Notes and Editorial Reviews
C. P. E. BACH
Keyboard Concerto in D,
J. C. BACH
Keyboard Concertos: in D,
Keyboard Concerto in E,
Ralf Gothóni, cond; Anastasia Injushina (pn); Hamburg Camerata
ONDINE 1224 (69: 25)
Here we have a collection of keyboard concertos, as pleasurable for the music and playing it offers as it is instructive for the juxtaposing of works by the father and two of his most famous offspring.
J. S. Bach’s E-Major Keyboard Concerto, like most (or probably all) of his keyboard concertos, is an arrangement in his own hand of a concerto originally composed for a string or wind instrument. In the case of BWV 1053, evidence strongly points to its prior existence as a concerto for oboe or oboe d’amore, in which guise it has been recorded many times. But transference to keyboard was not its only voyage. The first and second movements found their way into the Cantata,
Gott soll allein mein Herze haben
(No. 169), and the third movement found its way into the Cantata,
Ich geh und such mit verlangen
(No. 49), as the opening Sinfonia. In whatever guise it appears, however, the music is recognizable as the work of Johann Sebastian Bach, the father, and as an example of the High German Baroque.
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, second eldest of Sebastian’s surviving sons, was not in quite the same unenviable position as his elder brother, Wilhelm Friedemann, who, as firstborn son, was permanently damaged by an over-strict, demanding father with impossible-to-meet expectations. Philipp Emanuel still felt pressure to continue in his father’s footsteps, but not quite as intensely; and as a result, he was able to stray a bit further from the rigors of contrapuntal technique and adherence to the
and other baroque practices.
While continuing to draw upon what he learned from his father, Philipp also embraced the new
, or “sensitive style,” which promoted greater freedom of expression and flexibility of harmony and rhythm to communicate dramatic intent. Philipp thus becomes an important transitional figure in that gray area between the waning years of the Baroque and the dawning years of the Classical period, approximately 1740–1760. This is clearly reflected in his D-Major Keyboard Concerto heard here, an attractive and charming work that would no more be mistaken for a concerto by Sebastian Bach than it would for a concerto by Mozart, for it lives somewhere in between.
In retrospect, it seems that the farthest fallen apple from the tree is the least sweet. That, in any case, appears to be the judgment history has passed on Johann Christian Bach, Sebastian’s youngest son who was not of the same mother as his elder half-brother. J. C.’s mother was Anna Magdalena. The mother of C. P. E. was Maria Barbara, Sebastian’s first wife. Had Sebastian lived to witness Johann Christian’s fall from grace, he would probably have disowned him or arranged an intervention with Dr. Phil. Imagine the father’s dismay and shame at raising his son in a strict, God-fearing Lutheran home, only to see him go off, first to Italy to convert to Catholicism, and then to London to debase himself in that most immoral and unnatural of pursuits, producing Italian operas and keeping company with castrati. Oh, how Johann Christian fouled the family name! At least he didn’t breed. With J. C. the transition to the Classical period is complete. His two keyboard concertos on this disc take us to the very doorstep of Mozart, and what beautiful portals into that world they are. Unfortunately for J. C., his moment in the sun was shortlived. By the late 1770s, he’d been eclipsed by Mozart and Haydn, and he died in near poverty, the victim of embezzlement by his business manager. But he lost much more than his financial wealth, for history has also rendered its verdict on Johann Christian Bach, robbing him of much of the high regard in which he was once held.
All four of the concertos on this disc have been recorded before, in the case of J. S. Bach’s E-Major Concerto, many, many times. There’s little point in rehashing old arguments over the propriety or impropriety of performing these works on a modern piano. In the case of Christian Bach’s op. 7 concertos, you can hear them in a Philips twofer set played by Ingrid Haebler on a fortepiano with Eduard Melkus leading the period instrument Capella Academica; you can opt to hear some of them on harpsichord and others on fortepiano, played by Anthony Halsted and the Hannover Band; or you can opt to hear them just as effectively and affectionately played on a modern Steinway and modern instruments by Anastasia Injushina and the Hamburg Camerata led by Ralf Gothóni on the current Ondine CD. Performing on harpsichord, Bob van Asperen tackled C. P. E. Bach’s six so-called “Hamburg” concertos (Wq 43) for Virgin Classics in a two-disc set now available at midprice in the label’s Veritas line.
Personally, I like Injushina and Gothóni’s approach to these works. Execution is alert and crisp, with slow movements beautifully shaped and caressed but not overindulged or sentimentalized. Recommended then to general listeners as a sampler of concertos by these three Bach family members, rather than to those who prefer to have these concertos kept together in their respective sets by their respective composers.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Harpsichord in E major, BWV 1053 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Anastasia Injushina (Piano)
Written: circa 1738-1739; Leipzig, Germany
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