Jn, Wfe, Johann Christian, Johann Christoph Bach

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Jn,Johann Christian,Johann Christoph Bach,Wfe
LABELS: CPO
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Musical Humour with the Bach Family
WORKS: Songs
PERFORMER: Markus Schäfer, Dieter Wagner (tenor), Veronika Winter (soprano), Ekkehard Abele (bass), Beat Duddeck (countertenor), Ludger Rémy (harpsichord, piano); Rheinische Kantorei, Das Kleine Konzert/Hermann Max
CATALOGUE NO: 999 797-2
Don’t expect any side-splitting hilarity here. There’s a mild, if pretty obvious, humour in a mini-Singspiel by Johann Nicolaus (a cousin of JS) that charts the innocuous antics of two students. And while their musical content is pretty thin, a couple of numbers by JS’s grandson Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst may also raise a smile: a comic bass aria, complete with falsetto imitations, in which a control-freak husband gets his come-uppance, and a scene where a composer and librettist in the throes of creation are continually thwarted by the raucous cries of a street-vendor. There’s nothing you would call humorous, though, in a shapely, galant song by Johann Christian Bach hymning the joys of rural life, or a jolly trio by WFE that suggests Schubert at his most beerily gemütlich. The most substantial item here is a wedding cantata by JS’s uncle, Johann Christoph, that parodies lines from The Song of Solomon. Again, nothing to make

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you fall off your chair. But there’s some lively dialogue, an inventive chaconne aria for soprano and cavorting solo violin and a neat depiction of the wedding party spiralling out of control. Some of the pieces here sound more fun for the performers than the listener, players and singers, and indeed all throw themselves into their assorted roles with skill and relish. A relief, too, that CPO is providing intelligible translations at last. Richard Wigmore