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Related Reading: Was Bach a Rationalist, Pietist, Neither, or Both?
Pietist Pastor Frohne
Pastor Johann A. Frohne of the Church of St. Blasius was a Pietist. There is every reason to believe that Bach and Frohne got along well, but the people didn't like Bach's music. Too, Bach's predecessors, the Ahles, had been natives of the city and Mühlhausians were standoffish to the new organist and his wife.
Orthodox Pastor Eilmar
Sebastian found himself increasingly in the company of pastor Georg Christian Eilmar of the neighboring Marienkirche. For ten years prior to the arrival of the Bachs, Eilmar had stood for the side of orthodox Lutheranism in the ongoing debate with Pietism. Spitta's characterization of Eilmar as "hard, bigoted, and sunk in rigid and lifeless formalism," is itself somewhat rigid, but not without insight into the hyperbole typical of the controversy at Mühlhausen. Eilmar supplied texts for some of Bach's cantatas from this period, while he and his family stood as godparents for the Bach's firstborn daughter and son.
Bach timed his resignation to coincide with the most festive musical occasion of the year in Mühlhausen, an holiday sponsored by the municipal council. The organist at the Blasius church was expected to compose a new cantata for this holiday, and, to insure its success, the council placed the best musicians of the city at Bach's disposal. This occasion is significant because, for the first time in his life, Bach had sufficient musical forces to give him a free hand in composition. The work that resulted was his first cantata, Gott ist mein König (BWV 71). The city fathers, desirous of memorializing themselves as patrons of the cantata, soon had it published. True to their intentions, Gott ist mein König is, today, the only reason their names are remembered at all. It is, furthermore, the only cantata of Bach's published during his lifetime.
Well-Appointed Church Music
While continuing friendly relations with Mühlhausen, Bach parted company by informing the authorities that an offer had come unexpectedly from the duke of Saxe-Weimar that afforded an immediate augmentation of his salary. In his letter of resignation Bach also stated that he had come to Mühlhausen in order to compose a body of "well-appointed church music," that given his present circumstance he perceived the attainment of that goal to be impossible, and that he had decided to leave in order that he might achieve his goal elsewhere. The city fathers sought to dissuade Sebastian, but, realizing, in their words, "he could not be made to stay," they released him with the request that he supervise the rebuilding of the organ. Bach did follow through with this supervision and returned in 1709 to inaugurate the rebuilt organ, possibly with the chorale prelude Ein' feste Burg (BWV 720).
Hanford & Koster Mühlhausen
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