Bach: Notenbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach (excerpts)

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Teldec Das Alte Werk
WORKS: Notenbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach (excerpts)
PERFORMER: John Potter (tenor), Emily van Evera (soprano), Harvey Brough, Richard Wistreich (bass)Tragicomedia/Stephen Stubbs
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-91183-2 DDD
This, the second Little Music Book for Bach’s wife Anna Magdalena, gives us a tantalising glimpse of domestic music-making in the Bach household. As well as pieces by her husband, her book includes music by various other composers both known and unidentified and, like a true family scrap album, youthful works by the Bachs’ own children.

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Much of the manuscript consists of melody and bass alone, and Anna Magdalena included a simple little aide memoire about how to fill out the texture from the musical shorthand of figured bass. This allows Tragicomedia free rein, ringing the changes imaginatively round four voices, gamba, organ and various plucked strings. The colours are charming – the first prelude of the ‘48’ on the double harp, CPE Bach marches and polonaises on a trio of bowed and plucked strings, and above all John Potter’s nonchalant and unaffected singing of simple strophic songs. The recording, if rather dense and bottom-heavy in places, nicely evokes the intimacy of the Bachs’ fireside.

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While domestic musical miniatures may not lend themselves to sustained listening, there is a wealth of delights here, not least nostalgic revisiting of all those minuets, musettes and the like which we played as children. George Pratt