Bach, Wilhelm Friedmann


Oldest son of Johann Sebastian Bach. Born at Weimar. Studied with his father and at twelve years of age was an excellent pianist. When fifteen, he began to study the violin under Graun. In 1723 he attended the Thomas School at Leipsic and, in 1729, entered the University where he excelled as a mathematician. He went in 1733 to Dresden as church organist and in 1747 in the same capacity to Halle. From his residence in this place, he became known as "The Halle Bach." Always wild and reckless he became, while at Halle, very dissipated and in 1764 lost his position. After this he lived at Brunswick and at Gottingen, occasionally giving concerts but without any regular line of work and always sinking lower and lower, until in 1784, he died at Berlin in misery and want. The wretched failure he made of his life was all the sadder because of the fact that he was the most gifted musically of all Bach's children and could have done wonderful things if it had not been for his unfortunate weakness of character. As it was, he was the greatest organist of his time; a master of the fugue and a wonderful improviser; and, on account of his thorough knowledge of mathematics, a remarkable musical theorist. He wrote twenty-two cantatas, the best of which are a Peace Cantata; a Pentecost Cantata; and cantatas for Christmas and Advent. He also wrote seventeen sets of instrumental compositions, consisting of many works for the piano and organ as well as for the lute, violin and horn. Many of his works were never printed, because of his indifference in writing them down.