Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach


1714 — 1788
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was the second surviving son of Johann Sebastian Bach and the godson of Georg Philipp Telemann, and he followed in their profession with enormous success. In fact, in his own lifetime, his reputation as a keyboard virtuoso, composer and theoretician almost eclipsed that of his father. Emanuel was destined for music from an early age, studying music at his father's knee and at the Thomaskirche, Leipzig, before, in 1738, joining the musical establishment of the flute-playing Prince Frederick of Prussia (the future Frederick the Great). In 1768 he succeeded Telemann as music director in the port city of Hamburg, where he continued to write prolifically: chamber and sacred music, symphonies, but also (and most significantly) keyboard sonatas and concertos, which were widely circulated throughout Europe, as was his best-selling keyboard textbook Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (1753). A pioneer of the emerging classical style, and a champion of the new trend for direct emotional expression, he was a highly influential figure, prompting Mozart to declare, "He is the father – we are all his children". In his later life he worked to preserve the memory of his father, and if CPE Bach is no longer regarded as pre-eminent in his family's musical history, his characterful, highly inventive music puts him in a very honourable second place.