His Times: Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach is the full name of the second surviving son of one of history’s most influential composers: Johannes Sebastian Bach (the Bach that people mean when they just say “Bach”). The music of his day was transforming from the established Baroque style into the beginnings of the Classical style. In response to the almost overwhelming complexity of the late Baroque era, composers were starting to focus on simple harmonic function. Carl’s music was regarded as part of a brief movement in this transitionary period called the “Sensitive Style” which was intended to convey “natural” feelings and dramatic contrast, and he was one of the first prolific composers ever to take this approach.
His Music: Carl is most well-known for his symphonies, of which his Symphony in D major is his most popular for exhibiting some of the compositional traits became known for, for example extreme unpredictability. Aside from his symphonies, Carl was an avid composer of keyboard sonatas, writing more keyboard music during his lifetime than anything else. One of his more unusual endeavours was his 30 original pieces written for mechanical music boxes which had emerged as a new novelty in the Prussian Court where he worked for a long time.
Himself: Carl was born in Weimar and was encouraged by his father to pursue a University education (as this often was a major factor in how professional musicians were treated). He studied Jurisprudence at the University of Leipzig, and Frankfurt-on-the-Oder, however he showed no interest in actually going into a law-based career; instead he devoted himself to music as soon as he finished his education.