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J.C.F. Bach: Concerti / Goltz, Freiburg Baroque Orchestra

Bach / Barockorchester / Schornsheim / Goltz
Release Date: 04/13/2010 
Label:  Carus   Catalog #: 83306   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  J. C. F. Bach
Performer:  Christine Schornsheim
Conductor:  Gottfried Von der Goltz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Freiburg Baroque Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 17 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

J. C. F. BACH Symphonies: in G, BR C 23/Wf I/15; in B? BR C 28/Wf I/20. Piano Concerto in E? BR C 43/Wf II/5 Gottfried von der Gotz, cond; Christine Schornsheim (pn); Freiburg Baroque O (period instruments) CARUS 83.306 (77: 35)

There is always one member of a family who conforms to Garrison Keillor’s “Daily Almanac” admonition of “be good, do good work, and Read more keep in touch.” This generally is the child who has a stable job, is moderately successful, doesn’t strive for the limelight, and holds family members together. In the family of Johann Sebastian Bach, this person was his son Johann Christoph Friedrich (1732–1795), who from the age of 18 held a post at the court of the dukes of Schaumburg-Lippe at Bückeburg, was promoted eventually to concertmaster and then Kapellmeister, became involved with influential poets such as J. G. Herder, and finally was the only member of a wide-ranging family to actually visit his siblings in their sometimes far-flung abodes. He was the good guy, the one who sought no particular acclaim and created no particular controversy through his work or stable lifestyle, and as a consequence was the last of the Bach brothers to pass away. The only bad moments in his life appear to have been when his son-in-law was fired for disloyalty and when his own brothers died. It would seem an idyllic life, and one might expect that his own music would be similar, rising only to a medium level with no real pretensions.

Nothing can be further from the truth. Thanks to his patron’s deep love of the arts, individualism was encouraged, and Bach found that he, like Haydn, had a freedom to explore new ideas in his works. This disc presents some of the final fruits of this environment, a pair of symphonies and a concerto for fortepiano and orchestra, all dating from the last five years of his life. They show him to have been a progressive and individualistic composer, a far cry from what one might expect from such a solid personality. The two symphonies are among a half dozen that he apparently wrote during this time, most of which have been lost. The G-Major Symphony, indeed, exists only because some German musicologist made a score around 1925 or so. Both are in four- movement format, and both have slow introductions to the first movement. The G-Major work begins in G Minor, lending a somber note to the vivacious main section. Of particular note in both works are the slow movements. The aforementioned work has a lilting pastoral with oboes above a pizzicato string central section (and later the strings are directed to soften things considerably by adding mutes). The B?-Symphony is more traditional, but here too the solo winds, consisting of a flute, clarinets, bassoons, and horns, predominate, lending the work a concertante atmosphere. Other striking examples of Bach’s work come in the use of sudden virtuoso horn solos in the Rondo of the G Major, and a rolling series of woodwind triplets in the Minuet of the second work. This is certainly on par with Haydn’s London symphonies in terms of colorful idiomatic writing, particularly for the winds.

The real treasure, however, is the concerto. Bach described it himself as a concerto grosso, though that should only be taken literally—it is indeed a huge work (with nothing at all to identify it with the Baroque genre of the same name), with a long and elaborate orchestral ritornello in the opening movement that I would swear has a close resemblance to that of Mozart’s “Haffner” Symphony. The fortepiano part is elaborate, and though there is a predominance of scales and arpeggios in the part, the nice lyrical bits and the integration of the solo with the sensitive orchestral accompaniment also brings to mind Mozart’s best achievements in the genre. Of particular beauty is the lamento-like Romanza second movement with its stately siciliano rhythms. In short, these are all quality works on an equal level to the Viennese composers that we all love. Indeed, it is a pity that Bach was not chosen to represent a rival to Haydn in London instead of Pleyel; his music would have provided a much more interesting comparison of styles each developed in relative isolation.

I’ve always like the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra. For the past two decades it has maintained a reputation for good, expressive, and competent recordings. I am particularly fond of its interpretations, which often blend clear but not overbearing performance practices with an excellent understanding of the music being played. This recording is no exception. The musicians are light on the touch where necessary, the woodwind parts are crisp and clear (such as the fast triplets in the minuet of the B?-Major Symphony), and the tempos are just flexible enough to bring out the nuances in the music. Christine Schornsheim’s playing in the concerto is likewise detailed; she blends nicely with the orchestra, never overshadowing it, and comes out at the necessary moments with a finely nuanced style of playing that is never mechanical or sloppy. My only complaint is that the sound seems a tad warm in the middle registers, but that is probably a result of the editing process. If you really want music that will make you sit up and take notice, performed in a manner that does it justice, then I would highly recommend this disc.

FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
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Works on This Recording

Sinfonia ŕ 8 in G major, Wf. 1/15 (BR C 23) by J. C. F. Bach
Performer:  Christine Schornsheim (Fortepiano)
Conductor:  Gottfried Von der Goltz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Freiburg Baroque Orchestra
Written: 1793 
Venue:  Paulus-Saal, Freiburg 
Length: 25 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Concerto grosso in E flat major, Wf. 2/5 (BR C 43) by J. C. F. Bach
Performer:  Christine Schornsheim (Fortepiano)
Conductor:  Gottfried Von der Goltz
Written: 1792 
Venue:  Paulus-Saal, Freiburg 
Length: 28 Minutes 53 Secs. 
Symphony no 20 in B flat major, HW 1 no 20 by J. C. F. Bach
Performer:  Christine Schornsheim (Fortepiano)
Conductor:  Gottfried Von der Goltz
Period: Baroque 
Written: Bückeburg, Germany 
Venue:  Paulus-Saal, Freiburg 
Length: 22 Minutes 12 Secs. 

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