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Bach House

Bachhaus Eisenach

From: Eisenach, Germany

Bachhaus Eisenach

ABOVE: Bachhaus Eisenach has two sections: An historic house with living quarters from Bach's time, and a modern wing with state-of-the-art exhibits.

Johann Sebastian Bach forensic reconstructionMartin Luther may be Eisenach's most famous public figure, but Johann Sebastian Bach is an even more important personage for music fans. Bach was born and baptized in Eisenach, and he lived in the city until he was 10 years old. Today, Eisenach is home to the Bachhaus, or Bach House, which is the world's leading museum about the great composer and his works.

The Bachhaus Eisenach occupies a house on the Frauenplan that was purchased by the Neue Bachgesellschaft (New Bach Society) in 1906 and reopened as a museum in 1907.

A modern wing, called the Penkues Building after the architectural firm that designed it, opened in 2007.

String instrumentsTogether, the museum buildings will lead you through exhibits about life in Bach's time, musical intruments from the Bach era, the composer's works, and a few surprises (such as the step-by-step forensic reconstruction of Bach's head, shown in the first inset photo on this page, or an immersive movie that shows a rehearsal of the Thomaskirche Boys Choir in Leipzig, which Bach directed from 1723 to 1750.)

Organ concert at Bachhaus EisenachAs a bonus, you'll be treated to a mini-concert of Bach's music on a clavichord, a harpsichord, and an organ during your visit to the museum.

If you have time, you can sit in a "bubble chair" and listen to recorded music with headphones.

Bachhaus bubble chairThe Bachhaus also has a shop that sells recordings, books, and posters, and the "Café Kantate" will provide sustenance for your stomach after you've had your fill of history, forensics, and fugues.

Music museums are often static collections of instruments and manuscripts, but the Bachhaus Eisenach is anything but. If you have any interest at all in Johann Sebastian Bach and his works, allow an hour or two to visit the Bach Holuse during your stay in Eisenach.


Visitor information:

Bachdenkmal statue

ABOVE: The Bachdenkmal, or Bach Memorial, is in a small park next to the Bachhaus.

Hours. The Bachhaus Eisenach is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily (except for Christmas and New Year's Day, when it closes at 2 p.m.)

Admission fees. Ticket prices vary, with discounts for children and families. Children under 6 are free, and pets can stay in one of three "dog boxes" outside the museum while you're exploring the museum.

For up-to-date information in English, go to the Bachhaus Eisenach Web site.


How to reach the Bach House:

On foot. The Bachhaus Eisenach is on the Frauenplan, just south of Eisenach's main market square and the Luther House. You can easily walk to the museum from the city center. (See map with directions.)

Public transportation. See the local transit agency's German-language Wartburgmobil Web site.


More Bachhaus photos:

Bachhaus concert

Michael Meissner at Bachhaus Eisenach clavichord

Michael Meissner plays a Swiss house organ from around 1750 (top) a clavichord from  ca. 1770 (bottom), and a harpsichord (not shown) during one of the 20-minute mini-concerts that the Bach House offers its visitors hourly throughout the day.


trumpet violin- Bachhaus Eisenach

The Bachhaus Eisenach's instrument collection has several curiosities--among them, this trumpet-violin from 1717. (Note the trumpet mouthpiece emerging from the violin's scroll.)


violin trumpet x-ray at Bachhaus Eisenach

These X-ray images of the trumpet-violin show the trumpet's tubing inside the body of the fiddle. (They also show the Bachhaus Eisenach's imaginative approach to exhibit design and labeling.)


Glass Armonica

Another unusual instrument in the Bach House collection is the glass armonica, which was invented by Benjamin Franklin.

(You can play a tune on a virtual glass armonica at the Franklin Institute's Armonica page.)


Bachhaus Eisenach

The original wing of the Bachhaus Eisenach is more than 600 years old. (It was restored in 1947 to repair damage from World War II bombing.)

Bach's childhood home is no longer standing, so the Neue Bachgesellschaft or New Bach Society bought this house in 1906 for use as a museum.

A number of rooms in the large house portray family life in the late 1600s, when the composer was a young boy. Others, such as the instrument hall, are used to display items from the collections and to present concerts.

Photo: Thuringer Tourismus GmbH/Guido Werner.


Bachhaus Eisenach garden

During your visit, allow time to enjoy the Bachhaus Eisenach's garden. The garden often features special exhibitions.


Bachhaus Eisenach - Penkues Building

The Bachhaus Eisenach's modern addition, the Penkues Building, opened in 2007.

Its façade might seem jarring by 17th or 18th Century standards, but the interior is well-designed for modern exhibits. The extra space has also made it possible to bring items from the museum's collection out of storage and into the public eye.


Bubble chair in Bachhaus Eisenach

"Bubble chairs," which are the 21st Century descendants of Eero Aaarnio's Ball Chair from 1968, add a playful touch to the new wing's interactive music exhibit.

You can settle into a hanging chair, put on headphones, and listen to recorded excerpts from Bach's musical repertoire.


  St Thomas Boys Choir rehearsal

Thomaskirche timpanist

Thomaskirche violinists

My own favorite exhibit in the new Pinkues Building is a multimedia room with video projectors and speakers.

 During my visit, I watched and heard a taped rehearsal of the St. Thomas Boys Choir from the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, where Johann Sebastian Bach was cantor from 1723 6o 1750.


Johann Sebastian Bach's skull casting

Johann Sebastian Bach clay over skull model

Johann Sebastian Bach forensic reconstruction 

Another exhibit could be labeled "CSI: Eisenach." It shows how a team of  scientists at the University of Dundee reconstructed Johann Sebastian Bach's head by using forensic techniques.

The work was commissioned by the Bachhaus Eisenach, and the team was led by forensic anthropologist Carolyn Wilkinson.

Step 1: The scientists scanned a bronze cast of Bach's skull that had been made in the 1800s.

Step 2: Next, the team used computer software to create a 3D computer portrait, muscle by muscle and layer by layer.

Step 3: The scientists made a rubber mold of the bronze skuill casting. From that, they cast a new replica of the composer's skull.

Step 3: A sculptor formed a layer of clay "flesh" over the replica skull, using the 3D computer portrait as a guide.

Step 4: The team produced a resin bust of Johann Sebastian Bach with eyes, painted eyebrows and lips, a wig, and other realistic touches.

For more about the project, including pictures of the finished work, see the "Bach Bust" page at Bach-Cantatas.com.


Bachdenkmal Eisenach

For a more traditional and less creepy sculpture of Johann Sebastian Bach, view the Bachdenkmal or Bach Memorial statue in the little park next to the Bachhaus Eisenach.

The statue, which dates back to the 19th Century, stood in front of Eisenach's Georgenkirche until 1938, when it was moved to its current pedestal on the Frauenplan.


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