Maria Barbara Bach was the first wife and second cousin of composer J.S. Bach. Born in Gehren, Germany, she was orphaned at an early age and went to live with relatives in Arnstadt.
J.S. Bach met Maria Barbara in Arnstadt after his appointment as church organist in 1703 and for a time they lived in the same house. Historians believe that when Arnstadt authorities reprimanded J.S. Bach in 1706 for inviting a "strange maiden" into the church organ loft to "make music", the woman in question was Maria. The following year J.S. Bach received a better-paying job at Mühlhausen and he and Maria were married at nearby Dornheim in October 1707. The couple had a contented relationship and their years together at Köthen, beginning in 1717, were probably the happiest of the composer's life. Four of their seven children lived to adulthood, including future musicians Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and the great Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.
In May of 1720 J.S. Bach accompanied his employer, Prince Leopold, to a spa in Karlsbad. He returned nearly two months later to discover that Maria Barbara had died from a sudden illness and was already buried at Köthen's Old Cemetery (now called the Friedenspark). She was only 35. In his grief he wrote the monumental "Chaconne", the fifth and final movement of the Partita in D minor for solo violin, which is still considered one of the most daunting and profound works in the instrumental repertory. In 1721 J.S. Bach married court singer Anna Magdalena Wilcken, who raised Maria's children as well as her