Bach’s Bad Boys?

The inter-net is a rabbit hole. I jump in and hours later poke my head up into the sunshine, startled that the day is bright blue. This morning, listening to The Baroque Show on Colorado Public Radio, I heard that Bach’s eldest son was his favorite. That, I thought, must have created ill will, chaos, jealousy among his huge brood of talented offspring. Well, this tempting diversion from morning pages drew me into roads not only less traveled but also some never taken. Picking up my tablet to search was all too easy.

Fact: Bach fathered twenty but ten of his children died early, some shortly after birth, including a set of twins, and some lived about three years. One boy who lived into adulthood was not as smart as his sibs. Then I wondered about the girls—many talented brothers and scarcely a mention of the sisters. Of the four daughters who survived into adulthood, one married, one was a talented singer, the other two barely mentioned, except that one of them died “in poverty.” As did Bach’s widow.

Now I’m fussed. Four sons were successful composers and their mother died a poor widow? Their sister died in poverty? How dare they? What does this say about their life of privilege? What does it say about their father that he could not inject them with a dose of generosity along with their musical instruction? And how about the brother who died at 24 “of mysterious circumstances”? Would he have lived longer if his family had cared for him? Maybe my initial thought is correct, ill will plagued that family, along with death and grief and poverty.

My search this morning warns me not to believe all of what I hear. In his glorious music I do not hear the pain. I hear success and glory, but oh, not those dead children. I finished my morning pages in a different mood than when I began. I’ve put a library hold on a Bach biography and will read it  instead of  chasing mere facts that leave me fuming and distracted. This is why I still need books and libraries.

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