Princess Anna Amalia and C. P. E. Bach

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach – People and Places

Princess Anna Amalia of Prussia (1723–1787 ), portrait by Antoine Pesne (before 1757). (Source: Wikipedia)

In contrast to Frederick, his youngest sister, Princess Anna Amalia of Prussia (1723-1787) who herself also composed music and owned an extensive musical collection highly appreciated C. P. E. Bach’s compositions. The musical legacies of her court composers Johann Philipp Kirnberger (1721–1783) and Christoph Schaffrath (1709–1763) contain numerous copies of compositions by C. P. E. Bach suggesting that his works were frequently performed at Anna Amalia’s court. Bach also owed Anna Amalia his title as a honorary orchestra director, which she lent him before he moved to Hamburg.

In their appreciation for Johann Sebastian Bach’s music, at least, Frederick, Anna Amalia and C. P. E. Bach agreed. When the Thomaskantor of Leipzig visited Frederick II in 1747 Frederick let him improvise a fugue with six voices over a theme he had determined himself, which was later applied by Bach in the Ricercare of his “Musical Offering”. With this Frederick II would have made an assertive statement within musical history reaching far beyond his own lightweight compositions. C. P. E. Bach, on the other hand, realised the first edition of his father’s Art of the Fugue as a demonstration of his appreciation, while Anna Amalia’s musical collection with its numerous compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach formed the basis for the renaissance of his music that began already towards the end of the 18th century.

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