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Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach [49] (Composer)

Born: June 21, 1732 - Leipzig, Saxony, Germany
Died: January 26, 1795 - Bückeburg, Germany

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach [49] was one of four J.S. Bach [24] sons who attained renown in classical music. He is generally ranked behind Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach in importance, but stands about on equal footing with Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and Johann Christian Bach. Johann Christoph Friedrich (generally referred to as "Friedrich") is known as the "Bückeburg" Bach, since he served at the court there from 1750, when he was just 18, until his death in 1795. His early music reflected the style of his father, while his mature compositions began showing Italian influences, offering a sort of cross between the German and Italian schools. His late works began to exhibit Classical characteristics. To clear up matters about the large Bach family and his position within it, Friedrich was the third oldest of the four sons of J.S. Bach and his second wife Anna Magdalena Bach who attained musical prominence: Wilhelm Friedemann Bach was the oldest (b 1710), followed by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (b 1714) (their mother being Maria Barbara Bach), and the last was Johann Christian Bach (b 1735). He was the last of the four to die, but Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach lived the longest.

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach was given his first music lessons by his father at the St. Thomas School and later by a cousin of his father, Johann Elias Bach [39]. When he was about 17 Friedrich enrolled at the University of Leipzig in preparation for a career in law in 1748, but left after a year (1749), apparently because his father had become seriously ill. (The elder Bach died in July 1750.) He was also J.S. Bach’s copyist in the years 1743-1749. Friedrich must have decided that not only would funds for his education be lacking, but that he must choose a career in music since this was where his greatest talents lay. After all, he was by now a keyboard player of virtuoso rank. Moreover, he was offered an attractive post as harpsichordist in the chamber orchestra at the Bückeburg court, under Count Wilhelm of Schaumberg-Lippe.

In 1759 Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach was appointed concertmaster of the orchestra, though he had, in effect, already served in that capacity for three years. While his position was secure and his work with the highly-respected chamber ensemble more than satisfactory to the Court, his music seems not to have been highly regarded or performed often. With arrival at Court in 1771 of Johann Gottfried Herder, Friedrich's creative juices seems to have been stimulated, as the two collaborated on several successful choral and dramatic compositions, including the cantata Michaels Sieg and the oratorio Die Kindheit Jesu. Herder's departure five years later was a blow to the composer.

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach married the singer Lucia Elisabeth Munchhusen (1728-1803) in 1755 and the Count stood as godfather to his son Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach. J.C.F. educated his son in music as his own father had, and Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst went on to become music director to Frederick William II of Prussia. In April 1778 he took leave of his post for a trip to England to visit his brother Johann Christian Bach. It was in London that he grew fond of Mozart's music from the many concerts he attended.

After his return to Bückeburg, that same year, Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach continued to compose at a fairly prolific pace, his music divulging a more Classical bent. The Court was now under the rule of Count Philipp Ernst (Count Wilhelm died in 1777), but still enjoyed high musical standards. Friedrich wrote his last symphony in 1794, remaining active until his last days.


Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach wrote keyboard sonatas, symphonies, oratorios, liturgical choir pieces and motets, operas and songs. Because of Count Wilhelm's predilection for Italian music, Bach had to adapt his style accordingly, but he retained stylistic traits of the music of his father and of his brother, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.

The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica says of him "He was an industrious composer, ... whose work reflects no discredit on the family name." He was an outstanding virtuoso of the keyboard, with a reasonably wide repertory of surviving works, including 20 symphonies, the later ones influenced by Haydn and Mozart and hardly a genre of vocal music was neglected by him.

Sadly, a significant portion of J.C.F. Bach's output was lost in the WWII destruction of the Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung in Berlin, where the scores had been on deposit since 1917. Bach's work shows him to have been a transitory figure in the mold of his half-brother Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach., his brother Johann Christian Bach, the Grauns, and Georg Philipp Telemann, with some works in the style of the high Baroque, some in a galant idiom, and still others which combine elements of the two, along with traits of the nascent classical style.

Source: All Music Guide (Author: Robert Cummings); Wikipedia Website; The New Grove Bach Family (by Christoph Wolff, MacMillan London, 1983)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (January 2008); Thomas Braatz (January 2011)

Bach Family: Sorted by Name | Sorted by Number | Family Tree | Family History | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Bach's Pupils: List of Bach's Pupils | Actual and Potential Non-Thomaner Singers and Players who participated in Bach’s Figural Music in Leipzig | Bach’s Pupils - Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2

Links to other Sites

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach (Wikipedia)
Bach, Johann Christoph Friedrich: Biography (Sojurn)
HOASM: Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach (Britannica Online Encyclopedia)
Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach (
Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach (Classical Composers Database)


Ulrich Leisinger: "Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach," Grove Music Online, accessed August 26, 2006
Eugene Helm: "Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach" The New Grove Bach Family Macmillan 1985 pp309-314

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