Johann Christian Bach
COMPOSERS: Johann Christian Bach
LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
PERFORMER: Vasiljka Jezovšek, Ann Monoyios, Jörg Waschinski; Cologne Vocal Ensemble, Cappella Coloniensis/Bruno Weil
CATALOGUE NO: 05472 77525 2
A beguiling rarity. Johann Sebastian’s youngest and most cosmopolitan son composed this serenata in London in 1772. The plot revolves around the triangular relationship between Diana, her nymph Nice and Endymion, slyly manipulated by Cupid and culminating in the obligatory paean to love. In the booklet, Bruno Weil dubs Endimione ‘one of the first operettas’; but though there are touches of cruel humour, usually at Nice’s expense, the musical idiom and structure, based on a sequence of elaborate arias, are essentially those of opera seria. Bach’s suave, mellifluous style often sounds like Mozart minus the master’s dynamic impulse and control of long-range tensions. But there are memorable numbers here, above all in the slow cavatinas for Endymion and Diana, with their delicate, Watteau-esque sensuality.
Virtually everything depends on the four principals, who all rise to their challenges. Chief honours go to Ann Monoyios, a graceful, sweet-toned Nice, and Vasiljka Jezovšek as Diana, stylish and shapely in her concerto-like aria with flute obbligato. As Cupid, Jörg Waschinski deploys that rare phenomenon, a falsetto soprano, with some panache, while Jörg Hering is personable, if faintly bland, as Endymion. Direction and orchestral playing are highly capable, with the wind relishing the lavish opportunities Bach offers them. Richard Wigmore