Portrait of JS Bach

An introduction to:

Johann Sebastian Bach

His History, Music, & his Famous Sons.


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Johann Sebastian Bach

The sons of J.S. Bach.

The fame of the Bachs did not fade in the generation following Sebastian - four of Sebastian's own sons were outstanding musicians in their own rights. Indeed, if one happened to mention the name "Bach" at the turn of the eighteenth century, it would likely have been understood to mean Carl Philipp Emanuel, harpsichordist to Frederich the Great. Carl Philipp's elder brother, Wilhelm Friedemann, achieved renown as organist in Halle, a position that had been rejected by his father years earlier. Of Sebastian's four sons that left their marks in history, the elder - products of the union with Maria Barbara, herself a Bach - are more prominently remembered. But not forgotten are the progeny of Anna Magdalena: Johann Christian, music master to the Queen of England, and Johann Christoph Friedrich, court chamber musician at Bückeburg.


picture of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach

W.F. Bach (22 November 1710 - 1 July 1784), the second child and eldest son of Johann Sebastian Bach and Maria Barbara Bach, was a German composer and performer. Despite his acknowledged genius as an organist, improviser and composer, his income and employment were unstable and he died in poverty.

He remained a renowned organist throughout his life. Earlier biographers have concluded that his wayward and difficult personality reduced his ability to gain and hold secure employment, but the scholar David Schulenberg writes that "he may also have been affected by changing social conditions that made it difficult for a self-possessed virtuoso to succeed in a church- or court-related position". Schulenberg adds, "he was evidently less willing than most younger contemporaries to compose fashionable, readily accessible music." W.F. Bach was renowned for his improvisatory skills. It is speculated that when in Leipzig his father's accomplishments set so high a bar that he focused on improvisation rather than composition.

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picture of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

C.P.E. Bach (8 March 1714 – 14 December 1788) was a German musician and composer, the second of three sons of Johann Sebastian Bach and Maria Barbara Bach. He was a crucial composer in the transition between the Baroque and Classical periods, and one of the founders of the Classical style, composing in the Rococo and Classical periods.

His reputation was established by the two sets of sonatas which he dedicated respectively to Frederick the Great and to the grand duke of Württemberg. His main work was concentrated on the clavier, for which he composed nearly two hundred sonatas and other solos. Through the latter half of the 18th century, the reputation of C.P.E. Bach stood very high. This position he owes mainly to his keyboard sonatas, which mark an important epoch in the history of musical form. Lucid in style, delicate and tender in expression, they are even more notable for the freedom and variety of their structural design.

The content of his work is full of invention and, most importantly, extreme unpredictability, and wide emotional range even within a single work. He was probably the first composer of eminence who made free use of harmonic colour for its own sake. He exerted enormous influence on the North German School of composers. His influence was not limited to his contemporaries, and extended to Felix Mendelssohn and Carl Maria von Weber. His name fell into neglect during the 19th century. A revival of C.P.E. Bach's works has been underway since Helmuth Koch's rediscovery and recording of his symphonies in the 1960s. There is an ongoing effort to record his complete works, led by Miklos Spanyi on the Swedish record label BIS.

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picture of Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach

J.C.F. Bach (21 June 1732 - 26 January 1795), the ninth son of Johann Sebastian Bach, sometimes referred to as the "Bückeburg Bach". He is not to be confused with other similarly-named members of the Bach family.

Bach wrote keyboard sonatas, symphonies, oratorios, liturgical choir pieces and motets, operas and songs. He was an outstanding virtuoso of the keyboard, with a reasonably wide repertory of surviving works, including twenty symphonies, the later ones influenced by Haydn and Mozart. Hardly a genre of vocal music was neglected by him. Bach's work shows him to have been a transitional figure in the mold of his half-brother C. P. E., his brother Johann Christian, and Georg Philipp Telemann, with some works in the style of the high Baroque, some in a galant idiom, and still others which combine elements of the two, along with traits of the nascent classical style.

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picture of Johann Christian Bach

Johann Christian Bach

J.C. Bach (September 5, 1735 - January 1, 1782) was a composer of the Classical era, the eleventh and youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach. He is sometimes referred to as 'the London Bach' or 'the English Bach', due to his time spent living in the British capital. He is noted for influencing the concerto style of Mozart. He enjoyed a promising career, first as a composer then as a performer playing alongside Carl Friedrich Abel, the notable player of the viola da gamba. He composed cantatas, chamber music, keyboard and orchestral works, operas and symphonies.

Johann Christian's highly melodic style differentiates his works from those of his family. He composed in the Galante style incorporating balanced phrases, emphasis on melody and accompaniment, without too much contrapuntal complexity. The Galante movement opposed the intricate lines of Baroque music, and instead placed importance on fluid melodies in periodic phrases. It preceded the classical style, which fused the Galante aesthetics with a renewed interest in counterpoint. Johann Christian Bach died in London on New Year's Day, 1782. He was buried in the St. Giles in the Fields Burial-ground, St Pancras, London.

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Many thanks.

I want to thank all of the many authors of the content that has gone into these webpages, without their efforts this site would not have been possible. It is important to me to give praise and acknowledgment, and to provide attribution and referral for their works and efforts in creating the content that is replicated in this website. Thanks to:
Jan Koster, Professor of Linguistics, University of Groningen, The Netherlands. (Email)
Jan Hanford, Fine Artist and Musician, San Francisco, California. (Email)
Tim Smith, Professor of Music Studies, Northern Arizona University. (Email)
Xinh Lee, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California. (Email)
And many thanks to all of the contributing authors at the Wikipedia website; Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization. (Email)

 

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