Bach, Wilhelm Friedemann

born Nov. 22, 1710, Weimar, Saxe-Weimar
died July 1, 1784, Berlin

German composer and organist.

Eldest son of Johann Sebastian Bach, he was trained by his father. One of the finest organists of his time, he held important organist posts in Dresden (1723–46) and Halle (1746–64) but thereafter lived an unsettled life and drifted into drinking and poverty. Though he was a highly gifted composer, his compositions veered confusingly between the old contrapuntal style and the new pre-Classical styles. He wrote more than 30 church cantatas, several keyboard concertos, and many solo keyboard works.

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▪ German composer

born Nov. 22, 1710, Weimar, Saxe-Weimar
died July 1, 1784, Berlin
 eldest son of J.S. and Maria Barbara Bach (Bach, Johann Sebastian), composer during the period of transition between Baroque and Rococo styles.

      W.F. Bach's musical instruction was primarily from his father (who wrote for him, when he was ten, the charming Klavier-büchlein vor Wilhelm Friedemann Bach of keyboard pieces). He also studied the violin. He matriculated at Leipzig University in 1729. In 1733, already composing extensively, he was appointed organist to the Church of St. Sophia in Dresden. In 1746 he moved to the Liebfrauenkirche at Halle. At about this time, or perhaps later, after his father's death in 1750, he seemed to begin to have personality difficulties, evidenced by excessive drinking and other lapses. After a late marriage in 1751, he became restless and applied unsuccessfully for a change of post in 1753 and 1758. In 1762 he won an appointment to the Darmstadt court but did not take it up. Resigning his old post in Halle in 1764, for 20 years he sought in vain for regular employment. He became touchy and unreliable, and although his talents were never doubted, he imagined that they were. In 1774 he moved to Berlin, where he lived meagrely by giving recitals and teaching.

      Of his compositions, keyboard works and cantatas form the larger part; he also composed several symphonies and chamber works and an opera. His music vacillated between the Baroque style of his father and the newer galant, or Rococo, style. His compositions, few for his many years, are often impassioned, often unpredictable in their use of melody, harmony, and rhythm.

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Universalium. 2010.

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