Children of Famous Parents: Classical Composer Johann Sebastian Bach

About the children of famous classical composer Johann Sebastian Bach, biography of his sons.


Johann Bach was at the center of 7 generations of musicians, beginning with his great-grandfather Veit Bach (1555-1619). Bach, often called the Father of Modern Music, also fathered 20 children, all of whom received musical training. None had their father's genius, but 3 sons contributed significantly to the music of their day:

Wilhem Friedemann (1710-1784), the eldest son, was an outstanding organist and composer, but his personality problems affected his music adversely. He was a heavy drinker, unreliable, and hard to get along with, and never was able to break free from his father's musical influence to develop a style of his own.

Carl Philip Emanuel (1714-1788) came closest to attaining his father's musical stature. He was a brilliant harpsichordist and the greatest authority of his time on the art of playing the clavier; his "Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments" remains an essential source book for understanding the style and interpretation of 18th-century music.

Johann Christian (1735-1782), a fashionable and successful but relatively slight talent, was organist of the Milan cathedral. He wrote Italian operas and much orchestral, chamber, and keyboard music, but the quantity of his output exceeded its quality.

A 4th son, Johann Gottfried Bernhard (1715-1739), was an organist who got into serious financial difficulties; his father bailed him out, but soon afterward the young man died of a fever.

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