Jc, Wf, Jcf & CPE Bach

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Jc,Jcf & CPE Bach,Wf
LABELS: DG Archiv
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Bachiana
WORKS: Double Concerto; Flute Concerto
PERFORMER: Musica Antiqua Köln/Reinhard Goebel
CATALOGUE NO: 471 579-2
These four works by JS’s most talented sons make an intriguingly contrasted group. For the younger generation – represented by a Johann Christian Bach sinfonia concertante and a concerto for the rare (unique?) combination of viola and fortepiano by Johann Christoph Friedrich – leisured galant elegance is the order of the day: nothing to ruffle an aristocratic audience here, but plenty to beguile the ear, especially in the JC Bach, with its graceful dialogues and chic gavotte finale.

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Their elder half-brothers, though, had little truck with galanterie. And both Wilhelm Friedemann’s concerto for flute and CPE’s for the old-meets-new pairing of harpsichord and fortepiano are typically wilful pieces, full of restless, neurotic energy. The aged CPE, in his last major work, makes a few concessions to Classical decorum (this was, after all, 1788). But the Double Concerto has all his old fiery unpredictability, culminating in a madcap finale that suggests Haydn at his zaniest. The two soloists here, Léon Berben and Robert Hill, relish the finale’s lightning repartee and bring a musing flexibility of line to the soulful Larghetto. Elsewhere Verena Fischer is nimble and imaginative in Friedemann’s Flute Concerto, while violin and cello soloists are sympathetically attuned to the urbane world of Johann Christian. I could have done with some of their shapely phrasing in the slow movement of the JCF Bach, where viola soloist Reinhard Goebel pushes into individual notes to the detriment of the longer line. No complaints, though, about the characteristically lusty, colourful playing Goebel draws from his crack ensemble, or the ideally vivid recorded sound. Richard Wigmore