Potsdam and Sanssouci Palace

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach – People and Places

When Frederick became king of Prussia in 1740 his first move was to relocate from Rheinsberg to Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin; but the memory of Rheinsberg, his “happiest years”, wouldn’t let go of him, and so a second Rheinsberg, the Vineyard Palace in the Sanssouci Palace Park, was erected in 1744 following plans his architect Knobelsdorff based on sketches Frederick himself had drawn. The same obstinate control Frederick demonstrated when transforming Potsdam into a pompous late baroque town with many allusions to Italian archetypes increasingly dominated the royal musical agenda in Sanssouci and the Berlin Opera. The buoyancy of the Rheinsberg days were not to be reproduced. C. P. E. Bach considered himself a musical progressive (although respected by Frederick for his artful command of the harpsichord) in the midst of a predominantly conservative musical climate at the royal court that left him no choices. When C. P. E. Bach left Berlin in 1768 the town had fallen far behind Vienna, Paris and London as a European centre of music. During a visit to Berlin in 1772 Dr. Charles Burney could not suppress some smug comments on the stuffiness of the musical scene in Berlin: “In view, though, of the general and national taste in composition and style, it now seems to be designed following a pattern that completely excludes everything reminding of creativity and genius.”

Johann Friedrich Meyer: View from Brauhausberg onto Sanssouci (1772). (Source: Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg, GK I 10184)

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