»Music Must Touch the Heart« – C.P.E. Bach at 300

7 March – 20 July 2014

In the second half of the eighteenth century, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was actually better known than his now world-famous father, Johann Sebastian. Born in Weimar on 8 March 1714, he quickly put the baroque sounds of his youth behind him and championed a new movement characterized by more individual forms of expression. Becoming the foremost composer in the age of the Empfindsamer Stil (‘sensitive style’), he was regarded as a shining example by composers such as Mozart and Haydn.

Only a handful of C. P. E. Bach’s compositions have been preserved from his early creative phase in Leipzig and Frankfurt (Oder), where he gained his first important musical experience. Indeed, the composer himself later destroyed many of his own early works. Even so, some of his earliest surviving manuscripts are on display in the exhibition, including a cantata only discovered in Mügeln (about 60km east of Leipzig) in 2010 and an exercise book owned when he was thirteen and a pupil at St. Thomas’s School. In addition, the exhibition highlights the fact that although Carl Philipp Emanuel was very familiar with his father’s works, he nevertheless pursued a very different path. Starting in 1738, he spent three decades as a harpsichordist at the court of Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia (later Frederick the Great) in Berlin and Potsdam. Exhibits from this period include compositions for the harpsichord and his first major vocal work, the Magnificat. Bach found European fame during his time as director of music at Hamburg thanks to for instance his double chorus Heilig (‘Holy, Holy, Holy’) and several piano sonatas. Letters and entries in friendship books testify to his many acquaintances with artists, intellectuals and business partners. In the opinion of one of his former fellow students, Bach was distinguished “by naturalness, depth and thoughtfulness” but was “nevertheless amusing company” (Jacob von Stählin, 1784).

 

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