, is that Johann Sebastian saw the light of day in 1685 and lived in Eisenach for the first 10 years.
Anyone who grows up in a family of musicians comes into contact with music at an early age. Johann Sebastian received lessons from his father and was soon able to play various string and wind instruments. A cousin introduced him to the organ in the town church of St. George. This later became his favourite instrument.
After Bach’s parents died, he and his brother moved to Ohrdruf in 1695 to live with their older brother Johann Christoph.
The house in which Bach was not born
One of the oldest surviving residential buildings in Eisenach is the so-called Bach House. Around the time of Bach’s birth, it belonged to the rector of the Latin school, who rented it out. At that time, it was common for the ground floor of a house to be used for agricultural purposes. Thus, it is suspected today that the present instrument hall was once a barn and the beautiful baroque garden was used as a vegetable garden and cattle pasture.
Between 1800 and 1900, interest in the life of Johann Sebastian Bach grew again. A Bach biographer from this period interviewed the last descendant living in Eisenach. His conclusion – the house where Johann Sebastian Bach was born had to be Frauenplan 21. The Eisenach Music Society then put up a commemorative plaque on the house, which still reads: Johann Sebastian Bach was born in this house on 21 March 1685.
There is evidence that members of the family did not move into the house until the middle of the 18th century, and the statement that Bach was born there is still unproven today.
In 1905, the Leipzig New Bach Society acquired the house in Eisenach, which was threatened with demolition, with the idea of opening the world’s first Bach Museum in the house where Bach was born. The museum finally opened in 1907.
Only a few years later, an amateur historian researching tax records discovered that Johann Sebastian Bach’s father had bought a completely different house in Eisenach. By this time, the Bach House Eisenach had become known worldwide as a Bach memorial. Today, visitors to the museum will find a clue to this error.
With the completion of construction work in 2007, the Bach House Eisenach was not only renovated but also extended with a modern annex. This also led to a complete renewal of the exhibition.
Discover the Bachhaus Eisenach
The entrance to the Bach House is in the new building of the museum. From there, visitors can take a tour of the historic building, the new building and the garden.
During my visit, I was lucky enough to be able to listen to a demonstration in the instrument hall. Museum staff played small excerpts from Bach’s works for the audience on five historic keyboard instruments and explained the instruments. This event lasted about 20 minutes and was a pleasure for me, not only acoustically. Afterwards, I was able to take a look at other baroque instruments in the museum collection. Of course, I would have loved to hear them, too, because I don’t know, for example, what a seven-string viol from 1725 sounds like.
Historic Bach House
In the historic Bach House, visitors then embark on a journey through the life and works of Johann Sebastian Bach. I always find it fascinating to see who lived where. With some of the historical personalities, you get the feeling they were everywhere. Besides Eisenach, the most important stations in Bach’s life were Ohrdruf (Lüneburg), Arnstadt, Mühlhausen, Weimar, Köthen and Leipzig. Fascinating who Bach met in these places…. The composer was even imprisoned in Weimar for four weeks.
To be honest, I was very surprised by the exhibition area dealing with Johann Sebastian Bach’s family. He was actually married twice and had 20 children!
On the upper floor, a bedroom, a living room and a kitchen are shown in three rooms as they would have looked in the 17th century. The exhibits come from various sources, but they are not original Bach objects.
I particularly liked the replica of Bach’s theological library. The works were compiled on the basis of Bach’s estate inventory. At listening stations, the visitor gets explanations about some of the books.
Exhibition area in the new building of the Bachhaus Eisenach
Passing through the kitchen in the historic building, you reach the new building of the museum. The large modern exhibition space deals with three thematic complexes under the titles “How we see Bach”, “What we know about Bach” and “How we play Bach”.
There are inviting bubble chairs where you can sit comfortably and listen to five different works by Johann Sebastian Bach. I would have loved to never get up again and listen to the music for hours.
The section “How we see Bach” shows how the image we have of Bach today came about. Even a face construction based on skull bones is presented here. The section “What we know about Bach” deals with research on the composer. Here, for example, you can see manuscripts and reconstructed handwritten compositions. The “How we play Bach” corner is dedicated to the performances of Bach’s works after his death.
In the middle of the large room is the “walk-in piece of music”. Here, visitors can listen to a wide variety of pieces at 13 listening stations and hear the corresponding explanations. In addition, there is the possibility to watch a film-like Bach performance on a 180 degree screen. A unique experience!
daily 10 – 18 h
Discounts are offered.
The visit to the Bachhaus Eisenach took place as part of a press trip to Thuringia.