CPE Bach – Beyond the Limits
Complete String Symphonies
Gli Incogniti/Amandine Beyer (violin)
Harmonia Mundi HMM 905321 67:02 mins
The distinctive, often quirky character of these symphonies is partly the result of the aesthetic movements of the north German Empfindsamer Stil and the incipient Sturm und Drang. Where the first of them is concerned, CPE Bach is the generally acknowledged master. His imagination was coloured by this sensitive style to an extent whereby it could almost be regarded as his own, deeply personal response to an aesthetic which defies precise definition. The essence of both aesthetic movements is present in the surge of feeling, tension, subjective and agitated gestures and spontaneous outbursts that define Bach’s language of feeling in these remarkable symphonies. The set of six for strings and continuo was commissioned by that diplomat and discerning connoisseur of the arts, Gottfried van Swieten in 1773. At the time he was ambassador to Frederick the Great’s musically enlightened court in Berlin.
Gli Incogniti, under the stylistically assured direction of its violinist director Amandine Beyer, captures this music’s mercurial temperament with panache. Crisp articulation, eloquently shaped phrasing and a shared enthusiasm for Emanuel Bach’s elusive idiom enlivens the music at every turn. Among the highlights are the jauntily clad opening Allegretto of the B minor Symphony and the Largo ed innocentemente of the A major Symphony, whose pervasive melancholy is gently realised. Also included is an E minor Symphony, Wq177, also for strings and continuo, but written almost 15 years earlier. It is a fine piece and an apposite companion to van Swieten’s commission.