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Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach [84] (Composer)

Born: baptized May 27, 1759 - Bückeburg, Germany
Died: December 25, 1845 - Berlin, Germany

Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach [84] was son of Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach [49]. He was the only one of J.S. Bach's grandsons of any musical importance. He studied with his father and in 1778, after a brief stay with Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach [50] in Hamburg, went to live with Johann Christian Bach [50] in London, working there as a piano virtuoso and teacher. After his uncle's death at the beginning of 1782 he began a long concert tour which took him in particular through the Netherlands and to Paris.

In 1787 Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach became music director in Minden, near his home town. On Friedrich Wilhelm II's visit to that city in 1788 he composed the cantata Westphalens Freude, which made such an impression on the King that he appointed Bach Kapellmeister and harpsichordist at the court of Queen Friedrike of Prussia in Berlin. In 1797 he assumed a similar post at the court of Queen Luise (in 1795 he had applied unsuccessfully for the professionally more attractive position of Hofkapellmeister at Bückeburg). He was chiefly responsible for the music training of the Prussian princes until 1811, after which he lived in retirement in Berlin on a pension of 300 thalers. As the last musically significant descendant of J.S. Bach he attended the dedication of the Bach monument in Leipzig on April 23, 1843 (see: Memo-1209). He died in Berlin.

Many of Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach's numerous compositions, most of them written in London and Minden, were circulated in print (as well as manuscript copies) in his lifetime. In Berlin he also played an influential role in the musical life of the city. His compositions are not without conventional features, notably in their use of strict contrapuntal writing. His style is generally vapid and does not approach the originality of his two famous uncles and mentors, Johann Christian Bach and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.


Trauer-Cantate, on the death of Frederick the Great (Minden, 1787)
Westphalens Freude (Die Nymphen der Weser), for Friedricb Wilhelm II of Prussia, 1788 (Rinteln, 1791)
Columbus oder die Entdeckung von America, T, B, chorus, orchestra, 1798, GB-Lbm
Concerto buffo, B, toy instruments, orchestra, Lbm
L'amour est un bien supreme
; Ninfe se liete, S, orchestra, Lbm
Vater unser, T, B, choir, orchestra, Lbm, ed. in SBA
Lieder: Auswabl deutscher und französischer Lieder und Arietten (
Berlin, n.d.); Rheinweinlied (Berlin, n.d.); Wiegenlied einer Mutter, ed. K. Geiringer, Music of the Bach Family (Cambridge, MA, 1955); 12 Freymaurer-Lieder (Copenhagen and Leipzig, 1788) [wrongly attributed Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach as W 202); others, Lbm

2 sinfonias, C, G, GB-Lbm
2 suites, E flat, B flat, Lbm
Ballet-pantomime, Lbm; 3 piano concertos
Concerto for 2 pianos, all formerly D-B

Sextet, E flat, 2 horns, cl, violin, viola, vc, ed. K. Janetzky (Halle, 1951)
6 Sonatas, harpsichord/piano, violin, vc, Op. 1 (London, 1785)
3 sonates, harpsichord/piano, violin, Op. 2 (
Berlin and Amsterdam, n.d.)
Trio, G, 2 8, va, ed. in HM, lvii (1951)
Sinfonia, C, violin, piano, GB-Lbm

5 Sonatas and 1 Duett (London, c1780)
XII grandes variations sur un air aIlemand populaire (
Berlin, n.d.)
Andante, a, keyboard 4 hands, ed. A. Kreutz (Mainz, n.d.)
Das Dreyblatt, F, piano 6 hands, ed. K. Geiringer, Music of the Bach Family (Cambridge, MA, 1955)
Grand sonata, E flat, 1778
Variations on 'God save Frederick our King'
A Favourite Overture, and Divertimento, keyboard 4 hands, both Lbm
Other small pieces, Lbm

Four Progressive Lessons... and Two Duetts (c1782) [also attributed Johann Christian Bach, T 350/8)


Source: The New Grove Bach Family (Author: Christoph Wolff, MacMillan London, 1983)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (January 2008)

Bach Family: Sorted by Name | Sorted by Number | Family Tree | Family History | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Links to other Sites

Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach (Wikipedia)
Bach, Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst: Biography (Sojurn)

Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach (Find A Grave)
Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach (


G. Hey: Zur Biographie Johann Friedrich Bachs und seiner Familie, BJb, xxx (1933), 77
H. Wohlfarth: Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach: Werkverzeichnis, Schaumburg-Lippische Heimalblätter, xi/5 (1960), 1
H. Wohlfarth: Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach, Schaumburg-Lippische Mitteilungen, xvi (1964), 27

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