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Bach, begetting more and more Bach

J. S. Bach. Rischgitz/Getty Images
David Deveau and Peter Serkin (pictured) will perform works by J. S. Bach.Kathy Chapman

On Friday, the Rockport Chamber Music Festival opens its 32d season with a gala concert featuring Rockport Music artistic director David Deveau and fellow pianist Peter Serkin performing Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 1060 and BWV 1061 concerti for two keyboards and orchestra. The works were probably conceived in a spirit of nepotism: opportunities for Bach’s sons, musicians as well, to pick up performance experience at the outset of their careers.

The Bach family produced six generations of professional musicians across nearly three centuries, beginning with Johannes Bach (1550-1616), J. S. Bach’s great-grandfather; the last of the line was Johann Sebastian’s grandson, Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach (1759-1845). W. F. E. Bach worked in London and, later, Berlin, where he served as pianist and kapellmeister to two Prussian queens. He contributed his own idiosyncratic entry in the multiple-keyboardist genre: “ Das Dreyblatt” (“The Trefoil”), for three pianists at one instrument: a (presumably male) teacher, who sits in the middle, and two (presumably female) students, on either side.


The teacher’s part is, nevertheless, written at the keyboard’s extreme ends, making the piece a particularly outrageous example of the old trick of using crossed hands to initiate flirtatious contact among the performers.

In 1843, W. F. E. Bach, contentedly retired and forgotten, turned up in Leipzig for the dedication of a memorial to his famous grandfather. Neither of the memorial’s two most high-profile advocates — Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann — had known of his existence.

Rockport Chamber Music Festival, 978-546-7391,

Matthew Guerrieri can be reached at