Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach
• 1732 — 1795
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Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach was one of four J.S. Bach sons who attained renown in classical music. He is generally ranked behind Carl Philipp Emanuel in importance, but stands about on equal footing with Wilhelm Friedemann and Johann Christian. 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 oldest surviving son of J.S. Bach and his second wife Anna Magdalena, and was the third oldest of the four Bach sons who attained musical prominence: Wilhelm Friedemann was the oldest, born 1710, followed by Carl Philipp Emanuel (b. 1714) (their mother being Maria Barbara Bach), and the last was Johann Christian (b. 1735).
Friedrich was given his first music lessons by his father and later by a cousin of his father, Johann Elias Bach. When he was about 17 Friedrich enrolled at the University of Leipzig in preparation for a career in law, but left after a year, apparently because his father had become seriously ill. (The elder Bach died in July 1750.) 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 in the chamber orchestra at the Bückeburg court, under Count Wilhelm of Schaumberg-Lippe.
In 1759 he 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, and in 1778 he took leave of his post for a trip to England to visit his brother Johann Christoph. 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, Friedrich 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.