Avant garde. Eccentric. A maniac. Wild and adventurous. Off the wall. Extraordinary. No marketing hyperbole - this is how the players of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment describe Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach and his music. One of the many children of JS Bach, CPE Bach always lived in his father’s shadow, and now is an almost unknown figure at least beyond the classical cogniscenti. How can such an unknown be considered a gamechanger? A listen to his music reveals just why – it constantly shifts, wrongfooting the listener when they least expect it with wild changes of direction and colour – it is bright, effervescent, and is a fascinating link between the music of his father (and the Baroque era) and Joseph Haydn (and the Classical era).
After the success of their first volume Ophélie Gaillard and Pulcinella propose a second disc devoted to Johann Sebastian Bach's most talented and surprising son, Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714-1788). The Sinfonia in C major expresses multiple emotions, ranging from irrepressible suffering in the Adagio to joyous release and insouciance in the concluding Allegretto, tinged with near-Mozartian grace. The Cello Concerto in B flat reveals the influence of the waning Baroque era and Vivaldi in particular.
On April 9, 1786, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach conducted a charity concert in Hamburg featuring three of his finest and most representative works: the Symphony Wq 183/1, the Magnificat (written in 1749 in the hope of succeeding his father as Cantor in Leipzig) and his stupendous 'Heilig' for double choir, of which he wrote, "It will be my swan song of this kind, and will serve to ensure that I shall not soon be forgotten after my death."
"Once the head conductor of the Netherlands Philharmonic and the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, and as the principal guest conductor with the Deutschen Staatsoper (German State Opera) in Berlin since 1995, Hartmut Haenchen (originally spelled Hänchen) is noted for the clear, precise phrasing and sumptuously sonorous tones he evokes from his musicians. (…) Since 1980, Haenchen has acted as the artistic director of the Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach Chamber Orchestra, which was founded in Berlin and has presented revivals of C.P.E. Bach's music from re-discovered manuscripts. The ensemble has appeared in many television productions, has received awards for several recordings, and regularly tours…"
The year 2012 marks the tercentenary of the birth of Frederick the Great, whose political and military glory has often relegated his musical talent to the status of a mere hobby. But Frederick II was not only the key personality of Berlin musical life for the whole of the 18th century – as is shown by the works of the composers presented on this CD, all of whom worked at his court at some point in their careers – but also an excellent flautist who left posterity a number of fine flute sonatas from his own pen.
C.P.E. Bach would undoubtedly rejoice, were he alive, upon hearing this album of his cello concertos by Truls Mørk and Les Violons du Roy under the direction of Bernard Labadie. From the opening notes, one cannot help but feel the orchestra is fantastic. The A major Cello Concerto begins with vigor and liveliness, with the ensemble playing perfectly together in tempo with great spirit. Mørk plays just as well, with a clean, accurate, and somewhat light touch.
…These are very modern compositions, brimming with audacity and vitality, elegant music but which nevertheless makes great technical demands and requires a good deal of thorough groundwork.
…In sum, this is a disc that's easy to recommend for its consistently engaging music and first-rate performances–but it's also a recording that you can turn way up and enjoy full-bodied, undistorted, viscerally present instrumental sound. A winner!
C.P.E. Bach’s two surviving oboe concertos both began as keyboard concertos that were later transcribed for oboe; their intended performer was probably Johann Christian Fischer, a virtuoso based in Potsdam in the mid 1760s. This would perhaps account for their technical and immensely challenging solo lines, which suggest that, like his father, Carl Philipp Emmanuel revelled in pushing instruments and performers to their limits.