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  • Born

    5 September 1735

  • Born In

    Leipzig, Sachsen, Germany

  • Died

    1 January 1782 (aged 46)

Johann Christian Bach (1735–1782) was a composer of the Classical era, the eleventh and youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach. He is sometimes referred to as 'the London Bach' or 'the English Bach', because of the time he spent living there. He is noted for influencing the concerto style of Mozart.

Johann Christian Bach was born on the 5th September 1735 to Johann Sebastian and Anna Magdalena Bach. His distinguished father was already fifty at the time of his birth, which would contributed to the sharp differences between his music and that of his father. Even so, his father first instructed him in music until he died when Johann Christian was fifteen, after which he worked with his older brother Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, considered to be the most musically gifted of Bach's sons.

He lived in Italy for many years, from 1756, studying with Padre Martini in Bologna before becoming organist at a cathedral in Milan four years later. During his time in Italy he converted to the Roman Catholic Church from Lutheranism. He met soprano Cecilia Grassi in 1766 and married her shortly thereafter. She was about eight years older than Johann Christian. They never had children.

Bach enjoyed a promising career, first as a composer then as a performer playing alongside Karl Friedrich Abel, a noted player of the viola da gamba. He was also appointed as music master for Queen Charlotte. He composed cantatas, chamber music, keyboard and orchestral works, operas, and symphonies. He died in London on the 1st January 1782

Although Bach's fame declined in the decades following his death, his music still showed up on concert programmes in London with some regularity, often coupled with works by Haydn. In the 19th century, scholarly work on the life and music of Johann Christian's father began, but often this led to exaltation of J. S. Bach's music at the expense of that of his sons; Phillip Spitta claimed towards the end of his J. S. Bach biography that "it is especially in Bach's sons that we may mark the decay of that power which had culminated after several centuries of growth" (Spitta, Vol. 3, p. 278), and Sebastian's first biographer, Johann Nikolaus Forkel, said specifically of Christian that "The original spirit of Bach is . . . not to be found in any of his works" (New Bach Reader, p. 458). It was not until the twentieth century that scholars and the musical world began to realise that Bach's sons could legitimately compose in a different style than their father without their musical idioms being inferior or debased, and composers like Johann Christian began to receive renewed appreciation.

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