Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Clarissa Bevilacqua plays
Augusta Read Thomas

all Nimbus reviews

Brahms Dvorak
Brahms 2 Dvorak 7
all tudor reviews



Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom


CD: Crotchet
Download: Classicsonline

Wilhelm Friedemann BACH (1710-1784)
Keyboard Works - 2
Fantasia in c minor (Fk 15; BR A 18) [18:58]
Fugue No 1 in C (Fk 31,1; BR A 81) [01:48]
Fugue No 2 in c minor (Fk 31,2; BR A 82) [02:47]
Fantasia in e minor (Fk 21; BR A 24) [10:03]
Fugue No 3 in D (Fk 31,3; BR A 83) [01:14]
Fugue No 4 in d minor (Fk 31,4; BR A 84) [01:15]
Fantasia in d minor (Fk 19; BR A 22) [07:04]
Fugue No 5 in E flat (Fk 31,5; BR A 85) [03:41]
Fugue No 6 in e minor (Fk 31,6; BR A 86) [03:19]
Fantasia in c minor (Fk nv2) [07:39]
Fugue No 7 in B flat (Fk 31,7; BR A 87) [01:36]
Fugue No 8 in f minor (Fk 31,8; BR A 88) [05:46]
Fantasia in a minor (Fk 23; BR A 26) [04:31]
Fantasia in d minor (Fk 18; BR A 21) [03:26]
Julia Brown (harpsichord)
rec. 20-21 September 2007, AGR Performing Arts Center, Eugene, Oregon, USA. DDD
NAXOS 8.570530 [74:07] 


Experience Classicsonline

By all accounts Wilhelm Friedemann Bach had a difficult character. It is food for a psychologist to figure out what made him the personality he was, but it is very likely it was the result of being the favourite of his father. Reinhard Goebel, former leader of the disbanded ensemble Musica antiqua Köln, may be right when he writes that "he could probably have benefited from an occasional kick up the backside". Fact is that he never got a job which gave him or his employers any real satisfaction. Towards the end of his life he tried to earn a living as a freelance organist, giving concerts in Germany. But even though he was generally considered the greatest organist alive the heyday of the organ had gone. In 1784 he died in Berlin, a poor and embittered man.

It is tempting to see Friedemann's character reflected in his music. Whereas he composed a number of church cantatas which are stylistically very close to his father's, in his instrumental works and his compositions for keyboard he seems to wander forth and back between the style of the baroque era and the styles which were fashionable in his own time. His character and his music have given Robert Hill reasons to label him as "the first Romantic". In the programme notes of his recording of the 12 Polonaises - Volume 1 of this Naxos series - he writes: "From his unhappy biography to his perhaps deserved reputation as the ungrateful recipient of an over-involved father's attention, the artist Wilhelm Friedemann Bach presents us with a mix that by most definitions would qualify as 'Romantic': his individualism, his use of superb compositional technique in the service of poetic poignancy, the way he set up technical barriers for the keyboardist to overcome, his anticipation of harmonic devices central to nineteenth-century tonal language, all these are marks of a genius who was unable to fit into the career paths available in his time". 

It is probably these features which resulted in almost none of his keyboard works being printed during his lifetime. Even while still alive his compositions were widely disseminated in manuscript and their authenticity can't always be established. In the programme on this disc, for instance, the Fantasia in c minor (Fk nv2), has also been attributed to Johann Wilhelm Hässler (1747-1822), another organ virtuoso who travelled through Germany to give concerts. This, by the way, also puts the unique character of Friedemann's compositions into some perspective. The features of his oeuvre partly reflect the time in which he lived, where old and new met, conflicted, and sometimes merged. 

The music on this disc reflects this. The eight fugues are written for keyboard without pedal, but are often played on the organ. There is no objection to this: there is an authorised copy of these fugues with a dedicatory letter to Princess Anna Amalia of Prussia, sister of Frederick the Great. She was an avid player of the organ: Friedemann's brother Carl Philipp Emanuel wrote his organ sonatas for her. But character-wise they are rather chamber music. The subjects are very peculiar and often surprising. A feature of these fugues is that the tonalities are clearly characterised, much in accordance with the definitions by Johann Mattheson. As Julia Brown writes: "The variety of affects used and the highly individualized subjects make them sound more like character pieces". As Friedemann was famous for his improvisations I like the way Julia Brown plays them, with subtle rubato and slight variety in the tempo. They really sound as if they are improvised which makes this interpretation truly captivating. 

The fugues are interspersed with a number of Fantasias. In fact, it is the other way round: as the fantasias are much longer they are interspersed with the fugues. These fantasias also reflect the conflict between old and new. The longest contain a large number of contrasting sections. It is a shame the track-list doesn't specify them. Just to give one example, the Fantasia in e minor (Fk 21/BR A 24) has no less than 16 character indications: furioso, recitativ, furioso, andantino, grave, prestissimo, andantino, recitativ, andantino, recitativ, andantino, recitativ, andante (prestissimo), grave, largo, furioso. This sums up pretty well how modern this fantasia is, very much in line with the aesthetics of the Empfindsamkeit. But in the Fantasia in d minor (Fk 19/BR A 22), for instance, Johann Sebastian shows up: it begins with a toccata-like section which is followed by a fugal section - just like some of Bach's harpsichord toccatas. Several fantasias contain many scales and arpeggios and there are sometimes surprising harmonic progressions. 

In her performances Julia Brown aims to pointing up the contrasts in these Fantasias. She takes her time in the slow sections, some of which are played really slow; also she isn't afraid of breathing spaces between phrases or sections. The fast sections could have been taken a bit faster, as the Fantasias take considerably more time here than in other recordings. Having said that Julia Brown is well able to keep the listener's attention, even in the first Fantasia on the programme which lasts almost 19 minutes. 

As I have said, the fugues are often played on the organ. Another option would be for the fugues and the fantasias to be played on the clavichord. Its dynamic possibilities are very appropriate to underline the contrasts within the fantasias. But the choice of the harpsichord is plausible as the date of composition of most pieces is not known, and the harpsichord was very much in use until Friedemann's death in 1784. 

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach's keyboard music never fails to fascinate and the unmistakable qualities of his oeuvre come well to the fore in Julia Brown's fine interpretations. 

N.B. The tracklist only gives the numbers of the out-of-date catalogue by Martin Falck (1913). As far as possible I have added the numbers in the new catalogue, Bach Repertorium (BR), being prepared by Peter Wollny.

Johan van Veen



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

October 2022

Berg Violin Concerto
Violin Concerto Elmes

DEbussy Jeux
Debussy Jeux

Romantic pioano masters
Romantic Piano Masters

The future is female - Vol 2
Volume 2 - The Dance

impromptu harp music
Complete Harp Impromptus

September 2022
Nikolai Medtner
Herbert Blomstedt
Tarrodi Four Elements
Secret Love Letters
Lisa Batiashvili





Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.