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“The best thing about history  is the enthusiasm that it stirs up.” Johann Wolfgang Goethe
BACH’S WEIMAR YEARS
AND WORKS

1703
In 1703 Johann Sebastian Bach was given his first temporary position in Weimar as a “Laquey”. His employer was Johann Ernst III (1664-1707), the younger brother and at least nominally co-regent of Wilhelm Ernst, who reigned at the Residence Palace. Bach himself saw his position as “Court Musicus in Weymar for Johann Ernst”. This was his first employment in Weimar, and it is widely assumed that he participated as a violinist in the duke’s own chamber music ensemble.
1708 – 1717
During his second, almost ten year long employment from 1708 until 1717 in the service of the Weimar dukes, he worked as the court organist at the castle church, the so-called „Himmelsburg“.

In this second Weimar period Bach composed a large part of his organ oeuvre. With his promotion to concert master in 1714, his very rich oeuvre of cantatas began to evolve, which later became an important foundation for his work in Leipzig as the Thomas Cantor. In Weimar over 30 cantatas were composed, along with many works for harpsichord solo (including the “Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue” for example), but also early versions of the Brandenburg Concertos and parts of the epoch-making partitas for violin solo (e.g. the famous “Chaconne” from the Partita in D minor).  He was certainly inspired to compose the latter by his friendship with Paul von Westhoff, one of the renowned violin virtuosos of his time, and who had lived in the same house into which Bach moved in 1708. We can suspect that the young Bach perfected his own violin skills with von Westhoff’s instruction, and that the discussions with von Westhoff inspired the young Bach to integrate what were then new and experimental playing techniques on the violin into his partitas for violin solo.
1717 – Bach in the Weimar Jail
From 6 November until 2 December 1717, Bach was held prisoner in Weimar. He was arrested by the duke, as it stands in the court notice: “...the former concert master and court organist, Bach, arrested in the “LandRichter-Stube” because of his stubborn testimony and insistent resignation, until 2 December. Then, released from arrest in disgrace, with the resignation accepted by the court secretary.”

It was probably Bach’s hot temperament that made it seem necessary to bring him to reason by Duke Wilhelm Ernst’s arrest: after all, it was unthinkable that one of his subjects would sign a contract in another city while still employed by him, and then to try to leave town unnoticed! There was likely no other jail sentence that was so productive: musicologists assume it was here that Bach began to compose his “Well-Tempered Clavier” or perhaps also his “Orgelbüchlein”... Whatever: Bach’s release in disgrace burdened his relationship to Weimar – and vice versa – for almost 300 years. It was time to restore Bach’s honour in Weimar! 
(See “Bach’s Rehabilitation” below ⇓ )
2008 – Bach’s Rehabilitation in Weimar
An overdue ‘rehabilitation’ of Bach’s reputation in Weimar was initiated and realised by “Bach in Weimar” e.V. on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of Bach’s arrival in Weimar in 2008. It became the “emotional heart” of the first BACH BIENNALE WEIMAR in the course of the festive event “Bach and his Musical Duke”. Bach’s “release in disgrace” of 1717 was officially and formally annulled, and Bach was given a symbolic “dispense” from his jail sentence. This “ducal official deed” was executed by the only person historically entitled to do so: Prince Michael of Saxony-Weimar-Eisenach, as the descendent of Bach’s former Weimar employer Duke Wilhelm Ernst. The “reconciliation” of the two ducal houses competing for Bach’s service, namely Weimar-Eisenach and Anhalt-Köthen (the latter hat wooed Bach away in 1717 with a higher salary) was also realised on this occasion: Bach’s Weimar “Rehabilitation Certificate” was signed by the prominent witness Prince Eduard von Anhalt – in his qualification as the direct descendent of Bach’s employer in Köthen beginning in 1717, Duke Leopold. A welcome opportunity for both ducal houses to cast off all disputes and shake hands....

Rehabilitation Certificate | Rehabilitation (Festival film)
Photo gallery
Bach’s “Weimar Style”
Bach experienced the most diverse influences in Weimar and allowed himself to be inspired by them. Particularly his intense examination of Italian style deserves mention, which was not only evident in the well-known adaptations of Antonio Vivaldi’s works for organ, for example, but also in the inspiration by the cantatas of Arioti or Bononcini, for instance, which were often performed in the residence cities of central Germany at that time. Weimar was also the birthplace of the “Orgelbüchlein” – Albert Schweitzer rightly called it “the dictionary of Bach’s compositional language” because of the concentration of parameters that largely determine Bach’s compositional style. The Weimar years can be seen as possibly the most formative period in Bach’s oeuvre and certainly as the beginning of his period of mastery.
The famous Bach-Biographer Philipp Spitta on this question: “... At first glance it is clear there is no other place that would have been better for Bach and his purposes. At the time, the Weimar court was considered as serious and extraordinary as Bach was seen among the composers of sacred music; the two seemed to be destined for one another...”

Bach’s Weimar Works – Complete List [DOC]