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"One must play from the soul ....: How music sounded and instrument making in C. P. E. Bach's times"
Installation view of the exhibition. Photo: Michaela Hille.

HAMBURG.- To mark the 300th anniversary of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s (1714–1788) birth, the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg is putting on an exhibition with musical instruments from the Late Baroque and the Age of Sensibility. “One must play from the soul, and not like a bird trained to perform on cue”. This is how Bach describes the way in which music was apprehended in his epoch in his celebrated treatise “Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments” (Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen). In 1768, following in the footsteps of his godfather Georg Philipp Telemann, the second eldest son of Johann Sebastian Bach takes office as municipal Director of Music and cantor at the Johanneum in Hamburg , thus also becoming director musices of the five principal churches of Hamburg. An artist renowned all over Europe and one of the most eminent musicians of the eighteenth century, Bach lives in Hamburg up to his death in 1788. Here he participates in a lively social and intellectual exchange with artists and scholars of the Enlightenment such Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, Matthias Claudius, Johann Georg Büsch (who among other things founded the Patriotische Gesellschaft), Johann Albert Heinrich Reimarus and others. The exhibitions shows some 25 masterpieces of instrument making in Hamburg, including richly decorated string and plucked instruments from the workshop of Joachim Tielke as well as clavichords and harpsichords made in Hamburg by the workshops of Hass and Zell. On public view for the first time in this exhibition will also be a double-bass dating from 1657 by Christoff Fleischer. It was discovered by lucky chance a few years ago and is the oldest musical instrument from Hamburg bearing a date.

The exhibition gives an overview of the life and works of C. P. E. Bach as well as an account of his time as harpsichordist at the court of Friedrich II (Frederick the Great) in Berlin and in particular of his later Hamburg years. It also traces the development of musical culture in the wealthy middle-class of the eighteenth century. Bach’s sonatas for the clavier were intended for a bourgeois audience and enjoyed great popularity. The framework of the exhibition spans a period exceeding that of Bach’s lifetime and traces lines of traditional instrument making, especially in Hamburg, reaching back into the second half of the seventeenth century.

A vivid and colourful introduction to the period and its instruments is provided by an extensive range of multi-media presentations which has been compiled in cooperation with Prof. Frank Böhme and the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg. The sounds people heard in the time of Bach’s son can be experienced here: young musicians play works by the “Hamburg Bach” and his contemporaries in twenty films with music. They bring to life again the sonorities of the historical instruments, which in some cases have not been played for decades. Visitors can listen to the pieces via audio and video clips and immerse themselves in the period. Concerts and lectures complete the programme. Some of the material produced for the exhibition will be taken over into the planned modular media available in connection with the collection of musical instruments when the exhibition is finished.

To mark the anniversary, the cities where Bach lived or was active - Weimar, Leipzig, Frankfurt/Oder, Berlin, Potsdam and Hamburg - are organizing a wide-ranging programme of concerts and events under the motto “300 Years of C. P. E. Bach – Tricentenary 2014”.

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