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J.c. Bach: Symphonies Opp. 6, 9 & 18 / Zinman, Netherland Chamber Orchestra

Bach / Nco / Zinman
Release Date: 05/31/2011 
Label:  Newton Classics   Catalog #: 8802065   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Johann Christian Bach
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 25 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



J. C. BACH Symphonies: op. 6/1–6; op. 9/1–3; op. 18/1–6. La calamita: Overture David Zinman, cond; Netherlands CO NEWTON 8802065 (2 CDs 145:39)


For more than 300 years the Bach family was a dominant force—if not the dominant force—in German musical life; of the 80-plus members of this family, all but a dozen or so went into the family business. Some of them were Read more privileged to hold some of the most prestigious musical posts in their homeland while others were more or less content to labor in less prominent and less fulfilling positions.


Johann Christian Bach (1735–82) was the youngest surviving son of the most famous of the Bachs, Johann Sebastian. He was only 15 when his father died, so he went to Berlin to live with his older brother Carl Philipp Emmanuel. It was here that the young Bach came in contact with opera, and as the saying goes, it was all downhill from there. He left his native soil for Italy, becoming organist at the Milan cathedral in 1760. But his interest in opera resulted in his eventual abandonment of the organ loft and, following success in Turin and Naples, he again moved, this time to London following the commissioning of two operas for the King’s Theater in the Haymarket. He never returned to Milan, dying in England at the age of 47, poverty-stricken and forgotten.


In the mid 1760s, however, Christian Bach’s music took yet another direction as a result of joining forces with Carl Friedrich Abel. The result was a series of exclusive concerts that began in the Great Room at Spring Gardens and ended in 1775 at the Hanover Square Rooms (a venue that was London’s premiere indoor hall until the facilities fell to the wrecking ball in 1900). For these concerts, Christian Bach produced symphonies, simphonies concertantes , and concertos for a variety of instruments.


The symphonies on this two-disc release are representative of the music heard in the Bach-Abel concerts as well as in the London pleasure gardens like Vauxhall. Each symphony is in the fast-slow-fast format of the Italian opera sinfonia; some use material from several of Christian Bach’s opera overtures, others are from entirely new material, and still others combine the two sources. The most striking music is found in the odd-numbered symphonies in the op. 18 set. These exhibit the influence of the so-called Mannheim School, incorporating devices and techniques that were developed at the court of Elector Carl Theodore. Also, they were written for two orchestras, positioned at opposite sides of the stage. Both used strings, but the first added oboes and horns while the second supplemented the string section with flutes. The result must have been striking for the audience and still surprises with much effect today.


These performances date from 1976 and 1977 and were notable then for crisp articulation and energy, as well as their brisk tempos. For a while they owned the market, but a number of years later Naxos introduced the material heard here as well as the half-dozen op. 3 symphonies of Christian Bach by the Camerata Budapest under Hans-Peter Gmür, and the German label cpo entered the arena with striking period-instrument readings by Anthony Halstead and the Hanover Band.


I developed a quick liking for the Zinman recordings when they were originally released and am still partial to them. Even though there is a certain amount of suavity found in the Naxos readings, they lack Zinman’s passion and energetic approach, characteristics that I also found in Halstead’s discs. All three sets will still have a home in my library, but if I want to listen to modern instruments combined with edge-of-the-seat excitement and committed presentation, then I will go for Zinman and the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra.


FANFARE: Michael Carter

Many people’s reaction to the name J.C. Bach is, or at least used to be, one of “charming, but little more”. I wonder whether this reaction would have been the same if it were not for the implied comparison with the music of his father. If instead the comparison were to be with his contemporaries, even with the young Mozart or the Haydn of this period, I suspect that the verdict would have been much more favourable. The works on this disc are certainly full of charm, but there is also a solid musical imagination behind them, as well as the compositional technique you would expect from a member of this distinguished family. They may not reach the heights of Mozart or Haydn’s final works in this genre but they do have a character of their own which makes them in every way comparable in stature with the earlier works of those composers.
 
These two well filled discs give the whole of three published sets of Symphonies. Not the whole of his Symphonies - that would need at least twice as many discs - but more than enough to show the scale and variety of his achievement. Only one is in a minor key throughout - Op. 6 No. 6 in G minor. It was published in 1770, three years before Mozart’s Symphony K183 and just after Haydn’s Symphony No 39, both in the same key. It has some similarities with the restless energy of those works, especially in its last movement, but its main glory is the slow movement, an Andante più tosto adagio for strings alone. This has a character that goes far beyond charm but is quite different to the comparable movements in Mozart’s or Haydn’s works. Listening to these Symphonies in succession - as I would hope normally only a reviewer might do, it quickly becomes apparent that even given such technical hurdles as a predominance of major keys, in particular of D and B flat major, and of three movement structures, the composer manages to produce a wide variety of character for both individual movements and for entire works. This is especially a feature of the Op. 18 set, three of which are written for double orchestra. Two groups of string players are supplemented by oboes and horns and by flutes respectively, giving additional opportunities for changes of texture of which the composer takes great advantage. These are an especial delight, with the slow movements as usual being especially characterful.
 
The performances and recordings on these discs are obviously of their period, but unless you insist on period instruments in the most up to date recordings you are unlikely to be disappointed with the results. They are fully comparable with recordings of similar works at that period by, say, the English Chamber Orchestra or the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, and Zinman keeps a good balance between grace and forcefulness. For listeners wanting a good sample of J.C. Bach’s style these discs would make a good choice. David Threasher in his helpful notes reminds us that Mozart wrote to his father in 1782 “I suppose you have heard that the English Bach is dead? What a loss to the musical world!”. These discs make it clear how right Mozart was in that judgement. There is much enjoyment to be had here; charm certainly, but much more than that.
 
-- John Sheppard, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Symphonies (6), Op. 6: no 1 in G major by Johann Christian Bach
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1770 
Date of Recording: 09/1976 
Length: 7 Minutes 26 Secs. 
2. Symphonies (6), Op. 6: no 2 in D major by Johann Christian Bach
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1770 
Date of Recording: 09/1976 
Length: 7 Minutes 32 Secs. 
3. Symphonies (6), Op. 6: no 3 in E flat major by Johann Christian Bach
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1770 
Date of Recording: 09/1976 
Length: 15 Minutes 34 Secs. 
4. Symphonies (6), Op. 6: no 4 in B flat major by Johann Christian Bach
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1770 
Date of Recording: 09/1976 
Length: 6 Minutes 12 Secs. 
5. Symphonies (6), Op. 6: no 5 in E flat major by Johann Christian Bach
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1770 
Date of Recording: 09/1976 
Length: 7 Minutes 55 Secs. 
6. Symphony for orchestra "No. 17a" in B flat major ("Sieber No. 2"), CW C17a by Johann Christian Bach
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1767 
Date of Recording: 12/1974 
Length: 8 Minutes 11 Secs. 
7. Grand Overtures (6), Op. 18: no 4 in D major by Johann Christian Bach
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1781 
Date of Recording: 06/1975 
Length: 9 Minutes 33 Secs. 
8. Grand Overtures (6), Op. 18: no 6 in D major by Johann Christian Bach
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1781 
Date of Recording: 06/1975 
Length: 8 Minutes 6 Secs. 
9. Grand Overtures (6), Op. 18: no 1 in E flat major for Double Orchestra by Johann Christian Bach
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1779; London, England 
Date of Recording: 09/1974 
Length: 11 Minutes 28 Secs. 
10. Grand Overtures (6), Op. 18: no 3 in D major for Double Orchestra by Johann Christian Bach
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1781 
Date of Recording: 09/1974 
Length: 11 Minutes 20 Secs. 
11. Grand Overtures (6), Op. 18: no 5 in E major for Double Orchestra by Johann Christian Bach
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1781 
Date of Recording: 09/1974 
Length: 15 Minutes 25 Secs. 
12. Symphonies (3), Op. 9: no 1 in B flat major by Johann Christian Bach
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Netherlands (Holland 
Date of Recording: 09/1976 
Length: 8 Minutes 41 Secs. 
13. Symphonies (3), Op. 9: no 2 in E flat major by Johann Christian Bach
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Netherlands (Holland 
Date of Recording: 09/1976 
Length: 11 Minutes 41 Secs. 
14. Zanaida: Overture by Johann Christian Bach
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1763; London, England 
Date of Recording: 09/1976 
Length: 5 Minutes 31 Secs. 
15. La calamità de' cuori: Overture by Johann Christian Bach
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1763; London, England 
Date of Recording: 09/1976 
Length: 4 Minutes 39 Secs. 

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