The Bach family of musicians comprises a dynasty that effectively spanned more than 200 years of composition. Johann Sebastian stands at the top of the hierarchy, but what do we know about the family’s other members?
This release offers us a chance to become acquainted with the work of the German maestro’s four sons, revealing the ample talent of a generation that played a crucial role in further advancing music’s development over the course of the 18th century. The collection begins with Carl Philipp Emanuel, the most boldly innovative and original, best known for his large collection of harpsichord works (it is therefore refreshing to hear some of his other music on this set, namely his Berlin and Hamburg Symphonies, his Flute Concertos and works for organ). From CD5 the youngest son, Johann Christian, takes over the musical reins, his distinct, Classical-bound style (no doubt influenced by his studies in Italy) much in evidence in his Sinfonia Concertante (here are four of the 18 he wrote) and his Six Sonatas Op.5 – the first publication to mention both the fortepiano, of which he was a great champion, and harpsichord as performance options. From the youngest son to the eldest: the set moves on to Wilhelm Friedemann, one of the main forerunners of the Empfindsamkeit. And yet contemporary critics took an ill-judged view of his music, seeing him a continuation of his father and not enough of a clean break – something which this set, featuring his radical harpsichord concertos, is able to refute. The compilation concludes with a CD devoted to the music of Johann Christoph Bach, without doubt the least-known of the Bach sons. Probably the least progressive, too, his music still reflects the stylistic developments of the latter half of the 18th century – his Symphony in B flat HW1 No.20, for example, written a few months before his death in 1795, assimilates elements of the prevailing Viennese style.
At a bargain €22, this 10CD box should not be forgone. The release features an array of period-performance ensembles and artists who have made the music of Bach their primary study – such names include the ‘Kammerorchester Carl Philipp Emanuel’ under esteemed director Haenchen and the renowned Leipzig group Neues Bachisches Collegium Musicum.
- Recordings made between 1985 and 2009.
- Such was the genius and all encompassing musical substance of the great Johann Sebastian Bach that it was unavoidable that his genes would have a strong imprint on the musical abilities of his offspring. Indeed several of his sons became more than accomplished composers, each of them going their own musical way: Carl Philipp Emmanuel finding new expression in dramatic “Sturm und Drang”, Johann Christian opting for “Stile Galante”, Wilhelm Friedemann’s highly personal style paving the way for the Romantics, and Johann Christoph Friedrich, finding a style akin to Boccherini’s charm and elegance.
- This set offers a fascinating “family picture”, witness of an important period in Western music history, and a wealth of immensely enjoyable music!
- Excellent performances, mainly on the basis of “historically informed Performance Practice”.
- Sung texts and extensive liner notes available at www.brilliantclassics.com.