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Wilhelm Friedemann Bach

Updated on January 22, 2011

1710-1784

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach was a German musician and composer, the eldest son of Johann Sebastian Bach. He was born at Weimar in November 1710. His early musical training was under the guidance of his father, who used such works as his own Well-Tempered Clavier to instruct Wilhelm. In 1733 the younger Bach was appointed organist at the Sophia Church in Dresden, a position that afforded him an opportunity to compose, teach, and study.

In 1746 he left Dresden for the post of organist and music director at the Church of Our Lady in Halle. He remained there until 1764.

Despite his recognized musical talent, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach had a difficult disposition and many eccentricities, so that during the last 20 years of his life he was employed only irregularly and he lived in poverty and unhappiness.

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach died in Berlin on July 1, 1784.

The keyboard compositions of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach include seven chorale preludes and three fugues for the organ, as well as numerous fantasies, fugues, preludes, and sonatas for the clavier. His orchestral works include nine symphonies and several concertos for clavier and orchestra. His church music consists of 21 cantatas and a mass (Deutsche Messe).

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