CPE Bach - Hamburg Symphonies Wq182
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Cat No: 98637
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 3rd February 2014
ArtistsStuttgart Chamber Orchestra
WorksSinfonias (6) for string orchestra, Wq182 'Hamburg Symphonies'
ArtistsStuttgart Chamber Orchestra
In honour of CPE Bach's 300th birthday, Hänssler Classic release an exciting series of recordings dedicated to the music of this well-known but hitherto neglected Bach son.
To start, there are the so-called “Hamburg” symphonies Wq 182, interpreted with great sensitivity and bite, when necessary, by the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra under the renowned conductor and former violist of the Berlin Philharmonic, Wolfram Christ.
Maestro Christ sees these works as expressive pieces, open to multiple interpretations that invite the listener to experience them as almost Romantic in their gesture and content. Deciding on a fortepiano continuo instrument (the first recording to do so) is not only a historically informed decision, but contributes to a perfectly balanced overall sound.
The Europadisc Review
Wolfram Christ’s name is best known as principal viola of the Berlin Philharmonic from 1978 to 1999, and more recently in the same position with the hand-picked Lucerne Festival Orchestra formed by the late Claudio Abbado. However, since retiring from his Berlin post Christ has established himself as a conductor, often in enterprising repertoire. With the Kurpfalz Chamber Orchestra in Mannheim he focused particularly on the work of the eighteenth-century Mannheim School, and on this new Hänssler disc with the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra he gives us the marvellous ‘Hamburg’ Symphonies by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.
It’s a splendid way to mark C.P.E. Bach’s 300th birthday year for, although modest in their scoring, these works abound in the startling musical ideas of the ‘sensitive style’ championed by the composer, gripping the listener from the very opening gestures. Although playing on modern instruments, the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra uses historically-informed techniques, with a lean, vibrato-less sound, agile and alert to the many sudden changes of mood. Their playing is further enhanced by the use of fortepiano rather than harpsichord as continuo instrument (brilliantly and imaginatively realised by Sebastan Küchler-Blessing), giving the sound an utterly distinctive late-eighteenth-century edge and body.
The symphonies themselves were composed in 1773, five years after Bach had moved from his position as court musician to Frederick the Great in Berlin to the more liberating environment of the Free Hanseatic State of Hamburg. With their unexpected musical twists and turns they appear to have been enormously taxing for their original performers, but Bach’s style in such works was an important influence on composers including Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, and their bold originality shines through in every bar of these hugely accomplished performances. The outer movements are brisk, bracing affairs, with stark contrasts in mood and daring harmonic shifts, teeming with ideas. Yet there is also a delicacy to the writing (as at the opening of the A major Symphony (No. 4), where the antiphonal positioning of the violins allows the listener to appreciate the deftness of the part-writing. The B minor Symphony (No. 5) – the only one in a minor key – begins in a tender, reflective mood, but even this is not allowed to wallow for more than a few bars before the surprises start coming. Bach himself wrote that ‘a musician cannot move others if he is not moved himself’, and Christ and his players have clearly grasped this important principle. This music can feel ‘affected’ in the pejorative sense, but not if played with such evident engagement as it is here.
The slow movements are more languorous, with Bach’s gift for sustained and expressive melody on display, but even here he keeps the emotions in frequent turmoil: try the transition from the first to the second movement of the C major Symphony (No. 3) with its extreme dynamic contrast to hear how arresting this can be!
Hogwood’s old L’Oiseau Lyre recording of these symphonies is currently unavailable, and Pinnock’s is only available as part of a larger box, so that this new disc makes an easy first choice for a complete recording of these remarkable works. With ideally focused sound (the Silchersaal in Stuttgart’s Liederhalle) and attractive presentation, it makes the perfect gift for the 300-year-young Carl Philipp Emanuel.
1Sinfonia in G major, Wq182/1 - Allegro di molto
2Sinfonia in G major, Wq182/1 - Poco adagio
3Sinfonia in G major, Wq182/1 - Presto
4Sinfonia in B flat major, Wq182/2 - Allegro di molto
5Sinfonia in B flat major, Wq182/2 - Poco adagio
6Sinfonia in B flat major, Wq182/2 - Presto
7Sinfonia in C major, Wq182/3 - Allegro assai
8Sinfonia in C major, Wq182/3 - Adagio
9Sinfonia in C major, Wq182/3 - Allegretto
10Sinfonia in A major, Wq182/4 - Allegro ma non troppo
11Sinfonia in A major, Wq182/4 - Largo ed innocantamente
12Sinfonia in A major, Wq182/4 - Allegro assai
13Sinfonia in B minor, Wq182/5 - Allegretto
14Sinfonia in B minor, Wq182/5 - Larghetto
15Sinfonia in B minor, Wq182/5 - Presto
16Sinfonia in E major, Wq182/6 - Allegro di molto
17Sinfonia in E major, Wq182/6 - Poco andante
18Sinfonia in E major, Wq182/6 - Allegro spirituoso
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