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A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Bach

BACH. Though the name of Bach is familiar to all lovers of music, it is not generally known that it was borne by a very numerous family of musicians who occupied not merely honourable but prominent places in the history of their art through a period of nearly two hundred years. In this family musical talent was as it were bequeathed, and it seems almost like a law of nature that the scattered rays of the gift should after a hundred years finally concentrate in the genius of Johann Sebastian, whose originality, depth, and force, exhibit a climax such as only a few great spirits of any time or country have attained. But from this climax the artistic power of the race began to diminish, and with the second generation after its great representative was entirely extinguished. The history of the Bach family is not only a guide towards a just appreciation of the greatness of Sebastian, but it has an independent interest of its own through the eminence of some of its individual members. Born and bred in the Thüringen, the heart of Germany, the family for the most part remained there throughout two centuries; the sons of Sebastian being the first to spread to more distant parts. This stationary condition naturally produced a strong family feeling. According to tradition meetings of all the members took place for the purpose of social intercourse and musical recreation, and it seems that the brothers often married sisters. The Bachs always learned from one another, for they rarely had means for seeking their education elsewhere; thus the artistic sense and capacity of the family was as we have said, hereditary, and by its undisturbed activity during a whole century became an important element in the development of Johann Sebastian. To this family unity also we may ascribe the moral excellence and cultivation of the Bachs.

Fully to appreciate the importance of these qualities in the development of the race, we must consider that these predecessors of Johann Sebastian lived in the miserable time of the Thirty Years' War, and in the midst of the moral indifferentism and collapse of intellectual power which distinguished that unhappy period. Yet the house of Bach exhibits an almost uniform example of moral worth together with a constant endeavour after the highest ideals—qualities which are all the greater because under the circumstances of the time they could hardly meet with recognition or encouragement.

In course of time the towns of Arnstadt, Erfurt, and Eisenach became the centres of the family; there we find its most important representatives, and an uninterrupted sequence through several generations filling the same office; so that, for instance, in Erfurt the town musicians were known as 'the Bachs,' even though there had ceased to be any Bach among them. Another proof of the strong family feeling (and a valuable source of information) is the genealogy of the Bach family, begun by the great Sebastian himself, but chiefly composed by his son Carl Philip Emanuel [App. p.526 "The genealogy was not written, but added to, by Emanuel Bach"]. It contains fifty-three male members of the family, and gives the origin and dates of birth and death of each, and the most important events in their lives. This genealogical table soon became circulated amongst the family, and a copy of it in Emanuel's handwriting is to be found in the Royal Library at Berlin. For an account of the Bach-literature see the article on Johann Sebastian.

The following table exhibits the chief members of this remarkable family, and contains all those whose lives are touched on below. The same numeral is affixed to each in both genealogy and biography.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1. Hans Bach, at Wechmar about 1561.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
2. Veit Bach, † 1619.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
3. Hans B. 'd. Spielmann,' † 1626.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
4. Johannes, Erfurt, 1601-73.
 
 
 
 
 
 
6. Joh. Christoph; Erfurt and Arnstadt, 1613–1661.
 
 
 
 
 
 
5. Heinrich, Arnstadt, 1615–1692.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
13. Joh. Christian, Eisenach 1640–1732.
 
12. Joh. Aegidius Erfurt, 1645–1717.
 
7. Georg Christoph, Schweinfurt, 1642–1697.
 
8. Joh. Christoph.
 
9. Joh. Ambrosius, Eisenach, 1645–95.
 
19. Joh. Michael, Erfurt, 1648–94.
 
16. Joh. Christoph, Eisenach, 1643–1703.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
15. Joh. Bernhard, Eisenach, 1676–1749.
 
14. Joh. Christoph, Erfurt, 1685–1717.
 
 
 
10. Joh. Christoph, Ohrdruff, 1671–1721.
 
11. Joh. Sebastian, 1685–1750.
 
 
 
20. Maria Barbara. 1684–1720.
 
17. Joh. Nicolaus, Jena, 1669–1733.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
18. Joh. Ernst, Eisenach, 1722–1777.
 
 
 
23. Wilh. Friedemann, 1710–84.
 
25. C. Phil. Emanuel, 1714–88.
 
22. Joh. Christoph Friedrich, 1732–1785.
 
21. Joh. Christian, 1735–82.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
24. Wilhelm, Berlin, 1756–1846.
 

[App. p.526 "In the genealogical table several errors occur. No. 13 died in 1682, not 1732; No. 16 was born 1642, not 1643. The date of death of No. 14 is doubtful. No. 24 lived from 1759 to 1845. To No. 8 add dates 1645–1693. No. 6 was not named Johann, but only Christoph."]

The earliest notices go back to the beginning of the 16th century, and mention four distinct branches, of which the last only is of general interest, because it is that from which Johann Sebastian is descended. This, the actual musical branch, lived in Wechmar, a small place near Gotha. Hans Bach [1], the eldest of the Bachs, is mentioned as a Gemeinde-Vormundschaftaglied there in 1561. Then comes Veit [2], possibly the son of the former, born between 1550 and 60, and generally considered the progenitor of the race. He is said to have been a baker, and to have moved into Hungary with many other Evangelicals for protection from persecution. But under the Emperor Rudolf II the Catholic reaction gave the Jesuits the upper hand, and this caused Veit to return home and settle at Wechmar as a baker and miller. The genealogy states that he loved and practised music; his chief delight was in a 'Cythringen' (probably a zither), upon which he used to play while his mill was at work. He died in 1619. But the real musical ancestor of the family was Hans [3], the son of Veit, born somewhere about 1580, and mentioned as 'the player'–that is to say, a professional musician. He was also a carpet-weaver, and is said to have been of a cheerful temperament, full of wit and fun. These characteristics are alluded to in a portrait formerly in the possession of Emanuel, in which he was represented as playing the violin with a bell on his shoulder, while below is a shield with a fool's cap. His profession took him all over the Thüringen, and he was well known and beloved everywhere. He died 1626. in the year of the first great plague. Of Hans's many children three sons deserve mention:—

Johannes Bach [4], born 1604, apprenticed at Suhl to the 'Stadt-pfeifer,' became organist at Schweinfurt, and perhaps also temporarily at Suhl. After an unsettled life amidst the turmoil of the Thirty Years' War, he settled at Erfurt in 1635 as director of the 'Raths-Musikanten,' and in 1647 became organist in the church there, thus representing both sacred and secular music. He was the forefather of the Bachs of Erfurt, and died there in 1673. His sons were Johann Christian and Johann Ægidius. (See below, Nos. 12 and 13.)

Heinrich [5], born 1615. As a boy showed a remarkable taste for organ-playing; to satisfy which he would go off on Sundays to some neighbouring town to hear the organ, there being none at Wechmar. He received his musical education from his father and his elder brother Johann, probably during his residence at Schweinfurt and Suhl, and followed his father to Erfurt. In 1641 he became organist at Arnstadt, where he died in 1692, having filled his post for more than half a century. With him begins the line of Arnstadt Bachs. Besides his father's great musical gifts he inherited his cheerful disposition, which, coupled with great piety and goodness, enabled him to overcome the disastrous effects of the war, and so to educate his children, all of them more or less gifted, as to enable them to fill honourable places in the history of music. For the life of Heinrich we have complete material in his funeral sermon by Gottfried Olearius (Arnstadt, 1692). In his sons, Johann Christoph and Johann Michael (see those names, Nos. 16 and 19) the artistic importance of the elder Bachs before Johann Sebastian reaches its climax. In Ritter's 'Orgelfreund,' vol. vi. No. 14, there is an organ piece on the chorale 'Christ lag in Todesbanden,' which is ascribed to Heinrich Bach; of his other compositions nothing is known.

Christoph [6], the second son, born 1613, we mention last because he is the grandfather of Johann Sebastian. After a temporary post at the court of Weimar, and a stay at Prettin in Saxony, he settled at Erfurt in 1642, as member of the 'Raths-Musik'; moved from thence to Arnstadt 1653–4, and died there in 1661 as 'Stadt-Musikus' and 'Hof-Musikus' to the Count of Schwarzburg. Unlike his brother Heinrich he occupied himself exclusively with the town music—the 'Kunst-Pfeiferthum.' Further details of his life are wanting. His sons were—

Georg Christoph [7], born 1642 at Erfurt, first school teacher, then cantor at Themar near Meiningen, 1668; twenty years afterwards removed to Schweinfurt in the same capacity, and died there. None of his compositions are known to exist.

Johann Christoph [8], and his twin brother Johann Ambrosius [9], born 1645 at Erfurt, were so much alike in appearance and character that they were regarded as curiosities. After the early death of the father, who taught them the violin, and after they had completed their years of study and travel, Johann Christoph came to Arnstadt as Hof-Musikus to the Count of Schwarzbursr. Disputes with the Stadt-Musikus caused the dismissal of all the court musicians, including Christoph, but he was afterwards restored to his post. He devoted himself to the church music, which had been much neglected, helped his old uncle Heinrich in his official work with the utmost disinterestedness, and died 1693. With his sons the musical activity of this branch of the family ceased. Ambrosius was more important. He remained with his brother till 1667, when he entered the association of the Erfurt 'Raths-Musikanten.' We have already mentioned that he was a violinist, but his importance in the history of music is due to the fact of his being the father of Johann Sebastian. He left Erfurt after a few years, and in 1671 settled at Eisenach, where he died in 1695. Of his numerous children we need only mention the two sons:—

Johann Christoph [10], born 1761 [App. p.526 "1671"]. After receiving instruction from the celebrated organ-player Pachelbel in Erfurt, he became organist at Ohrdruff, and died in 1721. Further details about him will be found in the biography of his younger brother, the great Johann Sebastian. (See the article on him.)

Having thus sketched the general course of the family, we will take its various members in alphabetical order, reserving Johann Sebastian for the crown of all.

Johann Ægidius [12], younger son of the old Johannes of Erfurt, born 1645, was a member of the society directed by his father, became organist in St. Michael's Church, and in 1682 succeeded his brother Johann Christian [13], as 'Raths-Musik director.' He died at Erfurt in 1717. Of his numerous children only two sons survived him—Johann Christoph [14], born 1685, who succeeded to the post of his father—and

Johann Bernhard [15], born 1676, He was organist first at the Kaufmann's Church in Erfurt, then at Magdeburg, and finally at Eisenach, where, in 1703, he succeeded the older and more famous Johann Christoph [16]. These appointments, especially the last, give a favourable idea of his ability as an organist and composer. Of his compositions there still exist preludes on chorales, as well as pieces for klavier and suites for orchestra (or 'overtures after the manner of Telemann,' as they were called). The former were in the collections of Walther, the lexicographer, which are partly preserved in the Berlin library, and the latter amongst the remains of Sebastian, copied by himself. Johann Bernhard died in 1749.

Another Johann Bernhard, son of Sebastian's brother Christoph [10], was born in 1700, succeeded his father as organist at Ohrdruff, and died in 1742.

Johann Christian [13], eldest son of Johann of Erfurt, born 1640, was at first a member of his father's musical society; then removed to Eisenach, his younger brother Ægidius taking his place. Christian was the first of the family to go to Eisenach, but in 1668 we find him again at Erfurt; he succeeded his father in the direction of the musical society, and died in 1682. He was succeeded by his younger brother Ægidius. One son, Johann Christoph (1673–1727) is mentioned as orgmist at Gehren (near Arnstadt), where he succeeded the famous Michael (see that name, p. 111). He had studied theology, but was of a quarrelsome haughty disposition, and had many conflicts with his superiors.

Johann Christoph [16], the most famous of this oft-recurring name, and also the most famous of the older generations, was the son of the old Heinrich [5], of Arnstadt, and was born in 1643. He was a highly gifted musician, and through his own merits alone, independent of his illustrious nephew, occupies a very prominent place in musical history. His life was extremely simple. He was educated by his father, and at twenty-three became organist to the churches at Eisenach. Later he also became court-organist there, and died in 1703. Of his four sons we may mention Johann Nicolaus [17], 1669–1753. (See his name, p. 112.) Christoph's moral excellence, his constant striving after the highest ideals, his industry, and his technical proficiency, give him the most prominent place amongst the elder branch of the family. He was not only, as the old authorities tell us, one of the finest organ-players and greatest contrapuntists of his day, but he was altogether one of the most important artists and composers of the whole 17th century. He was regarded with undisputed consideration by the family, and both Johann Sebastian and his son Emanuel had the greatest respect for him. In spite of this, his importance during his life-time was not more widely recognised, and after his death he was but too soon forgotten; but this may be explained by the overpowering fame of his great nephew, by the quiet, reserved, simple nature of the man, who lived only for his art and his family, and lastly by the nature cf his compositions. His few remaining works prove him to have been of a thoroughly independent and original nature, which, though affected by the influences of the time, was so in its own individual way. Having no sympathy with the prevalent Italian style, he endeavoured to carry on the art in his own way, and therefore to a certain degree stood aloof from his contemporaries. The leading feature in the development of the 17th century is the rise of instrumental music,—the struggle of the modern scales with the old ecclesiastical modes, the development of homophony with its melodious character, and its richness of harmony, in contra-distinction to the old strict polyphony. These chief points in the general tendency of the time are not wanting in Johann Christoph. His cultivated sense of form enabled him to give his compositions that firm and compact structure which was a result of the new principles, while his natural musical feeling supplied due expression. His most important compositions are his vocal works, especially his motets; the few that exist only increase our regret at the loss of further proofs of his great ability. One of his best works was a kind of oratorio, for double chorus and orchestra, called 'The Combat of Michael and the Devil' (Rev. xii. 7–12); Johann Sebastian valued it very highly, and had it performed at Leipsic, as did Emanuel after him at Hamburg. Eight of his motets are given in the 'Musica Sacra' (of the Berlin 'Domchor') by Neidhart and Hertzberg; and others in a collection by Naue ('Neun Motette . . von Johann Christoph und Johann Michael Bach,' Leipzig, Hofuieister). The best known of them is 'Mi lasse dich nicht,' familiar in England under the title of 'I wrestle and pray,' for a long time attributed to Johann Sebastian himself, and in fact so published by Schicht in his six motets. His few remaining instrumental works—arrangements of chorales, and variations for klavier—are less important, owing perhaps to the absence of Italian influence, and were soon forgotten. Gerber was in possession of a MS. volume of organ music originally belonging to the Bach family, containing eight pieces by Johann Christoph; this invaluable book comprised works by all the celebrated organ-masters from 1680 to 1720, but has unfortunately been lost through the carelessness of Gerber's legatees. [App. p.526 "The list of J. Christoph Bach's motets is as follows:—(Printed) 'Lieber Herr Gott' (Naue, Neun Motette, etc., book ii. 4); 'Der Gerechte, ob er gleich zu zeitig stirbt' (Naue, i. 1); 'Unsers Herzens Freude hat ein Ende' (Musica Sacra, Berlin, Bote & Bock, vol. xvi. 18); and the doubtful 'Ich lasse dich nicht' (Naue, iii. 9, and elsewhere). The following are in manuscript:—'Der Mensch, vom Weibe geboren'; 'Sei getreu bis in den Tod'; 'Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener'; and 'Fürchte dich nicht, denn ich habe dich erlöst.'"]

Johann Ernst [18], the son of Johann Bernhard, of Eisenach, born 1722–77, studied law at the Leipsic University, and established himself as a lawyer at Eisenach. He was also so clever a musician as to be of great use to his father in his profession. He was at first appointed his assistant in 1748, and afterwards succeeded him; he also became Capellmeister at the court of Weimar, but kept up his house at Eisenach. Some of his vocal pieces are preserved, and show that he was superior to his time as a composer of sacred music, which was then rapidly declining. One or two of his compositions for klavier are to be found in Pauer's 'Alte Meister,' series 2, bk. 3.

Johann Michael [19], younger son of old Heinrich, and brother of Johann Christoph of Eisenach, born in 1648. He, like his brother, was educated by his father, whom he afterwards supported and helped in his professional duties. In 1673 he was appointed organist at Gehren near Arnstadt, where he died in 1694, in the prime of life. He had six children, a boy who died early, and five daughters, the youngest of whom, Maria Barbara [20], became the first wife of Johann Sebastian, and died 1720. Johann Michael had the same nature and character as his brother, the same simple pious mind and constant lofty aims. In depth of intention, flow of ideas, he vied with his brother, but the latter surpassed him in feeling for form. His invention is remarkable, but form is always his difficulty; in him we feel the want of certainty so characteristic of that time, which resulted from the constant seeking after new forms; and the defect is equally evident in his stiff counterpoint. We may however assume that with his great gifts Michael would have developed more in this direction but for his early death. The decline of the polyphonic style is especially felt in his motets, because he failed to build up his movements in the definite forms demanded by the new homophonic style. In instrumental music he seems to have been more important, perhaps because he was more accessible to the influence of Italy than his brother. Walther says that he wrote 'starke,' that is to say 'remarkable' sonatas, and his pieces were certainly longer esteemed than those of Johann Christoph. [App. p.526 "the expression 'starke Sonaten' is to be taken as equivalent to 'stark besetzte Sonaten,' and refers, not to the character of the compositions, but to the employment of several instruments in them. In Adlung's copy of Walther's Lexicon, now in the Royal Library at Berlin, is the following note in Adlung's hand:—'2 chorie (chörichte) sonatas by Joh. Mich. Bach were engraved on copper.' These are evidently the works referred to."] In the organ-book already mentioned there were no less than seventy-two fugued and figured chorale-preludes of his, showing how much those of his compositions were then valued. Of his vocal works, motets, arias, and church pieces with instrumental accompaniments, forerunners of Johann Sebastian's cantatas, some are still preserved, and give a highly favourable opinion of Michael's capacities. In the depth and force of his expression his relationship with Sebastian is clearly felt. (See the above-mentioned collections of Naue and Neidhardt). Michael Each also employed himself in making instruments.

There is a younger Johann Michael, born in 1754 or 1755, whose connection with the family is not quite clear; he was perhaps descended from the branch which settled at Schweinfurt. He became Cantor at Tonna, and also travelled to Holland, England, and even to America. On returning to Germany he studied at Göttingen, and then established himself as a lawyer at Güstrow, in Mecklenburg. In 1780 he published a book or pamphlet called 'Kurze und systematische Anleitung zum Generalbass,' etc.

Johann Nicolaus [17], a son of the celebrated Johann Christoph, born 1669, became organist of the town and university church at Jena, and died there 1753. For a long time he was in the position of senior to the whole family; but none of his sons lived, and thus his branch died out with him. He was known as a composer of 'suites,' and a mass by him in his own handwriting [App. p.526 "in manuscript, it is not the composer's autograph,"] exists, giving a favourable impression of his talents in vocal composition. There is also a comic operetta by him called 'Der Jenaische Wein- und Bier-Rufer' (The wine and beer crier of Jena), a scene from Jena college life. He acquired great reputation in the manufacture of instruments. Incited, and perhaps even directed, by his uncle Johann Michael, he made many improvements in the construction of pianos, but his efforts were chiefly directed towards establishing equal temperament in the tuning of organs and pianos, an idea which at that time met with universal opposition.

Johann Christian [21], known as the Milanese or English Bach, eleventh son of Johann Sebastian, and youngest of those who survived their father, was born at Leipsic in 1735. Next to his brother Emanuel he is probably the best known amongst the sons of Sebastian, and the only one who broke through family traditions by travelling and adopting modern fashions in composition. His talent was certainly very remarkable, but his character and temperament forced him into directions very different from those of his ancient and honourable family. He was only fourteen when his father died, and he then went to live with his brother Emanuel in Berlin, where he studied pianoforte-playing and composition. A certain gaiety of disposition, possibly increased by his acquaintance with Italian singers, led him to Milan, where in 1754 he became organist of the cathedral. He wrote a great deal of vocal music in the pleasant and somewhat superficial manner of the Neapolitans then in vogue, which was in great favour with singers and amateurs. Inclination and talent made him turn to opera, and as he wished to devote himself to it entirely, but considered it hardly consistent with his position as cathedral organist, he left Milan in 1759, after marrying the Italian prima donna Cæcilia Grassi, and accepted an appointment as Director of Concerts in London, where he remained till his death in 1782 [App. p.526 "Jan. 1"]. He was clever, intelligent, and genial, but in spite of his easy circumstances he died much in debt. The elegance and brilliancy of his pianoforte compositions made him the favourite of all amateur pianoforte-players, and did much towards the general diffusion of the taste for pianoforte-playing. But his greatest triumphs were won by his operas; the first was 'Orione, ossia Diana vendicata,' 1763, and this was followed by many others. Some of his sacred works, however, seem more important, such as Masses, Psalms, and a Te Deum, where we find such echoes of the hereditary musical spirit of the family as prove that Christian was still a member of the race. Burney kept up an intimate intercourse with him for many years, and gives a detailed account of him in his 'History of Music,' vol. iv.

Johann Christoph Friedrich [22], called the Bückeburg Bach, ninth son of Sebastian, born at Leipsic in 1732 [App. p.526 "June 29"]. He at first studied jurisprudence at Leipsic, but true to family tradition soon forsook the law, and under the direction of his father and elder brother became a thorough musician. He finally entered the service of Count Schaumburg as Capellmeister at Bückeburg, where he remained till his death in 1795, leaving behind him the reputation of an upright, modest, amiable man. As a composer he was industrious in all branches, especially in oratorios and passion music, and occasionally in opera. Though not attaining the eminence of his brothers, his compositions do no discredit to the family. In style he approaches nearest to his brother Emanuel. He left one son, Wilhelm Friedrich. (See that name.)

Wilhelm Friedemann [23], called the Halle Bach, eldest of Johann Sebastian's sons, born at Weimar in 1710. In the opinion of all his acquaintances he was not only the most gifted of the brothers, but altogether an unusually able man, a genius on whom the father built great hopes, and to whom the brothers looked for replacing him. Unhappily he entirely departed from the respectable and honourable ways of the Bachs. An obstinate character and utter moral recklessness prevented him from attaining the eminence which his youth seemed to promise, and his life exhibits the melancholy spectacle of a ruined genius. He was educated chiefly by his father, who fully appreciated his remarkable abilities, and devoted special care to it; he also received instruction on the violin from Graun. He attended the 'Thomas Schule,' and afterwards the university at Leipsic, and distinguished himself greatly in mathematics. In 1733 he became organist at the church of St. Sophia at Dresden, and in 1747 music-director and organist of St. Mary's at Halle. He held this office till 1767, when he was obliged to give it up, his way of life becoming more and more disorderly and dissolute, and making him careless and irregular in his duties. He then lived without regular occupation at Brunswick and Göttingen, and also at Berlin, where Forkel, his father's biographer, looked after him with the greatest devotion; he occasionally gave concerts on the piano or organ, or wandered about with travelling musicians, but always sinking deeper and deeper. Quite at the last he received an appointment as Capellmeister at Hessen- Darmstadt, but he never took the post, and died at Berlin in 1784 in a state of great degradation and want. He was the greatest organ-player of his time, a thorough master of the theory of music, in which his remarkable mathematical knowledge was of great service to him, a master of fugue, and a famous improviser. Very few of his compositions have been published; he only wrote them down when necessity forced him to. This shows with what facility he could compose, but also how indifferent a matter it was to him. The royal library at Berlin possesses a good many of his writings, and some have been printed in the different collections of old pianoforte music. Two noble fantasias were introduced by Madame Arabella Goddard at the Monday Popular Concerts, and have been published in London.

Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst [24], son of the Bückeburg Bach, and the last grandson of Sebastian. Born at Bückeburg in 1759 [App. p.526 "May 27"], he was educated under his father's care until able to perform in public; he then accepted an invitation from his uncle Christian in London. There he remained some years, much sought after and respected as a pianoforte teacher. On his uncle's death he returned to Germany and settled at Minden. On the accession of King Frederic William II of Prussia he wrote a 'Huldigungs cantata,' and was rewarded by being called to Berlin in 1790 as 'cembalist' to the Queen, with the title of Capellmeister. This post he retained under Queen Louise, wife of Frederic William III, and after her death retired into private life. He was the teacher of the royal children, as he had been of Frederic William III and his brothers. He lived in complete retirement till 1845 [App. p.526 "Dec. 25"]. As the sole and last representative of the family, he assisted, with his wife and two daughters, at the inauguration of the monument erected to the memory of Johann Sebastian in front of the 'Thomas Schule' at Leipsic in 1843 through the efforts and instigation of Mendelssohn. With him the descendants of Johann Sebastian Bach became extinct. He was a good pianoforte and violin player, but his modesty prevented him from often appearing, and although he wrote much, in many styles, very little of his music is published.

Carl Philipp Emanuel [25], third son of Sebastian, often styled the Berlin or Hamburg Bach, born at Weimar March 14, 1714. His general precocity, quickness, and openness to impressions, induced his father to bring him up to the study of philosophy. With this view he went to the Thomas School and afterwards to the universities of Leipsic and Frankfort-on-the-Oder, where he entered on the study of law. But the thorough grounding in music which, as a matter of course, he had received from his father, and the natural influences of so musical a house, had virtually decided his future. When he entered at Frankfort he was already not only a fine player but a thorough musician. While there he conducted a singing society, which gave him opportunities of composing, and at length he finally relinquished law for music, in 1737 went to Berlin, and in 1746 obtained the appointment of Kammer-musiker and cembalist at the Court, with the special duty of accompanying Frederic the Great's flute solos at the private concerts. The Seven Years War (1757) however put an end to this pleasant position. Bach migrated to Hamburg and took the direction of the music in one of the churches there. In 1767 he succeeded Telemann, and this post he held till his death, Sept. or Dec. 14, 1788. [App. p.526 replaces preceding 3 sentences with "Emanuel Bach entered the service of the Crown Prince of Prussia (afterwards Frederick II.) in 1738, and remained in it uninterruptedly until 1767, when he went to Hamburg as Telemann's successor. He died there Dec. 14, 1788."] As composer, director, teacher, and critic, his influence was very great, and he was beloved and respected both by his brother professionals and by the whole town. His goodness, pleasant manners, literary culture, and great activity in music, all combined to place him at the head of his father's sons and scholars. But when we remember that for a Bach his musical gifts were by no means extraordinary—far below those of Friedemann, for example—it is plain that he stands so high because he is recognised historically as one of the most remarkable figures in the transition period between J. S. Bach and Haydn. In such periods a man is eminent and influential more from his general cultivation than from proficiency in any special branch. At the particular time at which E. Bach lived there were no great men. The gigantic days of Handel and Bach were exchanged for a time of peruke and powder, when the highest ideal was neatness, smoothness, and elegance. Depth, force, originality, were gone, and 'taste' was the most important word in all things. But taste has to do with externals, and therefore lays an undue stress on outward form in art, and this was the direction taken by the musical works which acted as important precursors of the so-called classical period. Nowhere does the tendency to formal construction show itself so strongly as in the works of Emanuel Bach, and he is therefore to be regarded as the immediate precursor of Haydn. No doubt he is affected and restricted by the tendencies of the time, but he had the power of bringing them together and throwing them into artistic form, and therefore his works are of greater importance than those of any of his contemporaries. To form a right judgment of him as a composer he must be regarded apart from his father, and solely from the point of view of his own time; and when so judged it is impossible to deny that he surpassed most of his contemporaries, and is of paramount importance as a connecting link between the periods of Handel and Bach on the one hand and Haydn and Mozart on the other. His music is wanting in depth and earnestness, but it is always cheerful, highly finished, often full of intelligence and charm; and in regard to form, where his relation to Haydn—a man far more gifted than himself—is most evident, we find him in possession of all those germs which in Haydn's hands sprang into such luxuriant growth—the homophonic thematic movement, the cyclical sonata-form, and new treatment of the orchestra.

His compositions in all departments are extraordinarily numerous: a complete list of them will be found in Gerber. Historically his instrumental compositions are the most valuable, because the development of the larger forms of instrumental music is the great characteristic of modern times. His vocal music, chiefly for the church, is for the most part flat and monotonous, a quality perhaps partly due to the dry and unenthusiastic rationalism of that day. Most important of all are his numerous compositions for the clavier—210 Solo pieces; 52 Concertos with orchestral accompaniments; Sonatas, Trios, etc.—in which he has exhibited and developed his father's principles of technique. Many of these pieces have been republished in the various collections of ancient music; and his principal work 'Sonaten, nebst Rondos und freien Phantasien, für Kenner und Liebhaber' (6 parts, 1779-87), was republished a few years since by Baumgart. Of his orchestral works, 18 in number, several have been recently reissued by Breitkopf & Härtel, and have excited so much interest as to procure them a place in the programmes of Orchestral Concerts. Bach's vocal works comprise—2 Oratorios, 'Die Israeliten in der Wüste' and 'Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu'; a celebrated 'Heilig' (Sanctus) for 2 Choirs; 'Melodien' to Gellert's sacred songs; 22 Passions; sacred Cantatas; Singspiele; secular songs, etc., etc. That he was not without ability in literature is shown by his great work 'Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen' (2 parts, 1780) with examples and 18 specimen pieces. This book deserves notice as the first methodical treatise on clavier-playing; but it is more important still as containing the foundation of those principles which were first laid down by the great John Sebastian, and were afterwards developed by Clementi, Cramer, Field, and Hummel, into the pianoforte-playing of the present day. Bach lays special stress on refinement and taste in execution, in connection with which he gives detailed rules for the execution of the ornaments or 'Manieren' then considered so indispensable, and in this respect, as the most complete and authentic authority, his work will always possess considerable value. It has recently been re-edited (1857) by Schelling.

[ A. M. ]