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Double Concertos by Bach and his Sons
Johann Sebastian BACH
(1685–1750)
Concerto in D minor for violin and oboe, BWV 1060 [13.32] (1, 2)
Carl Phillipp Emanuel BACH (1714–1788)
Double Concerto in E flat major, W47 (1788) [16.33] (3, 4)
Johann Christian BACH (1735–1782)
Sinfonia Concertante in F major, T.VII/6 (1760s) [10.50] (2, 5)
Wilhelm Friedemann BACH (1710–1784)
Double Concerto in E flat major, F46 (1750-60) [21.18] (3, 6)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685–1750)
Concerto in C minor, for 2 harpsichords, BWV 1062 (1736) [11.36] (7, 8)
Alice Harnoncourt (violin) (1); Jurg Schaeftlein (oboe) (2); Anneke Uittenbosch (harpsichord) (3); Jean Antonietti (fortepiano) (4); Anner Bylsma (cello) (5); Alan Curtis (harpsichord) (6); Gustav Leonhardt (harpsichord) (7); Eduard Muller (harpsichord) (8);
Concentus musicus Wien/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Leonhardt-Consort/Gustav Leonhardt
rec. 1967–1970
DAS ALTE WERK 2564 694651 [78.08]
Experience Classicsonline

Many early period performance practice recordings rather show their age. When new, discs were often perceived as the ultimate in period style. We now realise that period practice could be just as fashion bound as other styles of performance, so that recordings from the 1960s and 1970s seem rather dated. It is heartening, therefore, that this collection wears its years well. The recordings sound far less dated and fashion-bound than others from the period.

The disc opens with Johann Sebastian Bach's concerto for violin and oboe. The concerto has survived only in Bach's later transcription for two harpsichords. Alice Harnoncourt and Jurg Schaeftlin play a then new reconstruction which seems to make sense of the original. The soloists, particularly Harnoncourt's violin, are not overly spot-lit and the end result is more appositely concerto grosso-like than some.
 
Carl Phillipp Emanuel Bach's double concerto for harpsichord and forte piano dates from 1788. This is a period when the Hamburg-based composer had virtually given up concerto writing, the market being dominated by Boccherini and Stamitz. C.P.E. Bach treats the two solo instruments as equals, each being handled in an identical balanced fashion. It is therefore unfortunate that Jean Antonietti's fortepiano is generally dominated by Anneke Uittenbosch's harpsichord. The concerto is notable for some lovely flute playing from the ensemble.
 
Johann Christian Bach's Sinfonia Concertante is from the early 1760s when he had just arrived in London. The work is written for solo oboe (Jorg Schaeflin again) and cello (Anner Bylsma). Structurally it owes something to the earlier concerto grosso. But J.C. Bach adds an element of the galant style. He also strengthens the orchestral role and structures the solo parts so that they could be played by amateurs, thus extending the work's audience.
 
Next is Wilhelm Friedemann Bach's double concerto for two harpsichords written some time between 1750 and 1760. Here it is played by Anneke Uittenbosch and Alan Curtis. The concerto opens with a typically baroque texture, but then W.F. Bach moves it into a more contemporary sound-world. Some commentators have suggested that W.F. Bach is the only one of J.S. Bach's sons to write works approaching his father's structural density. What this CD shows is that all three sons represented here were heavily indebted to the later, simpler style and that even W.F. Bach's concerto does not approach the density of one of his father's. This is underlined directly by the final work on the disc, J.S. Bach's concerto in D minor for two harpsichord. This is an arrangement of an earlier concerto for two violins. And with Gustav Leonhardt and Eduard Muller playing the solo lines, the concerto makes a dazzling end to the disc.
 
The playing is crisp and incisive, with some lovely rhythmic lift. There are times, I must confess, when I found the playing a little too overly incisive and I longed for a little relaxation. Though brilliantly played, this is a very serious disc.
 
The CD booklet contains an informative article about the concertos, but is frustratingly silent on the circumstances surrounding its making, only bare dates are given for the recordings. The ensemble seems to be made up of a combination of both Concentus musicus Wien and the Gustav Leonhardt Consort, though how this was undertaken is not mentioned.
 
Whilst you might find newer, better performances of J.S. Bach's concertos, this assemblage with three of his sons' works still makes for a delightful and instructive listening experience.
 
Robert Hugill
 

 


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