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Johann Christian BACH (1735-1782)
Six Wind Symphonies, T285/3 (publ 1782): No. 1 in E flat [11'07]; No. 2 in B flat [8'40]; No. 3 in E flat [11'52]; No. 4 in B flat [7'18]; No. 5 in E flat [11'03]; No. 6 in B flat [9'18].
Consortium Classicum (Dieter Klöcker, Waldemar Wandel, clarinets; Karl-Otto Hartmann, Eberhard Bischmann, bassoons; Jan Schroeder, Rolf-Jürgen Eisermann, horns; Jürgen Normann, double-bass).
Rec. Fürstliche Reitbahn Bad Arolsen, Germany in 1991. DDD

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Sheer delight in this reissue of these 1991 recordings (originally on MDG L3434). At the time they were premiere recordings, as the booklet notes attest. They have since appeared at least once more, on Stradivarius. All six are typically life-affirming J. C. Bach. He was the so-called 'London Bach', although the booklet notes claim that he was also known as the 'Milan Bach' at one point a fact new to me due to his activities as Cathedral organist to that city.

This is open-air music, and affirms its origins with every note. Of the slow movements, J. C. Bach forges beautiful cantabiles (No. 1) and even moves towards the interior emotions (Nos. 2, 4). First movements buzz with barely-contained energy, while finales can be varied, from the hunting horns of No. 1, the more laid-back No. 2 or the cheeky and joyous (No. 3). Drama and shadows do appear, but do not last for long Bach's love of life is too great. If the ending of No. 4 doesn't make you laugh or at the very least smile, there is no hope ....

What is interesting is that this composer can take a stock text-book gesture such as the arpeggiation that opens No. 3 and animate it with an internal clean-cut and bracing vigour. Further, he never outstays his welcome not a single movement is over five minutes.

If there is a criticism, both the Andante of No. 3 and the Andantino of No. 5 sound on the slow side to me (some excellent horn playing in No. 5, though). They still sound lovely, though. The Collegiuum Classicum sounds as if it lives and breathes this music. Rhythms are marvellously taut throughout.

Mozart's debt to J. C. in his own music for wind ensemble becomes crystal clear on hearing these works. But let us not forget these are little gems in their own right. Reissuing them has the effect of once more highlighting these marvellous pieces in marvellous performances.


Colin Clarke

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