Son of J.S. Bach: Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach(Photo: Unknown)
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach(Photo: Unknown)

J. S. Bach‘s birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks, but sometimes his worthy sons get overlooked.

Today (March 8) is the birthday of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, the next to last son of Johann Sebastian, born in 1714.

The first music of C.P.E. that I really became aware of years ago was his masterful “Magnificat” of 1749, a choral setting of the Song of Mary, the Latin text that begins, “My soul doth magnify the Lord,” and whose version stands comparison with his more famous father’s setting.

In fact, it was only after I got a recording of the senior Bach’s version of the “Magnificat” that I first heard and came to appreciate the one by Carl Philipp Emanuel, which was the other work on the CD. What a delightful surprise it was.

C.P.E. Bach was one of the founders of the Classical style that succeeded the Baroque era in music and was admired by Mozart, among others, who said of him, “He is the father, we are the children.” And it is said that early on Franz Joseph Haydn learned much from a study of his works.

C.P.E. Bach got a law degree at the age of 24 after studying at the Universities of Leipzig and Frankfurt, but abandoned that profession to pursue a career in music like his father.  He served in the court of Frederick II of Prussia and eventually succeeded Georg Philip Telemann as Kapellmeister at Hamburg where he died in 1788.

His reputation waned during the 19th century but has picked up again since the 1960s when more recordings of his compositions became available.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach wrote solo keyboard pieces, chamber music, concertos, symphonies, and choral works. The beautiful “Magnificat,” influenced by his father and written a year before his passing in 1750, is an outstanding example of his art. Here is the opening portion; it may pique your interest to hear more.

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