Celebrating C.P.E. Bach: The Sentimental Rebel
J.S. Bach’s second-surviving son, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788), was a musical force in his own right. His fame, at least after the mid-1700s, overshadowed that of his now-legendary father. This year, six German cities with ties to C.P.E.’s musical footprint in Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt (Oder), Leipzig, Potsdam, and Weimar are leading a celebration of the 300th anniversary of his birth.
Professor Steven Zohn of Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance explains that the year-long fete is more muted in the U.S. because C.P.E. Bach is not as well known here as he is in other parts of the world.
In his time, C.P.E. Bach expressed his "sensitive style" in works for keyboard, flute, and strings. His style represented a marked departure from the measured Baroque compositions of his father – so much so that C.P.E. is credited with playing a major role on the evolutionary path of classical music from the Baroque to the Classical and even Romantic eras. The rhythmic vitality and unpredictability of his compositions were a precursor of the Romantic age to come.
"Every few years," says Professor Zohn, "I go through this phase where I just have to listen his music. I just find it so interesting and unusual and expressive."