With its irregular, non-symmetrical phrasing, sudden shifts in harmony, and melodic twists and turns, the music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788) constantly surprises. Musical aptitude ran through the Bach family. Centred around Saxony and Thuringia in Germany, the Bachs were a force in music for many hundreds of years. C P E Bach, one of the sons of Johann Sebastian, ventured out of the traditional Bach homelands and made his career in Berlin and Hamburg. Indeed, for many years he was a keyboard player in the service of Frederich II (aka Frederick the Great) of Prussia. In addition to composing a significant quantity of keyboard music, C P E Bach wrote a very important treatise on playing the instrument, Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments. Bach’s essay also offers important nuggets of information on musical style and taste generally. In 1768 he succeeded Telemann as director of music in Hamburg and, in this new role, produced a considerable body of Protestant church music. C P E Bach’s music sounds nothing like his father’s. He eschewed complex polyphony in favour of cleaner textures and is regarded as a key exponent of the Empfindsamer Stil (expressive style).

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