C.P.E Bach was one of the leading clavier players in Europe and also an established composer for his instrument. He stated in his autobiography, ‘for composition and keyboard-playing I have never had any teacher other than my father’. His success was based on his precision and beauty of sound; he was also an expert at conveying emotion. Charles Burney wrote that ‘he grew so animated and possessed. His eyes were fixed, his underlip fell, and drops of effervescence distilled his countenance’. He received employment under the prince of Prussia in Berlin and in 1740 he officially became a member of the royal household upon the prince’s accession to king.
In 1746, C.P.E Bach became a chamber musician along with Carl Heinrich Graun, Johann Joachim Quantz and Johann Gottlieb Naumann. Frederick II of Prussia was a great fan of music and also a relatively accomplished flautist. Together with his court orchestra, he performed concertos nearly every evening, except on opera nights.
His reputation as a composer grew with his two sets of sonatas dedicated to Frederick the Great and the grand duke of Württemberg, respectively. His father’s influence was unavoidable, and C.P.E’s Magnificat shows significant similarities to his father’s style. While in Berlin he also wrote an Easter Cantata, symphonies, concert works, three volumes of songs, occasional pieces and secular cantatas. Though successful in these genres, he preferred writing for his own instrument and during this time he composed nearly 200 sonatas and solos, the most impressive of which come from the Mit veränderten Reprisen (1760-1768) and the Sonaten für Kenner und Liebhaber.