PROGRAMME NOTES CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH (1714–1788)
SYMPHONY IN G WQ.182/1 (1773) i Allegro di molto ii Poco adagio iii Presto
f all Johann Sebastian Bach’s composing sons, Carl Philipp Emanuel most successfully combined the intricate High Baroque style cultivated by his father with a burgeoning new clarity and simplicity in the arts that would eventually blossom into the Classicism of Haydn and Mozart. CPE’s music possesses a gravitas, a delight in the unexpected and an element of fantasy that Mozart (who described him as his ‘musical father’), Haydn and Beethoven greatly admired. Above all, his development of the Empfindsamer Stil (‘sensitive style’) – a new form of writing intended to encompass a wide range of emotions within the same movement – reached forward towards the Romantic period with an exploratory zeal, expressive freedom and heightened sense of dramatic narrative. CPE was also one of the prime movers in the early development of the symphony, establishing structural and rhetorical procedures that helped inspire and facilitate Haydn’s fascination with the genre. Compared to Haydn’s mighty Right: Detail from 107, CPE’s Adolph Menzel’s Friedrichs total symphonic Flötenkonzert des Großen in Sanssouci (c.1850–1852) showing output of 18 CPE Bach (harpsichord) works may accompanying Frederick the Great (flute). appear paltry,
yet each one is a musical gem fully embracing the Enlightenment’s bracing openness to new ideas. Most remarkable are the set of six symphonies Bach composed in Hamburg (1773) for diplomat, librarian and dedicatee of Beethoven’s First Symphony, Baron Gottfried von Swieten. The note of commission specified that ‘the composer’s creative imagination might have free rein, unfettered by any regard for technical difficulties,’ and Bach responded with a collection of works that find his creative imagination working at full stretch. At this comparatively early stage in their development, each symphonic movement tended to focus on one particular Affekt (or emotional character), whereas in his opening sections Bach is already differentiating between ideas of contrasting character. In the G major Symphony that opens the second half of tonight’s concert, for example, he begins with a descending arpeggio figure that quickly gives way to a vivacious passage of rapid stringcrossing. As was customary at the time, the symphony’s remaining movements – a wistful adagio and lively presto finale – follow one another with only the briefest of pauses in the manner of the contemporary Italian overture.
Programme for the OAE's performance at the Royal Festival Hall on 18 April 2017.