New Challenges – Carl Philipp Emanuel in Hamburg (1768–1788)

Going His Own Way – Stations in Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Life

St. Michael’s in Hamburg, engraving by Andreas Joachim Hillers (1780) after a drawing by Ernst Georg Sonnin. (Source: Hamburg, Kirchengemeinde St. Michaelis)His new office in Hamburg entailed several very different tasks: Around 200 concerts were to be performed per year at Hamburg’s five main churches of St. Peter’s, St. Nicholas’, St. Catherine’s, St. Jacob’s and St. Michael’s, with additional compositions expected for various specific events. He was also required to teach at Hamburg’s Latin school, the Johanneum.

Bach attempted to master this heavy workload with anticipatory planning: He used existing material for many of his compositions; be they his own, early compositions, or the work of other composers such as Georg Anton Benda (1722–1795), Gottfried August Homilius (1714–1785), Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel (1690–1749) or those of his father’s or Telemann’s. He added voices and movements to these works, rearranged them and revised the recitatives. This technique of pasticcio, which he especially used for the annual passion, proved a very modern interpretation of the office of a director of music, performing several contemporary and historical works of music alongside his own compositions.

In contrast, he composed elaborate new works for the inaugurations and funerals of dignitaries, for the festivities of the chairmen of the Hanseatic Citizen Guard – the so-called citizen captains – and other major festivities. Admittedly, he was paid extra for such commissioned work. 

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