Johann Ludwig Bach: Trauermusik

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COMPOSERS: Johann Ludwig Bach
LABELS: Capriccio
WORKS: Trauermusik
PERFORMER: Soloists; Rheinische Kantorei, Das Kleine Konzert/Hermann Max
JL Bach’s Funeral Music for the Duke of Sachsen-Meiningen is a delightful discovery. JS Bach clearly regarded his distant cousin’s music highly, performing 18 of his cantatas in Leipzig during a single year. The Funeral Music, setting in part the Duke’s own text, is magnificent in scoring – for two choirs, soloists and large orchestra including trumpets and drums – and in scale. Like a Baroque Dream of Gerontius, the soul begins fettered in human bonds on earth, then ascends to the heavenly gates, with Part 3 a brilliant celebration of celestial joy. Bach’s descriptions are graphic – ‘bonds’ create staggering dissonances, resolved to momentary silence when ‘torn asunder’. Melodic phrases are disarmingly simple, like early Handel at his best.


The performance is superb. Soloists are matched by exemplary instrumentalists in Bach’s frequent echo/dialogue structure. The fresh, youthful choir injects hypnotic Hallelujas into five minutes of sheer exultation to end Part 1.


The double-choir Motets are less inspired. Echoes and imitations make a little music go a long way, but some is hauntingly memorable. Microphones are opened rather audibly between the contrasting forces, though the sound spectrum is admirably spacious. George Pratt