Often known as the ‘London Bach’, Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782), one of the sons of Johann Sebastian Bach, left Saxony, the traditional stronghold of the Bach family, and made his career in the English capital. Aged only 15 when his father died, J C Bach travelled first of all to Berlin where he studied with his half-brother, C P E Bach, and later abandoned Germany for Italy, living in Milan for a number of years (1755-1761). Already an unconventional career trajectory for a Bach, J C Bach’s career became still more unconventional when he entered the Roman Catholic communion and developed an interest in opera. Indeed, the success of his operas in Italy brought his name to the attention of the King’s Theatre in London, which commissioned two operas from him for the 1762-3 season (Orione and Zanaida). Bach left Italy for England in 1762 and was based in London for the remainder of his life. Despite his activities as a composer of opera, his posthumous reputation rests largely on his contribution to the symphony and concerto. Indeed, his music was highly influential upon the young Mozart, who came to know J C Bach when the Mozart family spent 18 months in London as part of their pan-European tour. Significantly, Mozart’s earliest experiments with piano concertos are arrangements of works by J C Bach. In subsequent years Mozart’s father, Leopold, reminded his son of the pleasing and agreeable works of the ‘London Bach’. He praised it as music worthy of emulation.

© Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra