Mrs. Papendiek on Johann Christian Bach

Johann Christian Bach, from the portrait by Gainsborough.

Johann Christian Bach. From the portrait by Gainsborough in the Liceo Musicale, Bologna.


[1774] ... The [school]masters were: for French, Mons. Giffadìere; for drawing, Mons. Denoyer; for writing, Mr. Roberts, a relation of Mrs. Trimmer's; and for music, our dear and valued friend, Johann Christian Bach. He also gave lessons to the Queen; and of evenings, by appointment, he attended the King's accompaniment to the pianoforte by the flute. He had a house at Richmond, where my father visited him, and cultivated a lasting friendship.

These practices led to private quartett parties twice a week, assisted by Abel, the celebrated viola-di-gamba player; Cramer, the violinist; and Fischer, the oboe player. ...

[1776] ... I will here relate an anecdote of Bach's wonderful powers while in his zenith. He still kept up his agreeable establishment at Richmond, and on Wednesdays Abel usually came down to a tête-à-tête dinner, to look over their productions for the morrow; as it was settled by these two that they should at the practices on Thursdays alternately produce something new, either of their own composition or adapted by them. On one occasion Bach had totally forgotten that it was his turn, so after dinner he sat down and wrote an enchanting first movement of a quintett in three flats. He sent off for two copyists, who wrote down the parts from score over his shoulders, while he wrote the melody. This quintett is ranked among the best of his compositions, and the melody is sweetly soothing. In that day three movements formed a piece of music, and about half an hour or a little more was the space of time required for the performance of it. ...


Excerpt from Court and Private Life in the Time of Queen Charlotte: being the Journals of Mrs Papendiek, Assistant Keeper of the Wardrobe and Reader to Her Majesty. Edited by Mrs Vernon Delves Broughton. London, 1887. (2 v.), v.1, p. 64-65, 76-77.


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