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Timeline 030: The Bach Children

Johann Sebastian Bach had two wives and a total of 20 children. Sadly, only half of those children survived to adulthood. But of those 10, four became notable composers; each with their own story, their own home town and their own relationship with their father’s music.

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach was Johann Sebastian’s eldest son.  Wilhelm is called the “Dresden Bach” and he was chip-off-the-ole-block, following in his father’s footsteps as an organist and composer. But, unfortunately he didn’t inherit Bach’s disposition.  By all accounts, Wilhelm was extremely difficult to work with.  To put it frankly, he was a jerk and his constant disputes with his employers had him bouncing from one position to the next. As a result, he ended up dying in poverty at the age of 71.


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Wilhelm Friedemann Bach

Carl Philipp Emanuel

Carl Philipp Emanuel was J. S. Bach’s second surviving son.  He was the most famous and most prolific of Bach’s offspring. We call him the “Berlin Bach” or the “Hamburg Bach." His music stands in the gap between the Baroque and the Classical Era.  His outstanding keyboard skills and personal style makes him a prime example of the "empfindsamer stil," (the “sensitive style”) which attempted to express “true and natural” emotions.


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Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach is known as the “Buckeburg Bach." At the age of 17, he went to school and studied law. However, after his father fell ill in 1750, Johann Christoph Friedrich left university and took a position in the court of Count Wilhelm in Buckeburg. Perhaps there was a lack of money to pay for his school, perhaps he was helping out the family financially; whatever the reason he remained in Buckeburg till his death in 1795. His music was influenced by his employers who much preferred the simpler Italian style of music to the deeply contrapuntal style of Johann Sebastian.

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Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach

Johann Christian Bach

Johann Christian Bach is called “The London Bach”.  His music has the least in common with his father; J.S. Bach passed away when Johann Christian was only 15.  Johann Christian’s music is a great example of the gallant style which featured balanced phrases and an emphasis on clear melody and accompaniment.  He was the single greatest influence on the music of Mozart.


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Johann Christian Bach

The Bach family produced over 50 musicians over the course of over two centuries.  They are, by far, the most influential musical family in history.

Timeline is an exploration into the development of Western music. Take a journey into the events, characters and concepts that shaped our Western musical tradition.

James Stewart is Vermont Public Classical's afternoon host. As a composer, he is interested in many different genres of music; writing for rock bands, symphony orchestras and everything in between.
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