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Bach, Johann (John) Christian (the “London” Bach)

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Bach, Johann (John) Christian (the “London” Bach), llth and youngest surviving son of Johann Sebastian; b. Leipzig, Sept. 5, 1735; d. London, Jan. 1, 1782. He received early instruction in music from his father, after whose death in 1750 he went to Berlin to study with his brother Carl Philipp Emanuel. In 1754 he went to Italy, where he continued his studies with Padre Martini and also found a patron in Count Agostino Litta of Milan. He converted to the Roman Catholic faith in order to be able to obtain work, and became one of the organists at the Cathedral in Milan (1760–62). He also traveled throughout the country and composed several successful operas during his stay in Italy. In 1762 he went to England, where his highly acclaimed opera Orione was given its premiere in London on Feb. 19, 1763. In 1764 he was appointed music master to the Queen. From 1764 to 1781 he gave, together with C.F. Abel, a series of London concerts. When child Mozart was taken to London in 1764, Bach took great interest in him and improvised with him at the keyboard. Mozart retained a lifelong affection for him, and used three of Bach’s piano sonatas as thematic material for his piano concertos. Bach was a highly prolific composer, numbering among his works some 90 syms., several piano concertos, six quintets, a Piano Sextet, violin sonatas, and numerous piano sonatas. In his music he adopted the style galant of the second half of the 18 th century, with an emphasis on expressive “affects” and brilliance of instrumental display. He thus totally departed from the ideals of his father, and became historically a precursor of the Classical era as exemplified by the works of Mozart. Although he was known mainly as an instrumental composer, Bach also wrote successful operas, most of them to Italian librettos; among them were Artaserse (Turin, Dec. 26, 1760), Catone in Utica (Naples, Nov. 4, 1761), Alessandro nelV Indie (Naples, Jan. 20, 1762), Orione, ossia Diana vendicata (London, Feb. 19, 1763), Zanaida (London, May 7, 1763), Adriano in Siria (London, Jan. 26, 1765), Carattaco (London, Feb. 14, 1767), Temistocle (Mannheim, Nov. 4, 1772), Lucio Silla (Mannheim, Nov. 5, 1776), La clemenza di Scipione (London, April 4, 1778), and Amadis de Gaule (Paris, Dec. 14, 1779). See E. Warburton, general ed., J.C . B., 1735–1782: The Collected Works (48 vols., N.Y., 1988–95).

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