Finely-Crafted Symphonies by JCF Bach

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach never enjoyed the fame of his siblings Carl Philipp Emanuel and Johann Christian. Yet he was indeed a son of Johann Sebastian Bach. While his music may not be as innovative as his brothers’ it is well-crafted and creatively rich.

The three symphonies on this album come from different phases of his professional career, and reflect the transition of musical style from the baroque period to the early classical. The Symphony in C major, W1/6, is the earliest of the three. It’s a simple three-movement Italianate work that reminded me somewhat of Telemann.

The Symphony in E-flat W1/10 of 1720 has more extensive motivic development. And that development is easy to follow. JCF’s ensemble writing seems to have a clarity to it that I don’t hear in his siblings. Perhaps its the way he voices the strings.

The Symphony in B-flat WI/20 was written in 1794. Mozart and Haydn had changed the form of the symphony, and JCF is right there with them. This is a large-scale four-movement symphony that’s worthy of attention. JCF writes for the orchestra of the time; gone is the basso-continuo, replaced by an expanded wind section (including clarinets) and a stronger use of orchestral color.

JCF Bach may not have been the towering genius his father was, or even lesser geniuses like his brothers. But he was still a skillful craftsman, and his music has many rewards for the listener.

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach
Three Symphonies
Nues Bachisches Collegium Musicum Leipzig; Burkhard Glaetzner, conductor
Brilliant Classics 94780

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