Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/124

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112
BACH.
 

Each also employed himself in making instruments.

There is a younger Johann Michael, born in 1754 or 1755, whose connection with the family is not quite clear; he was perhaps descended from the branch which settled at Schweinfurt. He became Cantor at Tonna, and also travelled to Holland, England, and even to America. On returning to Germany he studied at Göttingen, and then established himself as a lawyer at Güstrow, in Mecklenburg. In 1780 he published a book or pamphlet called 'Kurze und systematische Anleitung zum Generalbass,' etc.

Johann Nicolaus [17], a son of the celebrated Johann Christoph, born 1669, became organist of the town and university church at Jena, and died there 1753. For a long time he was in the position of senior to the whole family; but none of his sons lived, and thus his branch died out with him. He was known as a composer of 'suites,' and a mass by him in his own handwriting [App. p.526 "in manuscript, it is not the composer's autograph,"] exists, giving a favourable impression of his talents in vocal composition. There is also a comic operetta by him called 'Der Jenaische Wein- und Bier-Rufer' (The wine and beer crier of Jena), a scene from Jena college life. He acquired great reputation in the manufacture of instruments. Incited, and perhaps even directed, by his uncle Johann Michael, he made many improvements in the construction of pianos, but his efforts were chiefly directed towards establishing equal temperament in the tuning of organs and pianos, an idea which at that time met with universal opposition.

Johann Christian [21], known as the Milanese or English Bach, eleventh son of Johann Sebastian, and youngest of those who survived their father, was born at Leipsic in 1735. Next to his brother Emanuel he is probably the best known amongst the sons of Sebastian, and the only one who broke through family traditions by travelling and adopting modern fashions in composition. His talent was certainly very remarkable, but his character and temperament forced him into directions very different from those of his ancient and honourable family. He was only fourteen when his father died, and he then went to live with his brother Emanuel in Berlin, where he studied pianoforte-playing and composition. A certain gaiety of disposition, possibly increased by his acquaintance with Italian singers, led him to Milan, where in 1754 he became organist of the cathedral. He wrote a great deal of vocal music in the pleasant and somewhat superficial manner of the Neapolitans then in vogue, which was in great favour with singers and amateurs. Inclination and talent made him turn to opera, and as he wished to devote himself to it entirely, but considered it hardly consistent with his position as cathedral organist, he left Milan in 1759, after marrying the Italian prima donna Cæcilia Grassi, and accepted an appointment as Director of Concerts in London, where he remained till his death in 1782 [App. p.526 "Jan. 1"]. He was clever, intelligent, and genial, but in spite of his easy circumstances he died much in debt. The elegance and brilliancy of his pianoforte compositions made him the favourite of all amateur pianoforte-players, and did much towards the general diffusion of the taste for pianoforte-playing. But his greatest triumphs were won by his operas; the first was 'Orione, ossia Diana vendicata,' 1763, and this was followed by many others. Some of his sacred works, however, seem more important, such as Masses, Psalms, and a Te Deum, where we find such echoes of the hereditary musical spirit of the family as prove that Christian was still a member of the race. Burney kept up an intimate intercourse with him for many years, and gives a detailed account of him in his 'History of Music,' vol. iv.

Johann Christoph Friedrich [22], called the Bückeburg Bach, ninth son of Sebastian, born at Leipsic in 1732 [App. p.526 "June 29"]. He at first studied jurisprudence at Leipsic, but true to family tradition soon forsook the law, and under the direction of his father and elder brother became a thorough musician. He finally entered the service of Count Schaumburg as Capellmeister at Bückeburg, where he remained till his death in 1795, leaving behind him the reputation of an upright, modest, amiable man. As a composer he was industrious in all branches, especially in oratorios and passion music, and occasionally in opera. Though not attaining the eminence of his brothers, his compositions do no discredit to the family. In style he approaches nearest to his brother Emanuel. He left one son, Wilhelm Friedrich. (See that name.)

Wilhelm Friedemann [23], called the Halle Bach, eldest of Johann Sebastian's sons, born at Weimar in 1710. In the opinion of all his acquaintances he was not only the most gifted of the brothers, but altogether an unusually able man, a genius on whom the father built great hopes, and to whom the brothers looked for replacing him. Unhappily he entirely departed from the respectable and honourable ways of the Bachs. An obstinate character and utter moral recklessness prevented him from attaining the eminence which his youth seemed to promise, and his life exhibits the melancholy spectacle of a ruined genius. He was educated chiefly by his father, who fully appreciated his remarkable abilities, and devoted special care to it; he also received instruction on the violin from Graun. He attended the 'Thomas Schule,' and afterwards the university at Leipsic, and distinguished himself greatly in mathematics. In 1733 he became organist at the church of St. Sophia at Dresden, and in 1747 music-director and organist of St. Mary's at Halle. He held this office till 1767, when he was obliged to give it up, his way of life becoming more and more disorderly and dissolute, and making him careless and irregular in his duties. He then lived without regular occupation at Brunswick and Göttingen, and also at Berlin, where Forkel, his father's biographer, looked after him with the greatest devotion; he occasionally gave concerts on the piano or organ,