Organ works by Johann Michael Bach & Johann Christoph Bach – A family resemblance

Johann Sebastian Bach wasn’t the only musical Bach (perhaps just the greatest one). The Bach family was a virtual dynasty of musical talent that spanned generations. This release focuses on two brothers: Johann Michael and Johann Christoph Bach. Johann Christoph (1642-1703) helped teach the young Johann Sebastian (his first cousin, once removed). Johann Michal’s daughter, Maria Barbara would become Johann Sebastian’s first wife.

While family ties were tight, the musical relationship between the three was somewhat looser, as this collection shows. J.M. and J.C. Bach wrote extensively, but neither had the prodigious output of Johann Sebastian.

J.M. Bach was organist and town clerk at Gehren. Most of his surviving organ works are chorale settings. They share some similarities to those of his son-in-law. They’re simpler settings, but still, ones requiring some skill to play.

J.C. Bach was a renowned composer and organist at Esenbach. In his lifetime, he was the most famous of Bach clan. Johann Sebastian described him as “the profound composer.” Most of his organ works consist mostly of chorale variations. In inventiveness and complexity, they’re similar to those of J.S. Bach.

Stefano Molardi performs at the 1732 Vockland organ in Erfurt, Germany. The voicing of the instrument is consistent with the instruments the Bach played and wrote for.

Molardi’s program wisely alternates between the two brothers. It makes it easier to hear the differences between the two. Both were clearly skilled musicians, but Johann Christian seems just a notch above his brother (at least to my ears).

This release decidedly adds to our understanding of the Bach family. Johann Sebastian Bach wasn’t the only musical Bach. Nor was he the only extremely talented one.

Johann Michael Bach and Johann Christoph Bach: Complete Organ Music
Stefano Molardi, organ
Brilliant Classics
3 CD Set

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