Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach
(1714-1788)

Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach, the second surviving son of J.S. Bach, was the most innovative and idiosyncratic member of an extremely talented musical family. His music did not define an era, like that of his father or that of the master he influenced, Haydn, so much as it revealed a deeply personal response to the musical conventions of his time.

Bach could play his father's technically demanding keyboard pieces at sight by the time he was seven. He began performing in church as a teenager and then attended Leipzig University, studying law. Several years after graduation he moved to Frankfurt, where he earned his living performing, writing and teaching music.

In the 1740s, Bach accepted a position in the court of the Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia and moved to Berlin. It was at this time that he was first exposed to Italian opera seria and its dramatic style infiltrated his instrumental music. In 1768, Bach left Berlin to succeed his godfather, Telemann, as cantor at the Johanneum in Hamburg, also serving as music director for the city's five major churches. With nearly 200 performances scheduled each year, Bach not only composed new pieces, but also adapted the works of other composers and found himself renown by the public. He continued performing until 1768, just two years before his death.

Stylistically distant from his father's polyphony, Bach was a sort of proto-Romantic; he was the master of Empfindsamkeit, or "intimate expressiveness." In chamber music Bach pulled the keyboard out of its subsidiary Baroque role and made it a full partner with, if not the leader of, the other instruments. He composed prolifically in many genres throughout his career spanning six decades, and much of his work awaits public rediscovery to this day.

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