Johann Christian Bach

(1735—1782) composer

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(b Leipzig, 1735; d London, 1782).

Ger. composer. 18th child and 11th (youngest) son of J. S. Bach. Known as ‘the English Bach’. Learned klavier‐playing from his half‐brother C. P. E. Bach in Berlin. Went to Bologna in 1754 to study counterpoint with Padre Martini. After becoming a Roman Catholic was appointed organist Milan Cath. in 1760. His 3‐act opera Artaserse was prod. at Turin in 1760, followed by Catone in Utica in Naples the same year and Alessandro nell'Indie in 1762. These events were regarded in Milan as unduly frivolous, and Bach accepted offer from Signora Mattei, dir., King's Th., London, to succeed Cocchi as composer to the opera. His first London opera, Orione, prod. 1763. On this occasion cls. were first used in an Eng. orch. Later the same year his Zanaida was an equal success, and he was appointed music‐master to Queen Charlotte. In 1764, when the boy Mozart visited London, Bach perf. a sonata with him. Also in 1764 he inaugurated a series of concerts with Karl Friedrich Abel, who had been a pupil of J. S. Bach. These continued until 1782. His later operas met with less success. One of them, Carattaco, was on an Eng. subject which later attracted Elgar. On visits to Ger., Bach prod. his Temistocle in 1772 at Mannheim and his Lucio Silla, which Mozart had already set, in 1774. Comp. an opera for Paris, Amadis de Gaule, in 1779, and his last London opera, La Clemenza di Scipione, was successfully perf. in 1778. He died in debt, and was buried in a mass grave in St Pancras churchyard. Queen Charlotte helped to meet expenses arising from his debts and enabled his widow to return to Italy. His death went almost unnoticed by Londoners. There is a fine portrait of him by Gainsborough. Besides 11 operas, Bach wrote many instr. works—sinfonias, ovs., nearly 40 pf. concs., sonatas, qts., trios, marches, etc. Their felicitous scoring and melodic charm leave no doubt why Mozart admired Bach so much and why not only Mozart but also Haydn and Beethoven were fruitfully influenced by his work. Most of his church mus. was written before he left Italy.

Subjects: Music.

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