Two epitaphs by poet laureate Klopstock

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach – People and Places

Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724-1803), copper engraving by Johann Heinrich Klinger (1789), made  after a painting by Jens Juel (1780). (Source: Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Inventar-Nr. A 11130)

Among C. P. E. Bach’s new friends in Hamburg was the poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724–1803), who had been living in the city already since 1770. The acquaintanceship between Bach and Klopstock was probably initiated by the singer Johanna Elisabeth von Winthem (1747–1792). Her house, which she inhabited together with Klopstock (she was to become Klopstock’s second wife later in 1791) was a popular meeting point for musicians in Hamburg, as was Bach’s. 

Klopstock, who (even more in his powerfully eloquent ode than in his then most famous epic “The Messiah”) added completely new forms of expression to the German language spearheading the literary movement of Storm and Stress as well as the ode lyrics found in Hölderlin’s writing one Generation later, was Bach’s  genuine brother in mind. In 1783 Bach composed Klopstock’s Morning Song on the Day of Creation (Wq 239) as a cantata for two sopranos, choir and orchestra.

After his death Bach, who was later praised as a “Klopstock who used notes instead of words” was dedicated two epitaphs by Klopstock for planned memorials in Hamburg and Weimar. None of them have been built yet.


Knut von Maydell (Hamburg)