Story of his Life: Carl Philip Emanuel Bach – A music rebel

Talking about Bach today means almost automatically talking about Johann Sebastian. 250 years back, however, it was a different case. When Mozart said “He is the father, and we are the sons. Whomever of us has learned something proper, he must have learned it from him.”, then he wasn’t talking about Johann Sebastian, but about his second eldest son Carl Philipp Emanuel, whose 300th birthday was celebrated in 2014.

He was born 1714 in Weimar. He spent his youth in Köthen and Leipzig, where he wrote his first compositions. Having being taught exclusively by his father it is no surprise that Carl Philipp Emanuel was soon considered one of the leading and most brilliant piano virtuosos of his time, a formative composer and sharp theorist. In short, he was renowned all over Europe. He made a name for himself during his 30 years as a court cembalist of Friedrich II far beyond Germany. He revolutionized the musical expression of his time by introducing a maximum of feeling and sentiment in his music in order to “put the listener into passion”. He thereby became an idol for Viennese classics Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, and coined a new zeitgeist. On the art market he proved to be a clever business man who set standards regarding self marketing. His portrait collection with over 400 pictures of VIPS’s of his time – one of them his own portrait – caused quite a stir, too. Not surprisingly, he, too, was one of the first musicians who also considered himself a writer – the result was his autobiography, written 15 years before his death. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach died in 1788 – highly respected – in Hamburg where he had worked as a music director for 20 years.

Written by: Anna Schmidt
Direction: Anna Schmidt
Director or Photography: Stephan Boerger, Ilko Eichelmann, Dietmar Heger
Sound: Robert Kurz
Editor: Mario Biehl
Air Date: 2014