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Wilhelm Friedemann Bach

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach


Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (22nd November 1710–1st July 1784), eldest son and pupil of Johann Sebastian Bach, was a German composer and musician whose troubled personality and erratic career made him considerably less influential than his younger brother, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, despite his acknowledged talents as an organist, improviser, and composer in the galant, or rococo, style of the mid-18th century. Born in Weimar and educated at Leipzig Read more on Last.fm
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (22nd November 1710–1st July 1784), eldest son and pupil of Johann Sebastian Bach, was a German composer and musician whose troubled personality and erratic career made him considerably less influential than his younger brother, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, despite his acknowledged talents as an organist, improviser, and composer in the galant, or rococo, style of the mid-18th century. Born in Weimar and educated at Leipzig, he was appointed in 1733 organist of St Sophia's Church at Dresden, and in 1746 became organist of the Liebfrauenkirche at Halle; his father's influence was enough to secure him the latter position without the usual trial performance. With his father's death in 1750, the stabilizing influence in Friedemann's life seems to have disappeared, and he lived an unhappy life in Halle, from which he frequently traveled to seek other employment. In 1762, he was offered the post of Kapellmeister to the court of Darmstadt, but for some reason he did not accept the position. Two years later, in 1764, he walked off the job in Halle, ending his employment there and indeed his formal employment anywhere. From then on he led a wandering life, staying for several years (1770-1774) in Braunschweig, before he moved to Berlin, where eventually and in great poverty he died. His compositions, very few of which were printed, include many church cantatas and instrumental works, of which the most notable are the fugues, polonaises and fantasias for clavier, and the duets for two flutes.

He incorpoated more elements of the contrapuntal style learnt from his father than any of his three composer brothers, but his use of the style has an individualistic and improvisatory edge which endeared his work to musicians of the late 19th century, when there was something of a revival of his reputation. Several of his manuscripts are preserved in the Royal Library at Berlin; and a complete list of his works, so far as they are known, may be found in Eitner's Quellen Lexikon. A commonly-used numbering system is that of Martin Falck, who published a catalog of Friedemann's music in 1913. For example, Falck 12 or F. 12 (sometimes FK 12) stands for the celebrated "Twelve Polonaises" that were completed by 1765. nv for Nachlassverzeichnis - remaining list, or appendix to the catalog is sometimes attached, often for works discovered more recently than 1913 - so, Falck nv 2 for a fantasy in C minor for keyboard. Friedemann, along with his brother Carl Philipp Emanuel, also provided important information to Johann Nikolaus Forkel, the first biographer of Johann Sebastian Bach.

The biographical information supplied by Friedemann and Emanuel was utilized in the biography of Sebastian that Forkel published in 1802. However, unlike Emanuel, Friedemann was an exceedingly poor custodian of Sebastian's music, much of which he, like Emanuel, inherited on their father's death. Not only did a good deal of Friedemann's share of this music disappear unaccountably, but in some cases he is known to have claimed credit for music written by his father (such as the Organ Concerto, BWV 596; because Friedemann wrote his own name on Sebastian's autograph score, it was mistakenly attributed to Friedemann when it was first published in the 19th century). Wilhelm Friedemann Bach is not to be confused with Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach, his nephew, also a composer. Friedemann himself may have been one of the models for Diderot's philosophical dialogue Le Neveu de Rameau (Rameau's Nephew). Several compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach were dedicated expressly for his instruction, including the Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach of 1720, some of whose musical material was later used in the Well-Tempered Clavier.

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