Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (22 November 1710, Weimar – 1 July 1784, Berlin), the second child and eldest son of Johann Sebastian Bach and Maria Barbara Bach, was a German composer and performer.
J. S. Bach supervised Friedemann's musical education and career with great attention. At the age of 16 the son went to Merseburg to learn the violin with his teacher Johann Gottlieb Graun. In addition to his musical training, Friedemann received formal schooling beginning in Weimar. When J.S. Bach took the post of Cantor of the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig. On graduating in 1729, Friedemann enrolled as a law student in Leipzig University, but later moved on to study law and mathematics at the University of Halle. He maintained a lifelong interest in mathematics, and continued to study it privately during his first job in Dresden.
Friedemann was appointed in 1733 to the position of organist of the St. Sophia's Church at Dresden. In 1746 he became organist of the Liebfrauenkirche at Halle.
Friedemann was deeply unhappy in Halle almost from the beginning of his tenure. In 1762, he negotiated for the post of Kapellmeister to the court of Darmstadt; although he protracted the negotiations for reasons that are opaque to historians and did not actively take the post, he nevertheless was appointed Hofkapellmeister of Hessen-Darmstadt, a title he used in the dedication of his Harpsichord Concerto in E minor.
In June 1764, Friedemann left the job in Halle without any employment secured elsewhere. He thereafter supported himself by teaching. After leaving Halle in 1770, he lived for several years (1771–1774) in Braunschweig where he applied in vain for the post of an organist at the St. Catherine's church.
Earlier biographers have concluded that his "wayward" and difficult personality reduced his ability to gain and hold secure employment, but the scholar David Schulenberg writes (in the Oxford Composer Companion: J.S. Bach, ed. Malcolm Boyd, 1999) that "he may also have been affected by changing social conditions that made it difficult for a self-possessed virtuoso to succeed in a church- or court-related position" (p. 39). Schulenberg adds, "he was evidently less willing than most younger contemporaries to compose fashionable, readily accessible music".
Friedemann Bach was renowned for his improvisatory skills. His compositions include many church cantatas and instrumental works, of which the most notable are the fugues, polonaises and fantasias for clavier, and the duets for two flutes. He incorporated more elements of the contrapuntal style learned from his father than any of his three composer brothers, but his use of the style has an individualistic and improvisatory edge which endeared his work to musicians of the late 19th century, when there was something of a revival of his reputation.
Friedemann is known occasionally to have claimed credit for music written by his father, but this was in keeping with common musical practices in the era. Despite his acknowledged genius as an organist, improviser and composer, his income and employment were unstable and he died in poverty.
Works for Winds
- Fughetta (arr. Balent) (2012)
- Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music. "Wilhelm Friedemann Bach." Accessed 4 June 2021
- Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Wikipedia Accessed 4 June 2021