The Bach family was an important influence in musical history, boasting more than fifty musicians and composers spanning several generations, and although the four names on this `Bach Sons' 7CD box set only show a small part of the musical works of this family it does give a good representation of how they helped progress the Baroque style of music onwards towards what would eventually develop into the Classical era.
The four sons refer to those of the great Johann Sebastian Bach - he had twenty children in total, seven from his first marriage to Maria Barbara Bach (who died suddenly in 1720) and thirteen from his second marriage to Anna Magdalena Wilcke.
Although all four of them were born in the Baroque era, their birth dates spanned 25 years so their music ranges from the traditional Baroque style inherited from their father to the earliest ventures into the Classical style of Mozart.
Here's a brief biography:
* * * * Wilhelm Friedman Bach 1710 - 1784 * * * *
From Bach senior's first marriage, Wilhelm was the eldest son and probably the most unpredictable, leading a troubled life which alternated between musical success and popularity to erratic and wayward behaviour. As with many composers, he sadly died in great poverty.
Much of his work was not published during his lifetime so has since been lost. He inherited many of his fathers manuscripts, some of which he unfortunately lost and others - even worse - added his signature to and claimed as his own (the organ concerto BWV 596 is now credited back to J.S. Bach).
The set dedicates 1 CD to W.F.'s music - six Sinfonias and a Suite in G minor.
* * * * Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach 1714 - 1788 * * * *
The second of 5 sons from J.S. Bach's marriage to Maria Barbara, C.P.E Bach is perhaps the most respected of them, both during his lifetime and after his death. Mozart is quoted as saying `he is the father, we are the children', Haydn studied his work as part of his musical training and Beethoven, never one to be easily pleased, expressed his admiration and respect for him.
C.P.E Bach is generally considered one of the most prominent composers of the Rococo style (the era between baroque and classical) and one of the founders of the Classical style. After a decline in popularity during the 19th Century his work is now enjoying a deserved revival, with plans for a recording to be made of his complete works.
The set dedicates 3 CDs to C.P.E's music - 5 `Berlin Symphonies', 3 `Cello Concertos' and 3 `Flute Concertos'.
* * * * Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach 1732 - 1795 * * * *
The ninth son of J.S.Bach (from his second marriage), J.C.F was a prolific composer in all genres, but sadly much of his music was lost during the WWII bombing of Berlin. Like his brother C.P.E. he was considered a significant contributor to the development from Baroque to Classical style.
The set dedicates 1 CD to three of his twenty surviving symphonies.
* * * * Johann Christian Bach 1735 - 1782 * * * *
Was the 11th and youngest son of J.S. Bach, and was born into the early Classical era. His music shows a marked difference to his father's style (who was 50 when he was born). He is accredited with influencing the concerto style of Mozart and was generally considered to be the most naturally gifted musician of the Bach sons. He was sometimes called the `London Bach' because of the time he spent in the City.
The set dedicates 2 CDs to five of his symphonies and four Sinfonia Concertante.
In summary, the box set is compact, just 2cm thick, with each CD in a card sleeve showing track times, performers and recording dates. Included is a 24 page booklet (Note: The box cover picture is a reproduction of a painting which is presumed to be that of J.S. Bach (on the left) with three of his sons, although there is some debate whether this is actually the Bach family or another eminent musical family of that period.
An ideal introduction I think to the music of the Bach family.