Mo – Fr: 9.00 – 17.00 Uhr 0351 563 48 0

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach – an international star of his time!

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach – an international star of his time!

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach  © Bach Archiv LeipzigCarl Philipp Emanuel Bach – the second son of Johann Sebastian Bach – remains one of the most important musicians of the 18th century. It was during the period of the “empfindsamer Stil” (literally “sensitive style”) that he developed his unrivalled style, which combined the Baroque style with that of the First Viennese School and took him on an entirely different musical path to his contemporaries.
Emanuel Bach was held in far higher esteem during his own lifetime than his now considerably more famous father. His work influenced not only contemporaries such as Ludwig van Beethoven and Joseph Haydn, but also enjoyed considerable international repute. His paper “An Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments” set new standards and swiftly became a standard textbook around Europe.

Towns and cities with a connection to the life and work of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

Map with important places in the life of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.

Weimar: Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was born in Weimar in 1714 and spent his early childhood in the town.

Leipzig: It was here that Bach discovered his passion for music in 1723. He went on to study clavier and composition in the city.

Frankfurt (Oder): Bach was a student in this riverside town, and it was here that he wrote his first surviving compositions.

Berlin / Potsdam: 28 years of royal service saw Bach compose over 200 pieces – many of them for harpsichord – and write didactic essays on the playing of keyboard instruments.

Hamburg: It was here that Bach’s interest in sacred music increased. During his time in the city he became known as the “Hamburg Bach” and earned international acclaim.

Short biography of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

1714 Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach is born in Weimar on the 8th of March 1714 as the second (surviving) son of Johann Sebastian and Maria Barbara Bach (Johann’s cousin).

1717 Bach and his family move to Köthen. His mother dies three years later.

1723 The family relocate to Leipzig, where Emanuel’s father is made Choirmaster of St. Thomas’s Church. In his free time J.S. Bach gives his sons a musical education which sees them become virtuoso performers. Bach jr attends school in Leipzig.


On his father’s advice, Bach enrolls to study law in Leipzig. He begins composing parallel to his studies. He unfortunately destroyed his early works, and is quoted as having commented “[…] I recently burned a ream [480 sheets of writing paper] or more of my older pieces, and am happy that they no longer exist.”


Bach relocates to Frankfurt/Oder in order to continue his studies at Viadrina University.


Bach completes his studies, but elects to pursue a musical path rather than an academic career. Prince Frederick of Prussia appoints him as the harpsichord player of an orchestra in Rupping.

1741 A year after the coronation of Frederick II, the monarch makes Bach the concert harpsichord player of his Court Orchestra in Berlin. By this point Bach has become one of Europe’s most noted players of keyboard instruments. Bach remains in the service of the king for 28 years.


Bach marries Johanna Maria Dannemann, with whom he later has a daughter and two sons: Anna Philippina Bach (1747–1804), Johann Adam Bach (1745–1789) and Johann Sebastian Bach the Younger (1748–1778).

Bach is now in a highly productive period, and composes his Magnificat, an Easter cantata, numerous symphonies and concertos and three volumes of songs. He writes “An Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments”, which remained a standard text for many decades.

1746 Having risen to the rank of chamber musician, the period between 1746 and 1768 sees Bach compose a number of pieces for orchestra and ensembles. This notwithstanding, most of his work is still dedicated to clavier, for which he writes around a hundred solo pieces during this period.


In 1768 Bach leaves court and succeeds his godfather, Georg Phillip Telemann, as City Director of Music and Choirmaster in Hamburg. It is in the port on the Elbe that he reaches the peak of his musical career, and garners international acclaim as the “Hamburg Bach”.

He remains Director of Music until his death in 1788, composing the oratorios “The Israelites in the Desert” and “The Resurrection of Christ”. He also drafts over twenty Passions and more than seventy cantatas, litanies, motets and other sacred pieces. His output also includes six volumes of sonatas for clavier.

1788 Bach dies in Hamburg and is buried in the Church of St. Michael. His tomb remains open to the public to this day.

Find out more about what Thuringia has to offer its guests and why we would recommend you to organize a group tour to Thuringia.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach © Bach Archiv Leipzig