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CPE Bach Cantatas
a revelation


Biber: Sacred Choral Works
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Organ Fireworks


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RECORDING OF THE MONTH

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Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
Cantata, Ich will dem Herrn lobsingen (1771) Wq deest/H 821b [41.30]
Cantata, Wer sich rühmen will (1787) Wq deest/H 821o [31.22]
Monika Mauch (soprano), Margot Oitzinger (alto), Mirko Ludwig (tenor), Giullaume Olry (bass), Cantus Thuringia, Capella Thuringia/Bernhard Klapprott
rec. Thomaskirche, Leipzig, Germany, March 2014
Notes and texts in German and English
CPO 777 958-2 [73.08]

This is something of a revelation. Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach is best known nowadays for his two sets of Sinfonias, his Cello Concerti, his keyboard works and a large number of chamber works for flute with various accompanying instruments. Despite the quality of much of this, to stop there is to radically underestimate a quite remarkable composer. It is well known that Mozart revered ‘Bach’ as the great figure to whom all subsequent composers owed so much. What is much less realised is that, apparently, it was not Johann Sebastian to whom he was referring, but Carl Philipp Emmanuel. It is certainly the case that one can hear in C.P.E. Bach’s Sinfonias a transition from the late baroque to a new style of early classicism quite unlike the music of the past. These two cantatas are quite unlike those of his father and they have a quite different impact on the listener despite following a similar structure of arias, recitatives and chorales. Like his father in Leipzig, Carl Philipp, served as a Kapellmeister in Hamburg for many years, and had very much the same duties to perform, producing large numbers of cantatas, motets, passions and oratorios, in addition to extraordinary quantities of instrumental music. He was an assiduous collector of copied manuscripts by his contemporaries and thus assembled an important music library. As was the practice of his time, he would, on occasions, utilise parts of this to meet the impossible demands for ‘new’ music several times a week throughout his professional life. This CD contains one pasticcio chorus by Georg Anton Benda as an example.

For some odd reason his church music vanished almost completely after his death. Owing to a series of unlikely events it remained mostly unavailable and thus unknown until unearthed from Ukrainian archives last century. It is still emerging; so far there are 120 volumes of music. There are more details in the excellent notes accompanying this CD and online at http://www.cpebach.de/en/ - this website being a mine of information.

On a more personal note: as recently as 2014 the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, directed by their current principal conductor, Ukrainian, Kirill Karabits, gave the first modern performances, in Karabits’ own edition, of C.P.E. Bach’s St John Passion. This not only revealed a superb piece but also allowed Karabits to show his mastery and expertise in baroque performance and research. “One of the most fascinating feelings for a conductor or a musician of our time is to rediscover great music which was considered lost or simply has been forgotten. I was very lucky to hold in my hands the manuscript of CPE Bach’s Passion according to St. John in the National State Archive of the Ukraine in Kiev”. Those of us lucky enough to attend one of these performances were already alerted to the sort of musical quality found on this CD. (What a pity the Bournemouth performances did not make it to disc).

These two magnificent and large-scale works are typical of the sort of sumptuous celebratory music that was expected by the local ecclesiastical authorities to accompany, and to blatantly praise, their new pastors as they were invested in their posts. The first was for Johann Matthais Klefeker in 1771 and the second for Heinrich Julius Willerding in 1787. Both are scored for trumpets and drums in addition to woodwind and strings and must have greatly satisfied the above worthies. The period forces gathered for this recording are absolutely splendid and perform at their very best in these live recordings, made in J.S.Bach’s Thomaskirche in Leipzig during the extensive celebrations of C.P.E.Bach’s tercentenary in 2014.

With first class recordings and the absorbing accompanying essays, plus the texts, this issue should be purchased by all lovers of both baroque and early classical music. I would go so far as to say that this could be the most enlightening CD of 2017 so far. C.P.E. Bach is quite clearly a master.

Dave Billinge

 

 




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