Monday, July 17, 2017

The BACH Music Family - How Long Did They Remain Significant?

Sara Levy, student of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Friend of the Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach family, collector of Bachiana and great-aunt of Felix Mendelssohn relates how the Bach sons kept the Bach name alive in the world of music after their father's death.

I have known the Bach family for years and years. I studied harpsichord with Johann Sebastian Bach's eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann. In fact, Wilhelm often told me I was his favorite pupil. Wilhelm Friedemann was a brilliant organist and improviser, but he never lived a happy life and unfortunately died in poverty in Berlin years ago.

Vater Johann Sebastian Bach und seine Söhne Ph...
Vater Johann Sebastian Bach und seine Söhne Philipp Emanuel, Johann Christian, Friedemann, Johann Christoph d.J.
(Photo credit: 

Johann Sebastian Bach's second son, Carl Phillip Emanual, on the other hand, was hugely successful, both in Berlin and later in Hamburg where he had a post very similar to his father's St. Thomas position. Carl Phillip's family and I have been wonderful friends for years and years. CPE is best known for his Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments. The treatise is now used by every important teacher in the land, including Beethoven's.

The younger Bach boys were also quite the musicians. Johann Christoph Friedrich ended up in Buckeburg, Germany as a court musician and there he happily stayed all his life. In fact, people call him now the Buckeburg Bach.

Johann Sebastian's youngest son, Johann Christian, who was only 15 when his father died, lived for a time with his brother, Carl Phillip in Berlin, but soon left Germany. Johann Christian was the first Bach to do such a thing! He studied and worked for a time in Italy and learned to compose in a totally different style than any of the other Bachs. In fact, he composed mostly opera in the Italian style. Eventually he ended up in London where he was a court composer for the Queen.

Here is a little story to show you how different he was from his father and brothers. As the story goes, the Queen commanded Johann Christian to play a concerto on the organ between the acts of his new oratorio. She wanted Johann Christian to emulate the great Handel's style. As the story goes, the young Bach's playing was so awful that the audience hissed and the boys in the chorus laughed. As you can imagine, Johann Christian was mortified, but he simply was not an improviser or a composer of organ music.

With the death of Johann Sebastian Bach's grandson, Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach, in Berlin on December 25, 1845, the last musically significant descendant of Johann Sebastian Bach was gone. The long line of musical Bachs was extinguished.

The music of the Bach family music might have gone unnoticed for centuries if it had not been for our family. I knew the music of the Bach family was great music! I knew this great music had to be preserved so I collected as much of it as possible for my library making sure this great music was not lost. As a patron of the arts, I wanted to make sure that the great music of the past was not allowed to die!

I am sure you have heard of my great-nephew Felix Mendelssohn. On Christmas Day of 1825, he was given the manuscript the great St. Matthew Passion, one of Johann Sebastian Bach's greatest oratorios. In 1829, my great-nephew led the modern premiere (the first performance since the death of Bach) of this great work that led to the 19th-Century "Bach Revival." I do hope the music of this great master, Johann Sebastian Bach and the music of his sons will live on in concerts and churches for centuries to come.

(This vignette is one of a dozen anecdotes included in the organ and media event, Bach and Sons, performed by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist.)

    By Dr. Jeannine Jordan

    Dr. Jeannine Jordan has a doctorate degree in organ performance with an emphasis in Baroque repertoire. She studied with renown Swiss organist, Guy Bovet, has performed throughout the world, and presents the organ music of Bach in a creative program, "Bach and Sons," utilizing visual media and narration. She has also recorded organ music of Johann Sebastian Bach and his sons on historic 17th and 18th century organs in the Bach region of Saxony, Germany.
    Article Source: EzineArticles

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