Symphonies of the Bach Family span generations

This release presents symphonies by a veritable alphabet of Bachs: WF, CPE, JE, JCF, JL, and (of course) JS. It’s an excellent program, comprised of many seldom-heard works.

The album opens with a symphony by Wilhelm Friedemann (WF) Bach. And it concludes with a sinfonia by his father, Johann Sebastian (JS) Bach. The two works make effective bookends. WF was Johann’s eldest son, and his style most closely resembles his father.

Carl Philipp Emanuel (CPE) Bach was the second-eldest son. A good part of his career was spent at the court of Frederick the Great. CPE’s symphonies are closer to the galant style — clear melodies supported with clean, simple harmonies.

Johann Ernst (JE) Bach was the son of Johann Bernhard Bach, JS Bach’s second cousin. His symphony is a jovial bustling work that leans towards the Baroque.

Johann Christoph Friedrich (JCF) Bach was the fifth son of JS Bach. His employer, the Count Wilhelm of Bückeburg, had a taste for Italian music. JCF obliged. His works, like this symphony, bear a passing resemblance to Vivaldi’s.

Johann Ludwig (JL) Bach was JS Bach’s third cousin. His “Cantata Symphony” is actually a concerto for two violins. JL was a product of his time. The concerto is solidly Baroque in style. Soloists alternate with the ritornello of the ensemble. JL may not have been THE Bach, but he was a Bach. The work is finely crafted, and quite exciting as performed here.

The Berliner Barock Solisten has a clean sound. Bach’s sons composed during a time of transition. And although the harpsichord is present, it’s far back in the mix.

That’s a good choice, I think. For the Baroque composers, JL and JS, the instrument is more prominent. Having that contrast makes it easier to hear the differences between the generations.

Symphonies of the Bach Family
Berliner Barock Solisten; Reinhard Goebel, conductor
Hanssler Classic HC21029

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