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Germany celebrates 300th birthday of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach in 2014

C.P.E. Bach at the harpsichord in "Flute Concert with Frederick the Great in Sans Souci" by Adolph Menzel, 1852.
C.P.E. Bach at the harpsichord in "Flute Concert with Frederick the Great in Sans Souci" by Adolph Menzel, 1852.
Google Art Project

If you were one of Johann Sebastian Bach's 20 children, what's the last profession you would choose?

Fortunately, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach followed in his father's fingersteps -- after studying law.

During C.P.E. Bach's lifetime (1714-1788), he had much greater acclaim than did J.S. Bach, his only music teacher.

The second eldest son composed about 250 keyboard pieces (sonatas, concertos, etc.), 19 symphonies, oratorios, and many other works. The most famous of J.S. Bach's four composing sons was a major influence on Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.

So, the 300th anniversary of the birth of C.P.E. Bach will be celebrated throughout 2014 in German cities including Hamburg; Berlin; Leipzig; Potsdam; Weimar, his birthplace; and Frankfurt.

The cities are arranged in chronological order of their first events, and descriptions are based on the C.P.E. Bach Anniversary website,

  • Hamburg

C.P.E. is called the "Hamburgian Bach". He succeeded his godfather, partial namesake, and mentor, Georg Philipp Telemann, as the city's music director of Hamburg's Opera Theatre and all five churches. Here, C.P.E. Bach wrote most of his oratorios.

Hamburg's ten C.P.E. Bach anniversary events begin on Tuesday Jan. 7, and other Tuesdays throughout the month, with recitals, lectures, and symposia, some focusing on gender studies, plus a "Blues Fantasy" on Tuesday Jan. 28. February programs include "The Bach Family in Movies", and C.P.E.'s organ sonatas.

An anniversary concert with St. Michael's Choir is on C.P.E.'s birthday, March 8. He died here at age 74, and is buried in crypt at St. Michael's Church.

Hamburg is the birthplace of Mendelssohn and Brahms -- and The Beatles began their international career there in 1960.

  • Berlin

Jan. 12 begins the first of ten C.P.E. Bach celebrations in Berlin, where a school and a chamber music ensemble are named for him.

He was in Berlin as harpsichordist with the court of Friedrich II (Frederick the Great) in 1741. Here, C.P.E. Bach composed many sonatas and concertos, and published his "Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments".

He wrote, "let the fingers speak from the transfer that passion onto the audience that the composer intended to stir."

Leipzig's ten C.P.E.-related concerts begin Jan. 21 with "From Bach to Jazz", including a Paul Desmond clarinet work. Daily events are scheduled from March 6 through July 20, plus others in November and December.

Leipzig has been home to the Bachs, Robert Schumann, Clara Wieck Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn, among other major composers and musicians. Its musical history dates back eight centuries, to 1212.

C.P.E. Bach spent almost 30 years in Potsdam, developing a new, seminal style by combining his father's teachings with the 18th century spirit of enlightenment. C.P.E. Bach's individualistic concertos, chamber music and symphonies set the course for Late Baroque music.

Potsdam's ten related events begin on Feb. 3, with a flute concert, followed by a March 7 anniversary lecture and violin and harpsichord concert.

At age 20, Carl Philipp Emanuel went to Frankfurt (Oder) to study law. However, he began composing piano pieces including sonatas, chamber music, concertos and other works.

The city's three concerts relating to him begin on Feb. 22.

The Bachfest Weimar, the largest of the city's ten C.P.E. events, begins April 30.

In Weimer, C.P.E. was born March 8, 1714 in the home that later housed Richard Wagner, Franz Liszt, Felix Mendelssohn, Hector Berlioz, Niccolo Paganini, and Carl Maria von Weber, among other famed musicians.

Although today C.P.E. Bach is greatly overshadowed by his father, the following quote by Franz Joseph Haydn, the father of the symphony and the father of the string quartet, illustrates the influence of Bach's number two son:

F. J. Hayden said of C.P.E. Bach, "Bach is the father, we are the children," according to "The Bodley Head History of Western Music" by Christopher Headington.

For more info: C.P.E. Bach Anniversary, To listen to a variety of his works, click here.

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