Sir John Eliot Gardiner has a new biography coming out that documents the thuggish world of the schools Bach attended in his youth, full of "gang warfare and bullying, sadism and sodomy" according to an article in The Guardian.
Among Lüneburg's town records, he found reports on antisocial behaviour of two schoolboys in a local hostelry – "thoroughly drunk and … slashing … with [their] dirks and hunting knives". One is believed to have been Bach's mentor. Gardiner writes of sufficient evidence "to dent the traditional image of Bach as an exemplary youth … surviving unscathed the sinister goings-on in the schools he attended. It is just as credible that [he]… was in a line of delinquent school prefects – a reformed teenage thug." He added that Bach's repeated absences – 258 days in his first three years – are traditionally attributed to his mother's illness and his work in the family music business. But there could be a more sinister interpretation, he said, that the school conditions may have been so unappealing and even threatening.
Sounds like he'd have been at home with Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.