It must have been daunting for J.S Bach’s musical sons to work with his huge shadow. The fact that four of his children succeeded in becoming important and influential composers is both remarkable and proof of how extraordinary these men were.
C.P.E and J.C Bach are perhaps the most famous of them, and of the other two, J.C.F and W.F, it is Wilhelm Friedemann (1710-84) who perhaps came closest to his father as a composer. His compositions display the same structural density, and in particular the concerto in E flat for 2 harpsichords where many of his father’s influences can be detected, together with W.F’s use of strange dissonances and harmonic shifts. Although he resisted the avant-garde styles of his brothers, his compositions can be appreciated as a continuation of his father’s legacy – something his brothers spent their lives fighting, whereas W.F appeared comfortable developing J.S’s methods and his own rich harmonic palette and strong melodic style.
W.F’s personality was his own worst enemy. He was aloof, and unable to appreciate the views of others. He was also a terrible custodian of his father’s manuscripts – many vanished under his stewardship, and in his final years he was reduced to living in poverty and passing off some of his compositions as those of his father, leaving his wife and daughter in destitute. He was a highly gifted composer and a deeply flawed man.
- Rare repertoire from an enigmatic composer.