Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
Bürgercapitainmusik 1780
Oratorio Hebt an, ihr Chöre der Freuden [40.15]
Serenata Der Trommeln Schlag, der Pfeifen Spiel [22.28]
Santa Bulatova (soprano)
Hanna Zumsande (soprano)
Geneviève Tschumi (mezzo-soprano)
Mirko Ludwig (tenor)
Julian Rohde (tenor)
Ralf Grobe (bass)
Rainer Mesecke (bass)
barokwerk hamburg/Ira Hochman
rec. Stellinger Kirche, Hamburg, August 2014
CPO 555016-2 [62.57]

One of the most valuable reasons for celebrating events such as anniversaries of great artists is the opportunity to reassess their work. A celebration of a composer such as Beethoven or Bach serves as a reminder of astonishing genius, and is an opportunity to discover afresh just why they were so special. Other anniversaries seem to work differently – they are genuine voyages of discovery of music half-forgotten.

This seems to have been the case with C.P.E. Bach. For many the 2014 tercentenary was an introduction to the talents of a master-composer, an awakening to someone who, for many music-lovers, had lurked a little in the shadows. Exciting recordings such as the C.P.E. Bach Edition (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 88843021622) showed us both the mastery and the variety of invention awaiting further discovery.

These recordings come from the same year of celebrations. They are strictly occasional pieces, but it is always interesting to explore how a master deals with such a commission. Bach was of course a Hamburg resident. Telemann as city music director had already written for the Bürgercapitain annual event, and created the pattern of a noon-time oratorio and a briefer evening serenata. The civic captains were a combination of civic guard, night-watch and fire service, in which all male citizens between 18 and 60 were expected to give service. The music celebrates their annual beano, a day of civic celebration of peace and harmony (the Serenata text compares the harmony of life in harmony in Hamburg with the dangers of London during the Gordon riots of that year). Both pieces use the personifications of various virtues, and, in the Oratorio, Hamburg itself (as Hammona) to celebrate the harmony of civic life.

Orchestral accompaniments have an outdoor quality. The Serenata’s title refers to the beat of the drums and the tune of the pipes, so it is not surprising that the orchestra contains two trumpets, drum, fife, flutes and oboes as well as violins, oboe and continuo of harpsichord, organ and calichon (bass lute). The Oratorio has bassoon rather than fife.

The listed soloists also double as chorus. Performances throughout are committed and good, keenly aware of period performance. The very opening of the Oratorio might have had more bite – it sounds a little tentative, but soon settles down. The music itself is determinedly appealing – often catchy, always easy on the ear, but there are moments of CPE quirkiness in orchestration and harmony.

Not an essential release, but an interesting one, which will give much pleasure.

Michael Wilkinson

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