Notebooks for Anna Magdalena
Works by CPE Bach, JC Bach, JS Bach, G Böhm, F Couperin, JA Hasse, Christian Pezold and Stölzel
Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Mahan Esfahani (harspichord)
Hyperion CDA68387 69:29 mins
While few if any material possessions of the Bach family have survived, with the precious exception of a beautifully engraved crystal goblet, it is perhaps the notebooks for JS Bach’s second wife Anna Magdalena that draw us more closely than anything else into the composer’s domestic milieu. Mahan Esfahani and Carolyn Sampson open the household doors with a generous selection of pieces from the 1725 notebook, the later and more extensive of two such manuscripts, mainly containing pieces in Anna Magdalena’s own hand.
What an unfailingly delightful compilation it is, featuring keyboard galanteries, chorale melodies with or without voice and a wide variety of arias. The most celebrated of these last-mentioned is the aria with its preceding recitative ‘Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen’; the keyboard accompaniment of the aria is given as clavichord in the booklet, whereas it is, in fact harpsichord. The version for bass voice belonging to Bach’s cantata Ich habe genug is better known, but he made several versions of a piece which was quite clearly a family favourite. Sampson’s tenderly inflected singing is one of the high points of the album, together with Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel’s ‘Bist du bei mir’, long thought to have been by Bach. Surprisingly, though, the aria ‘Gedenke doch’ – now seemingly accepted into the genuine Bach canon – sounded to my ears lacking in charm and lyricism.
Esfahani’s choice of instrument for each piece, whether clavichord or harpsichord, is well judged, and he comes clean in his accompanying note about his preference for the clavichord in playing the B flat Rondeau, ‘Les bergeries’ from François Couperin’s Sixth Ordre for solo harpsichord. Readers may judge for themselves, but few if any will be disappointed with an enchanting programme, affectionately and intimately performed.