The genius of Johann Sebastian Bach often overshadows the achievements of his four prodigiously talented sons, all of whom played a crucial role in further advancing music’s development during the 18th century. Johann Christian, the youngest, was indeed among the most pivotal composers of his day, his move to Italy in 1755 precipitating a noticeable change in style that, known as the galant, looked forward to the soon-to-emerge Classical period. In 1762 the composer moved to London, where he soon acquired the title “English Bach”. Among his admirers was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who studied and later arranged a number of the German maestro’s works.
Something of a keyboard virtuoso, J.C. Bach was the first to champion the newly invented fortepiano in concert, and his set of Six Sonatas Op.5 (1766) – the subject of this engaging release – was the first publication to mention both the fortepiano and harpsichord as performance options on the title page. Clearly the composer wanted to showcase his multi-faceted skills in the opus; the works not only grow in scope as the collection progresses, but also display the widest possible range of compositional manners and characters. From the singing galant style of the early numbers to the grand Baroque fugue in the last, French-oriented, sonata – a clear allusion to the past, but a ‘modern’ take in view of the right hand’s countless doubled thirds – this collection is packed full of virtuosity, poise and bravura – a set truly befitting of a composer who would later became music master to the English royal family.
At hand to perform this delightful collection is one of today’s leading fortepianists, renowned Dutch keyboardist Bart van Oort. The set is a welcome follow-up to van Oort’s previous recording for Brilliant Classics – Mozart’s Complete Keyboard Music (94198) – giving voice to a composer who was instrumental in bringing the fortepiano to public attention. More J.C. Bach is in the Brilliant Classics pipeline, too, with van Oort’s recording of Six Sonatas Op.17 set for release in February 2014.
- Recorded 8 February & 24 June 2013, Capuchin Monastery, Velp, The Netherlands.
- Johann Christian Bach, the youngest son of the great Johann Sebastian, went into history as the “English Bach”. He became one of the most important musicians and composers in London the 2nd half of the 18th century, ultimately gaining the desirable post of music master of the Queen.
- Johann Christian was the embodiment of the “Galante Stil”, graceful, tuneful and brilliant music composed to entertain and please. Mozart was a great admirer of him, and transcribed some of his sonatas as mini piano concertos.
- Johann Christian introduced the fortepiano as the new instrument “en vogue”, rather than the old fashioned harpsichord.
- Bart van Oort, a specialist on the fortepiano with an international reputation, plays these sonatas with scintillating clearness and charm, on a copy of a Walther fortepiano from 1795.
- Contains excellent liner notes written by musicologist Sylvia Berry.