Brilliant Classics’s generous celebration of one of 2014’s principal anniversary composers continues with these three-movement ‘symphonies’ that may not yet have the breadth or weight that later composers of the Classical period would invest in the genre such as we know it now, but still move forward from the kind of pot-pourri sinfonia that would open an opera or function as an incidental intermezzo. In this, as in so much of his output, CPE Bach stands between periods, perhaps hitherto more appreciated for where his music leads than its own qualities and quirks, which are legion: as purveyor of a new ‘Empfindsamer Stil’ or ‘sensitive style’, CPE took the application of rhetorical principles within ‘abstract’ musical narratives toRead more unparalleled heights, with an almost postmodern disregard for the niceties of formal elegance and an apparently unquenchable glee in composing the unexpected. These symphonies are full of unlikely turns, zestful energy and the juxtaposition of curious ideas.
The Dutch conductor Hartmut Haenchen has been a staunch advocate for this music through his career, making pioneering recordings that use ‘traditional’ instruments but speak the composer’s language with tremendous enthusiasm and eloquent understanding.
- Recorded in 1985.
- The complete six so-called “Berliner” symphonies by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, whose 300th birthday is celebrated in 2014.
- C.P.E. was a figure of transition, building a bridge between the Baroque and the Classical style. His symphonies of course lack the formal structures of the classical symphony by Haydn or Mozart, but they are highly personal and original works, full of unexpected turns, surprises, jokes and “affects”.
- Dedicated and spirited performances by Hartmut Haenchen, who leads his C.P.E. Bach Chamber Orchestra in a historically informed way, the orchestra playing on “traditional” instruments.
- ‘Vigorous performances lacking neither in expressive sensibility nor in virtuosity.' (Gramophone)
R E V I E W: 3810210.az_C_P_E_BACH.html C. P. E. BACH Symphonies: in E?, Wq 179; in F, Wq 181; in C, Wq 174; in F, Wq 175; in e, Wq 178 • Hartmut Haenchen, cond; Klaus Kirbach (hpd); C. P. E. Bach CO • BRILLIANT 94777 (53: 03)
Many years ago, in the early 1990s, I acquired wonderful performances of C. P. E. Bach symphonies with this same conductor and orchestra—the symphonies in G, Wq 180; in G, Wq 182/1; in C, Wq 182/3; and in A, Wq 182/4. I found them full of life, sparkling, energetic, and beautifully articulated. The same can be said of this disc which, since it was recorded in 1985, may have been part of the same series. In fact, I found these performances to be much better than the ones of much the same symphonies by Christian Zacharias and the Orchestra de Chambre Lausanne on MDG Gold 9401824, which I reviewed in Fanfare 37:5. (The Zacharias disc contained the symphonies Wq 174, 175, and 178–81.) Haenchen just has that much more sparkle and a more enlivened rhythmic sense than Zacharias in much of the same material. The highest compliment I can pay to Haenchen and his orchestra is that not only do they not sound like a typical historically informed orchestra of nowadays, i.e., whining, droning strings and winds that sound like a MIDI, but one doesn’t even pay attention to the sound of the orchestra because the sound of the music is so thrilling. At every turn, Haenchen and his forces make so much of the music that it just keeps you engrossed and never lets go.
Of course, the problem with listening to so many C. P. E. Bach symphonies in a row is that the music is so complex, and so densely written, that it almost strains the mind’s ability to assimilate everything that’s going on. His music is generally melodic but never tuneful in the easy way that Haydn and Mozart are tuneful. He made very few concessions to popular tastes, included more modulations and unusual turns of phrase, and kept the musical progression moving in unusual ways, which is why he was so highly regarded by his peers as well as composers who came after him but not necessarily by the general public. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be great when being merely very good will do just fine.
The sonics are a bit on the reverberant side, but never so much that the sound obscures the clarity of the instruments. I highly recommend this disc although, if you already acquired the Zacharias CD, you may not want to replace it. Zacharias’s performances, though a shade less dynamic, are certainly very good ones, and the MDG sonics are simply spectacular.
OutstandingJune 7, 2014By Henry S. (Springfield, VA)See All My Reviews"I think that Arkivmusic's professional critics' comments on this excellent compact disk are on target, and I wholeheartedly agree that this is a recording which really deserves a listen. According the CD booklet notes, the 5 symphonies presented here, all of them in the transitional 3-movement format, come from the 1750's and 1760's, which essentially puts them close to the 'boundary' between Baroque and Classical Era works. Frankly, this is an academic consideration, and does little to suggest the sparkling energy and magnificently innovative melodies which CPE Bach brought to bear in these symphonies. The Bach Chamber Orchestra (about which the CD notes say nothing at all) is an excellent ensemble, clearly small in size but nimble and razor sharp in their interpretation. Licensed from a mid-1980's German label recording, Brilliant Classics has remastered these symphonies superbly, and the resultant sound quality is great. So go ahead and indulge yourself with this recording, part of the CPE Bach bicentennial of his birth. Highly recommended."Report Abuse