Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was the summit and the
end of a period of music composing. The myriads harmonic and
instrumental innovations in his music are actually the results of the
current polyphonic Baroque style reaching its climax and, at
simultaneously its end. The composer sons of J. S. Bach, on the
contrary, are renovators and innovators.
The Composer Sons of Johann Sebastian Bach And Their
They did not follow on their father's tracks, but instead, they have
been the precursors of the "new style": the classical style. Joseph
Haydn always referred and studied the sonatas of Carl Philipp Emanuel
Obviously, the tutoring of Johann Sebastian Bach did not resulted in
making more or less talented clones of himself, but genuinely creative
and innovative musicians who wholeheartedly adopted the new instruments
(the "piano-forte") and the new musical style which they developed to a
point where Haydn and Mozart will naturally grow upon.
Three of Johann Sebastian's composer sons are represented in this
album. Carl Philipp Emanuel: the highly cultivated intellectual,
successful virtuoso and theoretician; Wilhelm Friedemann: the
"avant-garde" with delicate "Polonaises" and "Fantasias"; Johann
Christian: the steady-going, almost "scholarly" one.
Three of Johann Sebastian's composer sons are represented in this album.
Each displaying, above an admirable musical background (no wonder as we
know their teacher) one genuine personality. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
(1714–1788): the highly cultivated intellectual, successful virtuoso,
author of the landmark book: "Versuch uber die wahre Art das Clavier zu
spielen" (Treatise on piano playing with examples and 18 sample pieces
in 6 sonatas). Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710–1784): the "avant-garde"
one; short, delicate, exquisite "Polonaises" and "Fantasias" composed
without bar-lines. Johann Christian Bach (1735–1782): the steady-going
one, presenting an almost "scholarly", brilliant but not adventurous
approach to his art.
The keyboard works of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach were composed
throughout his life.
This is a gigantic "opus corpus". Sonatas, sonatinas, fantasies,
polonaises, rondos, "solfeggios" in the style of preludes, minuets,
duos for two keyboards, one concerto for keyboard alone in the style of
the Italian Concerto by J. S. Bach and many short pieces with evocative
titles in the French style.
At the second part of the 18th. century, the instrumental music started
a new form. The transition from the harpsichord to the "piano-forte"
called for a new musical "ecriture".
The high sensitivity to the performer's touch in the piano-forte (and
at the clavichord) made possible the use of a large variety of dynamic
and expressive effects. The clarity of the polyphony which was so
obvious with the transparent sound of the harpsichord has been
gradually replaced with a more vocal-like "singing" line at the top
range and accompanying figures at the left hand.
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was one and may be the most important
composer who realized this shift in his musical style. He fully made
possible to create the illusion of a vocal-like "singing" melody on the
new keyboard instrument.
The basis of the classical sonata form with its two themes, two parts
in the first movement were clearly established by Carl Philipp Emanuel
Bach. He composed over a hundred sonatas.
Six Harpsichord Sonatas (The Wurttemberg Sonatas), Wq.49 (Bach, Carl
Those sonatas, composed in Berlin in 1742 and published there in 1744
under the title "Opera II", are dedicated to the Duc Charles of
Wurttemberg. The innovative and creative genius of Carl Philipp Emanuel
Bach are expressed in those ravishing pages. The new, innovative
dramatic effects are amazing: successive fermatas, unexpected silences,
changes of tempos, audacious modulations, a vast keyboard range.
Even though Johann Christian did also start music with his father, the
influence of Johann Sebastian seems less apparent in his works.
His elder brother Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714-1788) who took in charge
most of his education left a deeper effect on Johann Christian's
musical style. However, during his stay at his brother's place in
Berlin, the shows of the Berlin Opera where the Italian style was
dominant has to stamp on him to a large degree too.
He also got a keen interest in the research of the Mannheim orchestra
regarding instrumentation and new sound possibilities. This particular
orchestra, formed with highly skilled musicians had then an
The serious counterpoint studies he got with Padre Martini in Milan
also contributed for his particular musical style. We have in Johann
Christian Bach a very particular mixture of styles and influences
which, combined with his evident talent makes for a unique very
eclectic style. This particular mixture of Italian and German, severity
and frivolity, creates a musical language which always attracts,
surprises and seduces.
It is difficult to time-stamp precisely the keyboard works of Wilhelm
Friedemann Bach. They are probably composed at Leipzig and Dresden and
during the last episode of the composer's life.
The works consist of Sonatas, ten Fantasies, preludes, many diverse
short pieces, eight fugues. The "12 Polonaises" are among the most
beautiful and original of those pieces.
This is a complex work because even being profoundly attracted towards
the "new style", Wilhelm Friedemann Bach was also deeply rooted in the
"old style" which is the Polyphonic style of Johann Sebastian Bach, due
to his musical education dispensed by his father.
Therefore, "old" and "new" elements are constantly present in his
works. Unlike Carl Philipp Emanuel who masterfully melted those
elements also unlike Johann Christian who clearly turned to the "new",
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach remained somehow "in between the styles."
This lack of resolution for a clearly defined "genre and style" may be
the reason his contemporaries saw in him an "undecided" composer. Today
this is precisely what makes the unique charm of this music.
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach:
Six Harpsichord Sonatas
(Wq.49) Württemberg Sonatas:
Sonata N.1 in A minor (Wq.49/1 - H.30)
Sonata in B minor (Wq.49/6 - H.36)
Johann Christian Bach:
Sonata N.6 in B-flat
major (Op. 17/6 W.A 12)
Chromatic Fugue on B-A-C-H, W.YA 50
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach:
Fantasie in E minor
Twelve Polonaises (F.12):
No.2 in C minor
No.3 in D major
No.4 in D minor