Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
8th March 1714 — 14th December 1788
How do you go about establishing a reputation and a career when your
father is the great Johann Sebastian Bach?
Surely you pursue a career in the law or as a painter or you head off to the
New World where people aren't aware of your background. Anything rather than
be a musician and composer where you would only ever be referred to as
"not as good as his father".
Well, no, actually. In his time, J. S. Bach was generally
recognised as a fine organist and a serviceable, if slightly old fashioned,
composer. There are a few who seemed to recognise the genius of Carl's
father during his lifetime and, in fact, we have little evidence that the
'old wig' (as he was sometimes irreverently called) saw himself as
anything other than thoroughly professional musician and accomplished
craftsman doing the best he could in the service of the Lord. Johann
Sebastian was seen as yet another of the good musicians that the Bach family
had churned out over a number of generations and it was a natural thing for
his eldest son to follow the career of a musician even though he had studied
law and was qualified to follow that as a profession. So successful was Carl
that for several generations if anyone evoked the name 'Bach' they were
probably referring to C. P. E. Bach, and his music and work possibly had
more influence on composers of Classical and early Romantic eras than did
that of his illustrious father.