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Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (8 March 1714 – 14 December 1788) was a German Classical period musician and composer, the fifth child and second (surviving) son of Johann Sebastian Bach and Maria Barbara Bach. His second name was given in honor of his godfather Georg Philipp Telemann, a friend of Emanuel's father.

Emanuel Bach was an influential composer working at a time of transition between his father's baroque style and the classical and romantic styles that followed it. His personal approach, an expressive and often turbulent one known as empfindsamer Stil or 'sensitive style', applied the principles of rhetoric and drama to musical structures. Bach's dynamism stands in deliberate contrast to the more mannered rococo style also then in vogue.[1]

Life and works

Early years 1714-1738

Emanuel Bach was born in Weimar in 1714 to Johann Sebastian Bach and his first wife, Maria Barbara. The composer Georg Philipp Telemann was his godfather. When he was ten years old he entered the St. Thomas School at Leipzig, where his father had become cantor in 1723. He was one of four Bach children to become professional musicians; all four were trained in music almost entirely by their father. In an age of royal patronage, father and son alike knew that a university education helped prevent a professional musician from being treated as a servant. Emanuel, like his brothers, pursued advanced studies in jurisprudence at the University of Leipzig (1731). He continued further study of law at Frankfurt (Oder) (1735). In 1738, at the age of 24, he obtained his degree. He turned his attention at once to music.[2]

Berlin years 1738-1768

A few months after graduation Bach, armed with a recommendation by Sylvius Leopold Weiss, obtained an appointment in the service of Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia, the future Frederick the Great. Upon Frederick's accession in 1740 Emanuel became a member of the royal orchestra. He was by this time one of the foremost clavier-players in Europe, and his compositions, which date from 1731, include about thirty sonatas and concert pieces for harpsichord and clavichord. During his time there, Berlin was a rich artistic environment, where Bach mixed with many accomplished musicians, including several notable former students of his father, and important literary figures, such as Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, with whom the composer would become close friends.

In Berlin, Bach continued to write numerous pieces for solo keyboard, including a series of character pieces, the so-called "Berlin Portraits", including La Caroline. His reputation was established by the two published sets of sonatas which he dedicated respectively to Frederick the Great and to the grand duke of Württemberg. In 1746 he was promoted to the post of chamber musician, and served the king alongside colleagues like Carl Heinrich Graun, Johann Joachim Quantz, and Franz Benda.

The composer who most influenced Bach's maturing style was unquestionably his father Sebastian. He drew creative inspiration from his godfather Georg Philipp Telemann, then working in Hamburg, and from contemporaries like George Frideric Handel, Carl Heinrich Graun and Joseph Haydn. Bach's interest in all types of art led to influence from poets, playwrights and philosophers such as Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, Moses Mendelssohn and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Emanuel Bach's work itself influenced the work of, among others, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Mendelssohn.

During his residence in Berlin, Bach composed a fine setting of the Magnificat (1749), in which he shows more traces than usual of his father's influence; an Easter cantata (1756); several symphonies and concerted works; at least three volumes of songs; and a few secular cantatas and other occasional pieces. But his main work was concentrated on the clavier, for which he composed, at this time, nearly two hundred sonatas and other solos, including the set Mit veränderten Reprisen (1760–1768) and a few of those für Kenner und Liebhaber.

While in Berlin Bach placed himself in the forefront of European music with a treatise, Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (An Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments). Immediately recognised as a definitive work on keyboard technique, by 1780 the book was in its third edition and laid the foundation for the keyboard methods of Muzio Clementi and Johann Baptist Cramer. In it, Bach broke with tradition in allowing, even encouraging, the use of the thumbs. Since his time this has been standard technique for keyboard instruments. The essay lays out the fingering for each chord and some chord sequences. Bach's techniques continue to be employed today. The first part of the Essay contains a chapter explaining the various embellishments in work of the period, e.g., trills, turns, mordents, etc. The second part presents Emanuel Bach's ideas on the art of figured bass and counterpoint, where he gives preference to the contrapuntal approach to harmonization over the newer ideas of Rameau's theory of harmony and root progressions.

Hamburg 1768-1788

In 1768 Emanuel Bach succeeded his godfather Georg Philipp Telemann as director of music at Hamburg. Upon his release from service at the court he was named court composer for Frederick's sister, Princess Anna Amalia. The title was honorary, but her patronage and interest in the oratorio genre may have played a role in nurturing the ambitious choral works that followed.[3]

Bach began to turn more of his energies to choral music in his new position. The job required the steady production of music for Protestant church services at the Michaeliskirche (Church of St. Michael) and elsewhere in Hamburg. The following year he produced his oratorio Die Israeliten in der Wüste (The Israelites in the Desert), a composition remarkable not only for its great beauty but for the resemblance of its plan to that of Felix Mendelssohn's Elijah. Between 1768 and 1788 he wrote twenty-one settings of the Passion, and some seventy cantatas, litanies, motets, and other liturgical pieces. In Hamburg he also presented a number of works by contemporaries, including his father, Telemann, Graun, Handel, Haydn, Salieri and Johann David Holland.[4] Bach's choral output reached its apex in two works: the double chorus Heilig (Holy, Holy, Holy) of 1776, a setting of the seraph song from the throne scene in Isaiah, and the grand cantata Die Auferstehung Jesu (The Resurrection of Jesus) of 1774-1782, which sets a poetic Gospel harmonization by the poet Karl Wilhelm Ramler (1725-1798). Widespread admiration of Auferstehung led to three 1788 performances in Vienna sponsored by the Baron Gottfried van Swieten and conducted by Mozart.[5]

Emanuel Bach married Johanna Maria Dannemann in 1744. Only three of their children lived to adulthood – Johann Adam (1745–89), Anna Carolina Philippina (1747–1804) and Johann Sebastian "the Younger" (1748–78). None became musicians and Johann Sebastian, a promising painter, died in his twenties during a 1778 trip to Italy.[6] Emanuel Bach died in Hamburg on 14 December 1788. He was buried in the Michaeliskirche (Church of St. Michael) in Hamburg.

Legacy and musical style

Through the later half of the 18th century, the reputation of Emanuel Bach stood very high. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart said of him, "He is the father, we are the children."[7] The best part of Joseph Haydn's training was derived from a study of his work. Ludwig van Beethoven expressed for his genius the most cordial admiration and regard. His keyboard sonatas, for example, 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; they break away altogether from both the Italian and the Viennese schools, moving instead toward the cyclical and improvisatory forms that would become common several generations later.

The content of his work is full of invention and, most importantly, extreme unpredictability, and wide emotional range even within a single work, a style that may be categorized as Empfindsamer Stil. It is no less sincere in thought than polished and felicitous in phrase. He was probably the first composer of eminence who made free use of harmonic colour for its own sake since the time of Lassus, Monteverdi, and Gesualdo. In this way, he compares well with the most important representatives of the First Viennese School. In fact he exerted enormous influence on the North German School of composers, in particular Georg Anton Benda, Bernhard Joachim Hagen, Ernst Wilhelm Wolf, Johann Gottfried Müthel, Friedrich Wilhelm Rust and many others. 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, with Robert Schumann notoriously opining that "as a creative musician he remained very far behind his father";[8] in contrast, Johannes Brahms held him in high regard and edited some of his music. The revival of Emanuel Bach's works has been underway since Helmuth Koch's rediscovery and recording of his symphonies in the 1960s, and Hugo Ruf's recordings of his keyboard sonatas. There is an ongoing effort to record his complete works, led by Miklos Spanyi on the Swedish record label BIS.

The works of C.P.E. Bach came to be known by their Wq numbers (from Alfred Wotquenne's 1906 catalogue). They are now also known by their H numbers, from a new catalogue by Eugene Helm (1989).

He was portrayed by Wolfgang Liebeneiner in the 1941 biopic of his brother Friedemann Bach

Works list

Media

    Flute Sonata in B flat major
    File:Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach - Sonata in Bb major.ogg
    Performed by Alex Murray (flute) and Martha Goldstein (harpsichord)
    Flute Sonata in G major
    File:Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach - Sonata in G major.ogg
    Performed by Alex Murray (flute) and Martha Goldstein (harpsichord)
    Freie Fantasie, F sharp minor
    File:Carl Phillipe Emanuel Bach - Freie Fantasie, F Sharp minor.ogg
    Performed by Joan Benson (clavichord)
    Flute Concerto in G major – 1. Allegro
    File:Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach- Flute Concerto Gmaj - 1. Allegro.ogg
    Performed by the Advent Chamber Orchestra with Constance Schoepflin (flute)
    Flute Concerto in G major – 2. Largo
    File:Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach- Flute Concerto Gmaj - 2. Largo.ogg
    Performed by the Advent Chamber Orchestra with Constance Schoepflin (flute)
    Flute Concerto in G major – 3. Presto
    File:Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach- Flute Concerto Gmaj - 3. Presto.ogg
    Performed by the Advent Chamber Orchestra with Constance Schoepflin (flute)
    Piece for Mechanical Clock, H. 635, No. 11
    File:CPE Bach193.11.ogg
    Performed on an organ by Ulrich Metzner
    Keyboard Sonata in D minor, Wq. 51/4, H.128 – I. Allegro assai
    File:Wiki naxos 8.557450 01 01.ogg
    Performed by Christopher Hinterhuber (piano)
    Courtesy of NAXOS
    Solfeggietto
    File:Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach - Solfeggietto.ogg

    Problems playing this file? See media help.
    Sonata for Flute or Recorder and Harpsichord in G minor, H 542.5 (BWV 1020) – 1. Allegro
    File:Bach - Flute Sonata Gmin - 1. Allegro.ogg

    Sonata, H 542.5 – 2. Adagio
    File:Bach - Flute Sonata Gmin - 2. Adagio.ogg

    Sonata, H 542.5 – 3. Allegro
    File:Bach - Flute Sonata Gmin - 3. Allegro.ogg
    All performed by Alex Murray (traverso) and Martha Goldstein (harpsichord)

    Problems playing these files? See media help.

    )

  • Problems listening to the files? See media help.

See also

Notes

Further reading

References

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External links

  • A Tribute to Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach - Sketch of the composer's life with extensive references.
  • Complete Catalogue of C.P.E. Bach's oeuvre (French)
  • Finding the Lost Manuscripts of C.P.E. Bach Greater Boston Arts
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Scores

  • Free scores by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
  • Free scores by C.P.E. Bach at the International Music Score Library Project
  • Trio sonata in C minor, H. 579, first edition (From the Sibley Music Library Digital Score Collection)
  • Fantasia e fuga in C minor, H. 75.5, for keyboard instrument (From the Sibley Music Library Digital Score Collection)

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