Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was born on March 8, 1714, the
second of three sons born to Johann Sebastian Bach and Maria Barbara Bach. At
the age of ten, he entered the St. Thomas School in Leipzig where his father
had become Cantor in 1723. He later continued his education in jurisprudence at
Leipzig and Frankfurt (Oder). In 1738, at twenty-four years of age, he received
his law degree but immediately abandoned the hopes of a law career for music.
Emanuel Bach was already a proficient keyboardist and had
been composing since 1731. Shortly after completing his studies, he obtained a
position in the service of Frederick II of Prussia, then the crown prince. When
Frederick ascended to the throne in 1740, Bach became a member of the royal
orchestra. By this time, he was one of Europe's leading keyboard players. While
in the service of Frederick the Great, he served with such prominent figures as
Carl Heinrich Graun and Johann Joachim Quantz.
Despite his many compositions, his greatest contribution to
music perhaps is his "Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments."
At the time, it was revolutionary in advocating the use of the thumb in playing
and later formed the basis of the methods of Muzio Clementi and Johann Baptist
Cramer. Furthermore, Emanuel Bach provided an in-depth method of playing from a
figured bass. Though modeled from the point of view of performance, it was also
influential as instruction in the theory of harmony. Bach's method favored the
contrapuntal method over Rameau's theories of root progression and his work was
influential on later composers, such as Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.
In 1768, Emanuel Bach became Kapellmeister in Hamburg,
succeeding Georg Philipp Telemann. At this point, largely out of duty, he
turned more to the composition of church music. Bach died in Hamburg on
December 14, 1788.
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