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ClassicsOnline Home » BACH, C.P.E. / BACH, W.F.: Sinfonias
"The Salzburg Chamber Philharmonic's deft command of Bach's contrapuntal textures and razor-edged ensemble under conductor Yoon K Lee are just the sort of advocacy this music needs"
"As so often with Naxos, this is an undeniably good buy"
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714 - 1788)
Sinfonias, Wq. 183
Sinfonia No.1 in D Major
Sinfonia No.2 in E Flat Major
Sinfonia No.3 in F Major
Sinfonia No.4 in G Major
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710 - 1784)
Sinfonia in F Major
In October 1707 Johann Sebastian Bach, newly appointed as organist at Mühlhausen, married his cousin Maria Barbara Bach. The following year he moved to Weimar as court organist and it was here that the first six of his children were born, the second, Wilhelm Friedemann, his first son, in 1710 and the fifth and next surviving son, Carl Philipp Emanuel, in 1714. Three years later the family moved to Cöthen, where Johann Sebastian had been appointed Court Kapellmeister to the young Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen. Here both boys attended the Lutheran Latin School, while their father took sole charge of their musical education. Maria Barbara died in July 1720 and the following year Bach married Anna Magdalena Wilcke. In 1723, after Prince Leopold's marriage to a woman that Bach later described as amusica, he was appointed to the position of Thomascantor in Leipzig, a position for which Carl Philipp Emanuel's distinguished godfather Telemann had been the preferred candidate. The education of the boys continued at the choir school of St Thomas where their father was now employed.
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was to enjoy a career of considerable distinction, profiting from opportunities that his father had never had. In 1731 he matriculated at the Faculty of Law of Leipzig University, while developing always his now considerable musical skills as a composer and keyboard- player under the guidance of his father. Three years later he moved to the Viadrina University in Frankfurt an der Oder, a town that offered more restricted musical possibilities, and in 1738, having completed his law studies, he took up the position of harpsichordist to the Crown Prince of Prussia at Ruppin, moving with him to Charlottenburg when the latter ascended the throne in 1740. The musical establishment of the new king, Frederick the Great, himself a flautist, was a distinguished one, including members of the Benda family, Quantz and the Grauns. Bach's duties, which involved accompanying the king in his own musical performances, established him as a keyboard-player of the highest reputation, a position further enhanced by the publication in 1753 of his influential Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (Essay on the True Art of Keyboard-Playing) and by a series of compositions that represented, in general, a style much less conservative than that favoured at court.
The death of Telemann in 1767 provided Carl Philipp Emanuel with an opportunity for change and the following year he succeeded his godfather as Cantor and Director of Music in Hamburg, a position that acknowledged his pre-eminence as a performer and teacher and provided scope for much wider activity than had been possible during the thirty years or so he had spent in the service of the Prussian court. His social circle there had never been confined to musicians and now in Hamburg he held an important place in the intellectual as well as in the artistic life of the city, sought out by visitors such as Dr Burney and Diderot. He retained his position in Hamburg for the last twenty years of his life, until his death on 14th December 1788.
Carl Philipp Emanuel was a prolific composer, writing a large quantity of keyboard music, solo sonatas, trio sonatas, concertos and vocal and choral music, with a smaller number of symphonies. These last include a set of six symphonies for strings commissioned by Baron Gottfried van Swieten, Austrian ambassador to Berlin in 1770 and an influential patron to both Mozart and Haydn. They were composed in 1773 and followed by four Orchestral symphonies, written in 1775-6 and described by Bach as the most substantial works of the kind that he had written. These symphonies are scored for twelve obbligato instruments, two flutes, two oboes, bassoon, two horns, two violins, viola, cello, double bass and cembalo. They were published by Breitkopf in Leipzig in 1780.
The novel treatment of the instruments is immediately apparent in the first of the symphonies, with wind instruments now given considerable independence and a principal subject that is innovative in its metrical use of a repeated note in increasingly short notes. Here, as in the other symphonies, there is a reflection of the Sturm und Drang mood of the day, with its heightened emotions. The slow movement is a characteristic expression of Empfindsamkeit, the sensibility that had influenced all the arts of the period. The first symphony ends with a dashing finale, its headlong course briefly interrupted.
The other orchestral symphonies, heard in Hamburg in 1776 by Bach's friend Klopstod in a performance by forty musicians, follow a similar pattern. The symphony in E flat major again has a first movement of exciting tension, with an interesting passage for the flutes over sustained chords for oboes, bassoon and cello. The slow movement brings a moving melody for solo flute, leading to a final movement of lively contrast, that includes, as elsewhere in these works, an element retained from the Baroque concerto grosso, with its varied use of full orchestra and a smaller group of instruments. The Symphony in F major opens emphatically, the busy activity of the violins against the sustained notes of the wind instruments, which are again allowed their own passage of contrasting timbre. The conclusion of the movement leads naturally into the Larghetto, a movement of strong feeling, followed in turn by a cheerful final Presto. The fourth and final work of the set, the Symphony in G major, starts in forthright style, bringing before long the now expected contrasts of instrumental timbre and sudden changes of mood. As before, this leads directly to a rhetorical slow movement, followed by the classical jollity of the light-hearted last movement.
Johann Sebastian's eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann had a much less successful career, although his brother claimed that he could provide a better substitute for their father than the rest of them put together. He too studied at the University of Leipzig and began his musical career as organist of the Sophienkirche in Dresden, with its Catholic court. In 1742 he moved to Halle as organist at the Liebfrauenkirche, employment that he eventually abandoned after years of intermittent conflict with the Pietist church authorities there, the result of intellectual interests more characteristic of the Enlightenment. After a period in Brunswick he went to Berlin, his outstanding ability as an organist still welcomed. He died there in 1784, leaving his wife and only surviving child, a daughter, in poverty.
Wilhelm Friedemann left some ten symphonies. The Sinfonia in F major was written during happier times in Dresden and has been described as having something of the form of an orchestral suite in its four movements. The first movement, in the style of the opening of a French overture, is followed by a Baroque Andante, a livelier Allegro and a formal Minuet.
Salzburg Chamber Philharmonic
The Salzburg Chamber Philharmonic was established in 1991 with the conductor Yoon K. Lee and a group of young international musicians and since June 1992 has offered a subscription series of concerts in Salzburg with soloists of the greatest distinction. The orchestra appeared at the Seville World Exhibition and has performed in major festivals in Germany and Austria, offering a flexibility of programming that finds a place for both orchestral works and chamber music.
Yoon K. Lee
The artistic director of the Salzburg Chamber Philharmonic, Yoon K. Lee, was born in the South Korean capital, Seoul, in 1953 and moved with his family to the United States of America in 1966. His musical training was at Williams College, where he graduated in music and philosophy, and at the Salzburg Mozarteum, where he studied composition and conducting. Since 1985 he has been a member of the faculty of the Mozarteum University of Music and Dramatic Arts and has enjoyed an international career as a conductor, while also winning a reputation for himself as a composer.
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BACH, C.P.E. / BACH, W.F.: Sinfonias