School and Studies in Leipzig (1723–1734)

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

St. Thomas, Leipzig, with surrounding buildings, etching by Gabriel Bodenehr, c. 1700. (Source: Leipzig, Bach-Archiv Leipzig, Sign. Graph. Slg. 11/45)

His father taught him piano and organ from an early age. Some of his first piano compositions from 1730/1731 are documented alongside those of his older brother Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710–1784) in the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach 1725. However, one must assume that much of Carl Philipp Emanuel’s work from the Leipzig years was destroyed at his own hand. 

At age 15, he regularly participated in his father’s performances, both in church and at the Collegium Musicum. From 1729 on, he was also working for him as a scribe. In October 1731, Carl Philipp Emanuel enrolled as a law student at Leipzig University, which was not unusual for musicians at the time. A solid education would later facilitate access to high-ranking positions at court.

Around 1733/1734, he composed the cantata I Am Content With My Position – his earliest conveyed vocal work, which was rediscovered only recently. From now on there passes not a single year in the life of Carl Philipp Emanuel in which he does not compose a multitude of new works of the most varying genres. His inspiration was by no means limited to the musical education he had received from his father, but was also much enriched by the abundance of musical life in Leipzig.

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