Have you ever wondered what or who is the missing link between the Passions of J.S. Bach and the more ‘enlightened’ oratorios of Josef Haydn and his contemporaries? For that matter how did things come to change so quickly? I have recently reviewed some cantatas by Gottfried Homilius (1714-1785) on Carus 83.183 and he is certainly a link. But really it is C.P.E. Bach, that great reactionary and under-estimated genius, who is ‘yer man’.
This recording is a result of several years of reconstruction work and then a full performance which took place on Palm Sunday in 2003 after about 220 years of neglect.
One of the more puzzling remarks about the music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach came from Mozart, who said that anyone who listened closely would realize his debt to the German composer. That seemed unlikely, given that Mozart only rarely availed himself of the Sturm und Drang ("storm and stress") style of C.P.E.'s keyboard music. But listen to this release by flutist Emmanuel Pahud and you'll get an idea of what Mozart was talking about. It's not just that the flute concertos are basically galant in style, not Sturm und Drang. It's a certain nervous energy that makes the flute bloom rapidly out of squarish themes and keeps you guessing as to what's coming next.
Avant garde. Eccentric. A maniac. Wild and adventurous. Off the wall. Extraordinary. No marketing hyperbole - this is how the players of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment describe Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach and his music. One of the many children of JS Bach, CPE Bach always lived in his father’s shadow, and now is an almost unknown figure at least beyond the classical cogniscenti. How can such an unknown be considered a gamechanger? A listen to his music reveals just why – it constantly shifts, wrongfooting the listener when they least expect it with wild changes of direction and colour – it is bright, effervescent, and is a fascinating link between the music of his father (and the Baroque era) and Joseph Haydn (and the Classical era).
…For fans of C.P.E Bach, this disc will be fascinating. For fans of late Baroque and early Classical music who don't already know C.P.E.'s music, it will be revelatory.
This is an important document, not least because what is actually captured on these discs is the first performance of this work since 1772. The score is presently housed in the archive of the Berlin Sing-Akademie after its discovery in the Ukraine. C.P.E.’s version of the Christ story is a dynamic one, with plenty of drama and much interaction between the various soloists and the chorus - a chorus that represents the Jews as well as performing the chorales.
C.P.E. Bach's "Magnificat" is one of the glories of the choral repertoire, and, like other reviewers, I envy you your first experience of this magnificent music. I first heard it in the impressive performance by Philip Ledger and the Academy of St.-Martin-in-the-Fields. I think Rilling's performance is even better, though, more supple and nuanced, without sacrificing speed and intensity.
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bachs interest in the organ would seem to be fairly limited, at least judging by the number of pieces he composed for the instrument. The reasons for this attitude could be personal and professional, but could also reflect the changing affections and the new sensibility of the period, since during his lifetime the organ underwent a phase of relative decline. Indeed, following the acme reached by Johann Sebastian Bach, the instrument sank into a phase of neglect in Germany during the second half of the 1700s.