Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

Article

November 27, 2021

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (Weimar, 8 March 1714 - Hamburg, 14 December 1788) was a German composer, organist and harpsichordist, he was the fifth and most famous of the twenty children of the famous composer Johann Sebastian Bach.

Biography

Baptized Carolus Philippus Immanuel, he was the second surviving son of Johann Sebastian Bach and his first wife Maria Barbara. Georg Philipp Telemann was his godfather. In 1717 he went with his family to Köthen, where his father took the post of choirmaster. After his mother's death in 1720, he was in Leipzig, where Johann Sebastian became Thomaskantor in the spring of 1723. At the age of ten he was admitted as a student to the Church of St. Thomas; at this school he was a pupil of his father, from whom he received keyboard and organ lessons. He also undertook the study of the violin and viola, but had many difficulties in playing them due to his left-handedness. From 1731 to 1734 he studied law at the University of Leipzig. After being refused as an organist in Naumburg, in September 1734 he moved to Frankfurt on the Oder, where he entered the Viadrina University; in 1738 he decided to end his academic career to devote himself solely to the musical one. Then in 1740 he was appointed harpsichordist of the chapel of the Prussian king Frederick II the Great (it is not known whether before or after the coronation of the Prussian king on 31 May 1740); previously for a time he also served in the chapels of the same king in Ruppin and Rheinsberg, where he studied with the then chapel master Carl Heinrich Graun and with his brother Johann Gottlieb Graun. In this period he became one of the best known harpsichordists in Europe. He continuously worked as an accompanist on the harpsichord of Frederick II, an amateur flutist, from 1740 to 1755 with an initial salary of 300 thalers, which he subsequently increased. However Bach was far from earning money like his fellow singers and concert performers (such as Johann Joachim Quantz), who were rewarded with considerably higher salaries. At the same time as his harpsichord activity, he devoted himself deeply to composition; in fact his compositions, which in 1731 already amounted to about 30 sonatas and various concerts for his favorite instrument, were numerous in this period: he composed the Preußische Sonaten in 1742 for Frederick the Great, the Württembergische Sonaten in 1744 for the Grand Duke of Württemberg, the Magnificat in 1749, the Easter Cantatas in 1756 and many symphonies, concerts and other sacred works. In 1743 he began to suffer from gout, which caused him problems throughout his life, and the following year he married Johanna Maria Dannemann, daughter of a Berlin wine merchant, from whom he had three children, among whom Johann is remembered. Sebastian (1748-1778), the youngest of the three, who became a painter. On 7 May 1747 there was the famous meeting in Potsdam between Johann Sebastian and the Prussian king, for which his father had composed and dedicated the Musical Offering BWV 1079. However this event did not bring any improvement to the place that Carl Philipp Emanuel held in court. In 1751 he went to Bückeburg, where his half-brother Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach had been employed as court musician from the previous year, and subsequently to Schaumburg-Lippe, where he dedicated two trios of he. Also in the same year he visited the composer Johann Mattheson in Hamburg and perhaps also the godfather Telemann. After his father's death, he was unable to take his place as Thomaskantor in Leipzig. This year also saw the publication of the first part of his best-known treatise, Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (the second part was also published in Berlin in 1762), a treatise on the way of playing the harpsichord at the time in Germany. .

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