Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel

Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel

biographical name


C.P.E. Bach, engraving by A. Stöttrup—Courtesy of Haags Gementemuseum, The Hague

(born March 8, 1714, Weimar, Saxe-Weimar—died Dec. 14, 1788, Hamburg) German composer. Second son of Johann Sebastian Bach, he received a superb musical education from his father. In 1740 he became harpsichordist at the court of Frederick II the Great, where he remained for 28 years, after which he moved to Hamburg to take the city's leading musical position. He was a leader of the Empfindsamkeit (“sensitivity”) movement, which emphasized rhapsodic freedom and sentiment. A founder of the Classical style, he is one of the first composers in whose works sonata form becomes clearly evident. He wrote some 200 works for harpsichord, clavichord, and piano (including dozens of sonatas), some 50 keyboard concertos, many symphonies, and several oratorios and Passions. His Essay on the True Manner of Playing Keyboard Instruments (1753) was a highly important practical music treatise.

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