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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



BACHIANA: MUSIC BY THE BACH FAMILY
Johann Ludwig Bach (1677-1731)

Overture in G for Strings, 2 Oboes (ad lib.) and Continuo
1. Overture
2. Air I
3. Menuet
4. Gavotte
5. Air II
6. Bourée
Heinrich Bach (1615-1692)

7. Sonata I "a cinque" in C for 2 Violins, 2 violas and Continuo
8. Sonata II "a cinque" in F for 2 Violins, 2 violas and Continuo
Johann Ludwig Bach
Concerto in D for 2 Violins, 2 Oboes, Strings and continuo
9. Allegro
10. Adagio
11. Allegro
Johann Christian Bach

"Aria Eberlina pro dormente Camilla" for harpsichord solo
12. Thema - Variations 1-15
Cyriacus Wilche (? - 1667)

13. "Battaglia - anno 1659 composita" for 2 violins, 2 violas and continuo
Signr. Pagh (before 1672)

14. Sonata and Capriccio in g for Violin, 2 Violas and Continuo
15. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Concerto in D (after BWV 249) for 3 trumpets, 2 Oboes, Bassoon, Strings and Continuo
16. Sinfonia
17. Adagio
18. Allegro
Musica Antiqua Köln directed by Reinhard Goebel
Solo Harpsichord - Léon Berben
Recordings made in Cologne, Deutschland Radio, Sendesaal in September 2000
ARCHIV 471 150-2 [75í34]


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It is now 15 years since Archiv brought us Musica Antiqua Kölnís disc of vocal music by the family precursors of J S Bach. It is perhaps somewhat surprising that a companion disc of instrumental music should have taken quite so long to produce, but the material available is considerably more limited, both in quantity and in quality, than the vocal music. Although the Bachs were active throughout Thuringia from the early 17th century at least, the ravages of time have not been kind to the sources of their instrumental outpourings. J S B himself kept a family album of music; what his son C P E called an "archive of the Old Bachs" and several of the works recorded here are from that. Others are more recent Ďdiscoveriesí, although there is always the need for a good deal of caution in considering the authenticity of works which survive only in 19th century copies, and even more required with reconstructions like that of the last track of this disc. It is all interesting stuff, and Reinhard Goebel produces good justification in the accompanying booklet for the various musicological and interpretative stances he has taken.

Of the music itself, it is clear that the only figure here who is of really significant note is the one whose works J S B himself copied, namely Johann Ludwig Bach. Clearly showing the influence of Italian string music, as well as of the Austrian lineage of figures such as Schmelzer and Muffat of the previous generation, the Concerto in D and the Overture in G are fine works, and are given typically Musica Antiqua Köln vigorous readings. The dance movements of the suite vary between spiky light articulation in the Gavotte and the Bourée, and a limpid wistful violin sound in the Airs. Heinrich Bach's two sonatas "a cinque" are single movement pieces with several contrasting sections, but they were probably sounding old-fashioned when they were written. This is very much the Schmelzer style, but Schmelzer just did this sort of thing better. The works arenít helped by a few passages of rather thin sounding string playing.

The extensive set of variations by Johann Christoph Bach show an interesting precursor of J S Bís own harpsichord variations. The material is nothing special, but the range of devices used in the variations is considerable, and Léon Berben performs them with admirable clarity. Personally, this writer finds the harpsichord sound rather characterless. The maker and style of the instrument are not mentioned, but it could have done with something brighter in the top register and gutsier in the bass. The two works that look at first glance to be in the wrong disc are, in fact, merely more distant relations. Signr Pagh is believed to be the brother of Johann Christoph of the harpsichord variations mentioned above, and his Sonata and Capriccio again show the influence of Muffat and Schmelzer, even of Biber in the solo violin writing. This is a pleasant work in the old style and is played with panache. Cyriacus Wilche is thought to have been Anna Magdelena Bachís grandfather (she was born a Wilcke - like the Bachs, they had several spellings) and therefore the great-grandfather of Johann Christian (the London) Bach. Regrettably, was limited in his talent, "Battaglia" being a pretty dull work. The disc would not have missed its seven minutes at all.

The highpoint is, of course, the J S B at the end. The wonderful two movement Sinfonia from the Easter Oratorio has been here turned into a concerto by re-orchestrating the opening chorus of the Oratorio for instruments only. There is absolutely no evidence that this is a Ďlostí movement, but the outcome is quite effective and the trumpets and drums make a splendid silvery contribution to offset rather a lot of string writing elsewhere.

Peter Wells


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