(Sara Levy, student of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Friend of the Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach
family, collector of Bachiana and great-aunt of Felix Mendelssohn relates how the Bach sons kept the Bach name alive in the world of music after their father’s death.)
I have known the Bach family for years and years. I studied harpsichord with Johann Sebastian Bach’s eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann. In fact, Wilhelm often told me I was his favorite pupil. Wilhelm Friedemann was a brilliant organist and improviser, but he never lived a happy life and unfortunately died in poverty in Berlin years ago.
Johann Sebastian Bach’s second son, Carl Phillip Emanual, on the other hand, was hugely successful, both in Berlin and later in Hamburg where he had a post very similar to his father’s St. Thomas position. He has also written a treatise on The True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments which is being used by every famous teacher in the land.
The younger Bach boys were also quite the musicians. Johann Christoph Friedrich ended up in Buckeburg, Germany as a court musician and there he happily stayed all his life. In fact, people call him now the Buckeburg Bach.
Johann Sebastian’s youngest son, Johann Christian, who was only 15 when his father died, lived for a time with his brother, Carl Phillip in Berlin, but soon left Germany. Johann Christian was the first Bach to do such a thing! He studied and worked for a time in Italy and learned to compose in a totally different style than any of the other Bachs. In fact, he composed mostly opera in the Italian style. Eventually he ended up in London where he was a court composer for the Queen.
With the death of Johann Sebastian Bach’s grandson, Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach, in Berlin on December 25, 1845, the last musically significant descendant of Johann Sebastian Bach was gone. The long line of musical Bachs was extinguished.
(This vignette is one of many anecdotes included in the organ and media event, Bach and Sons, performed by David Jordan, Media Artist and Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist.)