Homage to Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

On the occasion of the 300th birthday of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, six German towns remember the important composer who was long overshadowed by his father.

picture-alliance/ZB - Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
picture-alliance/ZB - Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach picture-alliance/ZB - Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

During his lifetime Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was better known than his father Johann Sebastian. When Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart talked about Bach, they meant Carl Philipp Emanuel. The unparalleled fame of Bach senior only came about during the 19th century, promoted above all by the composer and musician Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, on the other hand, the main representative of the “sensitive style” of music shaped by the spirit of the Enlightenment, is considered the founder of Viennese classicism. From 1740, Bach junior was chamber harpsichordist in the court orchestra of the Prussian King Frederick II in Berlin and Potsdam. This is where he gained an outstanding reputation as keyboard virtuoso and composer. Published in 1753, his work Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments) is still considered the standard reference today. From 1768 until his death on 14 December 1788 Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was music director of the five main churches in Hamburg, which is why he is also described as the “Hamburg Bach”. An obituary that appeared in Hamburger Tagespresse called him “one of the greatest adornments of musical art” whose compositions will remain “for ever new, inexhaustible, magnificent and forceful” as the creations of an original genius. “For a long time, posterity was unwilling to grant the composer this high standing,” explains Dr. Peter Wollny, Director of the Bach Archive in Leipzig.

C.P.E. Bach 1714 network founded

In 2014, however, for the 300th anniversary of his birth on 8 March, the Bach cities of Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt (Oder), Leipzig, Potsdam and Weimar have joined together in the C.P.E. Bach 1714 network to honour Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. The highlights of the jubilee programme include exhibitions in the state libraries in Berlin and Hamburg and a festival soirée at Schloss Glienicke in Potsdam. Bach is the focus of numerous musical events, including the Music Festival in Frankfurt (Oder), the Bach Festival in Leipzig and the Music Festival Potsdam Sanssouci. City tours in the footsteps of Bach are also planned in Berlin. 


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