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Happy Birthday, CPE Bach

Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach

Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach

If you read this on March 8, you’ll be reading it on the 300th anniversary of the birth of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, son of Johann Sebastian Bach. Or we could say it’s  the 300th birthday of CPE Bach — yes, CPE  is what musicologists call him for short. CPE, born in Wiemar, was the second oldest son of JS, and one of the four surviving children of seven.

The Bach family was loaded with musicians. Johann Sebastian’s father, his uncles, his elder brother, his children — it would be a geneticist’s dream to study the DNA of that family. Most important, there was no jealous squelching or abuse of talent among the Bachs. Quite the contrary, they appear to have educated and helped each other in many way. Carl Philipp is the transitional figure between J.S. Bach and Mozart, and CPE broke new ground, composing a more emotional and more fluid music than his father. Here, also, it’s significant that the father didn’t stand in the way of the son — quite the contrary, he gave moral support to his son in that venture.

Most listeners probably cannot tell the difference between music written by JS Bach and CPE Bach. That includes us at Critical Pages. However, we’re reasonably familiar with certain pieces by JS and certain other piece by CPE. We know those when we hear them.
Here’s a brief stunning piece by Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach. You’ll hear what we mean.

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