Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

An obscure composer brings unalloyed pleasure

This new disc from Ricercar (due to be released October 28, 2016) is a very welcome one: a new recording of Johann Bernhard Bach's four Ouvertures. These are suites of dances, many of them French, though the genre itself had became typically German. No, J.B. Bach isn't part of Johann Sebastian's prodigious progeny, but rather a distant cousin, and a fairly obscure one at that. He wasn't distant or obscure enough to escape the notice of the most musically important family in history, though. Three of these works were found in the possession of C.P.E. Bach, and copied in the hand of C.P.E., important family friends, and even Johann Sebastian himself. They obviously thought highly of the music.

As do I, and especially in this new recording from the Metz-based Achéron ensemble. There's a French grace and dignity, some pomp and ceremony, about this music that's clear in this video, the official trailer for the album.

But there's more to J.B.'s music than that. He also has a fun, earthy side, perhaps more German than French. Here's a Bourée where the flutes really let loose, and the players are obviously enjoying themselves. It's followed by an Air that shows the new sentimentalism of the emerging early 18th century middle class.

This music is stylishly played and nicely presented. It's not far off in quality from similar music by Telemann, and even (dare I say) his second cousin, once removed.

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