pleased he would be to have the elder Bach come and pay him a visit; but this wish had never been realized. Frederick was particularly eager for Bach to try out his new Silbermann pianos, which lie (Frederick) correctly foresaw as the great new wave in music.
It was Frederick's custom to have evening concerts of chamber music in his court.
Often he himself would be the soloist in a concerto for flute Here we have reproduced a
painting of such an evening by the German painter Adolph von Menzel, who, in the
1800's, made a series of paintings illustrating the life of Frederick the Great. At the
cembalo is C. P. E. Bach, and the figure furthest to the right is Joachim Quantz, the
King's flute master-and the only person allowed to find fault with the King's flute
playing. One May evening in 1747, an unexpected guest showed up. Johann Nikolaus
Forkel, one of Bach's earliest biographers, tells the story
One evening, just as lie was getting his flute ready, and his musicians were ssembled,
an officer brought him a list of the strangers who had arrived. With his flute in his hand
he ran ever the list, but immediately turned to the assembled musicians, and said, with a
kind of agitation, "Gentlemen, old Bach is come." The Hute was now laid aside, and old
Bach, who had alighted at his son's lodgings, was immediately summoned to the Palace.
Wilhelm Friedemann, who accompanied his father, told me this story, and I must say
that 1 still think with pleasure on the manner in which lie related it. At that time it was
the fashion to make rather prolix compliments. The first appearance of J. S. Bach before
se great a King, who did not even give him time to change his traveling dress for a
black chanter's gown, must necessarily be attended with many apologies. I will net here
dwell en these apologies, but merely observe, that in Wilhelm Friedemann's mouth they
made a formal Dialogue between the King and the Apologist.
But what is mere important than this is that the King gave up his Concert for this evening, and invited Bach, then already called the Old Bach, to try his fortepianos, made by Silbermann, which steed in several rooms of the palace. [Forkel here inserts this footnote: "The pianofortes manufactured by Silbermann, of Frevberg, pleased the King se much, that he resolved to buy them all up. He collected fifteen. I hear that they all now stand unfit for use in various corners of the Royal Palace."] The musicians went with him from room to room, and Bach was invited everywhere to try them and to play unpremeditated compositions. After he had gene en for some time, he asked the King to give him a subject for a Fugue, in order to execute it immediately without any preparation. The King admired the learned manner in which his subject was thus executed extempore: and, probably to see hew far such art t could be carried, expressed a wish to hear a Fugue with six Obligato parts. But as it is not every subject that is fit for such full harmony, Bach chose one himself, and immediately executed it to the astonishment of all present in the same magnificent and learned manner as he had done that of the King. His Majesty desired also to hear his performance en the organ. The next day therefore Bach was taken to all the organs in Potsdam, as lie had before been to Silbermann's fortepianos. After his return to Leipzig, he composed the subject, which he had received from the King, in three and six parts. added several artificial passages in strict canon to it, and had it engraved, under the title of "Musikalisches Opfer" [Musical Offering], and dedicated it to the Inventor.'