four times bach hdklassik

Four times Bach – Orchestral Works of the Bach Family
Johannes Bernhard Bach (1676-1749)
Ouverture for violin, strings and basso continuo in G minor
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788)
Sinfonie No. 5 in B minor, Wq 182/5 (1773)
Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782)
Sinfonie in G minor Op. 6 No. 6 (1760s)
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Concerto for oboe, violin, strings and basso continuo in C minor, BWV1060 (ca. 1720)
Pavel Strugalev (oboe)
Neue Philharmonie Westfalen/Bernhard Forck (violin)
rec. 2023, Grosser Saal der Neuen Philharmonie Westfalen, Germany 
HD-Klassik SC-832301

There can be no shortage of ‘Bach family’ recordings, but I dare hazard a guess that Johannes Bernhard Bach will be a new name to many. He was a second cousin to Johann Sebastian, who had a career as an organist in places such as Erfurt and Magdeburg before joining in the flourishing musical life of Eisenach in 1703 and finding patronage with Duke Johann Wilhelm. The Overture in G minor is multi-movement work in the French style, a procession of dances with a great deal of elegance and technical bravura. Johann Sebastian and he were apparently good friends, and it is thanks to this relationship that some of J.B.’s scores were copied and preserved in Leipzig.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach puts us at once on more familiar but very much more daring ground, his Sinfonie No. 5 in B minor being part of the Hamburg set famous for its ‘Sturm und Drang’ impact. Given free artistic rein by Baron Gottfried van Swieten, C.P.E. pushed his musicians to the limit, and this work sounds impressively adventurous even today. Johann Christian Bach, J.S.’s youngest son and 20 years the junior of C.P.E. landed somewhat amidst the ‘galant’ style of musical history, but the assured vitality of his Sinfonie in G minor is the kind of work that has us re-thinking our impression of J.C. as conforming overly to the fashions of the day. This was the one member of the Bach family who had an interest in opera, and the dramatic character of this piece connects it quite firmly to the theatre. It certainly seems to have had an influence on the young Mozart’s early symphonies, and this colourful performance is full of that hothouse stage atmosphere.

We can’t have a Bach family portrait without Johann Sebastian, and the Concerto for Oboe, Violin and strings BWV 1060 will be familiar to most of his fans, either in this form or in its version for two harpsichords. It receives a fine performance here, with brisk tempi and excellent playing all-round. HD-Klassik is a division of the Cybele label and has several releases in binaural SACD sound but this Bach disc was sent to me in standard CD format. The sonics are outstanding, with rich bass and an impressive stereo soundstage in a not overly resonant acoustic. The Neue Philharmonie Westfalen is pictured in the booklet in its full glory but this is clearly a more compact ensemble, with a nicely balanced harpsichord to add crispness to the harmonies and rhythm to each of these works. The main strings are perhaps a bit distant in BWV 1060 but that’s as much to do with the solo/orchestra balance when compared to the symphonies as anything else. I pulled out my best headphones and was richly rewarded by the lively and committed sound on this disc. Berhard Forck has been concertmaster of the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin since 1985 and clearly knows how to get an authentic sound from these musicians.

Dominy Clements

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