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The First Son of a Genius

Introducing the music of J.S. Bach's first - and most notoriously wayward - son.


Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-1784) was the first son of arguably the greatest composer who ever lived, JS Bach. How could he ever live up to his father?

Indeed, in the decades after his death, Friedemann Bach gained a notorious reputation as the "black sheep Bach" - a man who had frittered away the vast talent and opportunities that had come his way. Remembered by contemporaries as a difficult, arrogant man, he ended his life in abject poverty, never enjoying the success, or critical acclaim of JS Bach's other sons, Carl Phillip Emmanuel and Johann Christian - both now regarded as great composers in their own right.

And yet...Friedemann Bach's surviving music is arguably more fascinating and original than any of the Bach sons. Though barely 100 works remain, they're full of raw expressive sweeps, strange, bittersweet lyricism and with a naked, mercurial quality that prefigures the tormented artist-creators of the Romantic Era.

This week, Donald Macleod allows us a rare glimpse at W.F. Bach's life and legacy, in conversation with the Bach scholar David Schulenberg - featuring a number of Friedemann Bach's concerti, flute duets, cantatas and compositions for solo keyboard. They unpick what makes "the black sheep" of the Bach family so intriguing - both musically and historically - and unpeel the layers of anecdote, misinformation and outright lies that have affected Friedemann Bach's reputation for nearly three centuries.

Release date:

1 hour

Last on

Mon 18 Feb 2013 18:30

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