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Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (b. Weimar, 8 March 1714; d. Hamburg, 15 Dec 1788).
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was the second surviving son of the great Johann Sebastian by his first wife Maria Barbara. Georg Philipp Telemann was one of his godparents. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was educated at St Thomas's School, Leipzig, and subsequently at the University of Frankfurt-on-the-Oder. Here he was an active member of the Collegium Musicum, and on one occasion in 1737, performed some of his compositions before the Margrave and Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, the tyrannical father of Frederick the Great, his future patron.
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was appointed cembalist in the Kapelle of Frederick the Great in 1 740, claiming proudly in his autobiography that he 'had the honour of accompanying on the clavier, quite alone, at Charlottenburg, the first flute solo that Frederick played after becoming King'. Frederick's taste in music was conservative - although his repertoire included some three hundred concertos these were all either by himself or his flute-teacher Quantz. Quantz was held in high royal favour, as was the Kapellmeister 'Carl Heinrich Graun, a prolific composer of opera. Despite his close association with the royal flute playing Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach failed to achieve the importance at Court of either Quantz or Graun, whose names, according to Dr Burney, were more sacred in Berlin than those of Luther and Clavin. The King's flute playing suffered from a certain instability of tempo with which the cembalist was obliged to comply; one imagines that a certain amount of Bach's unwillingness would have been apparent to the King. Bach, however, demonstrated his formal devotion in the dedication of his six Prussian Sonatas to Frederick. One of the most important products of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's service in the Prussian Court was his didactic work Versuch uber die Wahre Art das Klavier zu Spielen published in two parts in 1753 and 1762 - the first methodical treatment of the subject. Both by this treatise on technique and through his keyboard compositions, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach may be regarded as the founder of modern piano playing.
As early as 1750, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach had applied for appointments elsewhere, signifying discontent with his conditions at the Prussian Court. He confided a wish to Dr Burney for a life of 'more tranquility and independence', and in 1767 this was fulfilled. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach succeeded his godfather Telemann as music director of the five principal churches in Hamburg. Burney, who visited Hamburg in 1777, described Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach as 'rather short in stature, with black hair and eyes, and brown complexion, a very animated countenance, and of cheerful and lively disposition'. The composer spent the remaining years of his life respected as the principal musician of Hamburg. He died on the 15th December 1788, and although plans were formulated to erect monuments in his honour at Hamburg and Weimar, they were never carried out. News of his death did not spread far, and as late as 1795, Haydn visited Hamburg in the hope of meeting him.
Historically, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach is of the greatest importance standing in the transitionary period which separates the Baroque from the Classical, J. S. Bach from Haydn. In terms of musical style he rejected the contrapuntal manner of his father in favour of a more homophonic treatment of material, condemning canons, for instance, as 'dry and despicable pieces of pedantry that one might compose who would give his time to them'. Delicacy of workmanship and minute attention to musical expression are the hallmarks of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's style. A prolific composer whose output included oratorios, symphonies, songs and chamber music, his most important contribution was in the field of keyboard music. The Prussian Sonatas of 1742 were in many respects revolutionary, a collection of Wurttemburg Sonatas followed two years later, and subsequently there were important collections of sonatas 'fur Kenner und Liebhaber'. Although his later sonatas were intended for the forte-piano, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's favourite instrument was the clavichord whose capacity for delicate dynamic shading enchanted him. The clavichord was the perfect medium for one whose works were to represent the essence of the empfindsamer Stil.
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