Johann Christian Bach (September 5, 1735 – January 1, 1782) was a composer of the Classical era, the eleventh and youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach. He is sometimes referred to as ‘the London Bach’ or ‘the English Bach’, due to his time spent living in the British capital. He is noted for influencing the concerto style of Mozart.
Johann Christian Bach was born to Johann Sebastian and Anna Magdalena Bach in Leipzig, Germany. His distinguished father was already 50 at the time of his birth, which would perhaps contribute to the sharp differences between his music and that of his father. Even so, his father first instructed him in music until he died. After his father’s death, when Johann Christian was 15, he worked with his second oldest brother Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, twenty-one years his senior, and considered at the time to be the most musically gifted of Bach’s sons.
He enjoyed a promising career, first as a composer then as a performer playing alongside Carl Friedrich Abel, the notable player of the viola da gamba. He composed cantatas, chamber music, keyboard and orchestral works, operas and symphonies.
Bach lived in Italy for many years starting in 1756, studying with Padre Martini in Bologna. He became organist at the Milan cathedral in 1760. During his time in Italy he converted from Lutheranism to Catholicism. In 1762, Bach travelled to London to première three operas at the King’s Theatre, including Orione on 19 February 1763. This established his reputation in England, and he became music master to Queen Charlotte.
He met soprano Cecilia Grassi in 1766 and married her shortly thereafter. She was his junior by eleven years. They had no children.
Johann Christian Bach died in London on New Year’s Day, 1782.
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