I am absolutely nuts for Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. He had a genius all his own, and although his music is highly admired by many, he is still underappreciated. C.P.E. was the greatest Bach after his father J.S., and he was a true maverick who practically bridged the baroque and (yet-to-come) classical realms, with an entirely unique style that was full of surprises and ahead of it's time. I cannot think of a single work, like his father J.S. Bach, that I do not like. His well-known Flute Concerto in D Minor is a masterful and gorgeous example of his musical personality. This recording on Harmonia Mundi (which has been rereleased many times over the years) with Rampal on Flute and Pierre Boulez directing is still the finest that I know of; it is fiery perfection from the very first bar, with lush elegance taking over in the slow movement and excitement and passion not unlike the opening movement once again in the last movement. The first movement of the Concerto in D Minor is one of my favorites of all time (as is the first movement from J.S. Bach's towering Concerto for Two Violins, BWV 1043) and does it for me every single time-the first movement especially that is-the entire work is out of this world needless to say!
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Flute Concerto in D Minor resembles in outward respects the three movement concerti of his famous father, Johann Sebastian: it is in the standard succession of three movements, fast-slow-fast; it alternates statements by the orchestra with solo passages featuring the flute; and it allows scope for both lyricism and virtuosity on the part of the soloist. The model for all of these features is the Baroque solo concerto as refined by Vivaldi and reinterpreted by J.S. Bach.
-The interior aspects of C.P.E. Bach's concerto, however, are quite new. In order to grasp the profound differences between the work of father and son, it is necessary to jump into the intellectual ferment of the mid-eighteenth century. The Concerto in D Minor is based on a new psychology, the concept of being sensitive to the stimulus of the moment. In this way of thinking, the music acquires a new freedom to change moods, subtly or abruptly, within a short compositional span. This is in marked contrast to the music of J.S. Bach, in which each movement of a composition tends to etch a unified picture and to eschew sudden diversions.
Daniel Webb, a contemporary of C.P.E. Bach, summarized the new aesthetic well when he described the normal human response to stimulus. He asserted that one's reception of pleasure is "not, as some have imagined, the result of any fixed or permanent condition of the nerves and spirits, but springs from a succession of impressions, and is greatly augmented by sudden or gradual transitions from one kind or strain of vibrations to another." It would be difficult to find a more apt metaphor for describing the difference in outlook between the elder and younger Bachs.
By 1747, C.P.E. Bach's fame as a composer had eclipsed that of his father. Any mention of "Bach" as a composer would automatically have been taken to refer to Carl Philipp Emanuel or to his half-brother Johann Christian. Several of the musical traits that made C.P.E. Bach's music seem so fresh appear in the Concerto. In the electrifying opening (Allegro) angular, jumping melodic lines vie with falling, "sighing" passages to create a "succession of impressions", indeed going "from one kind or strain of vibrations to another." C.P.E. Bach's employer, Frederick the Great, was a fine amateur flutist who should particularly have appreciated the slow movement (Un poco andante), with its melody rich in surface ornamentation, like the splendid decoration in the very room where Bach would have accompanied Frederick. The spirited finale (Allegro di molto) creates a storm that looks back to the tempests of Vivaldi's Four Seasons while pointing the way toward a future Storm and Stress style of a later generation of composers.
Carl Philipp Emanuel's three cello concertos were written at a time when the genre was pretty thin on the ground. They were written between 1750 and 1753, when the cello was still more of an accompanying than a solo instrument. With the exception of the Vivaldi concertos, and the pioneering six Suites for unaccompanied cello by C.P.E. Bach’s father, there was not much solo cello repertoire to build on. These concertos too demonstrate C.P.E.'s originality as a composer, and also the wide emotional range for which his music became famous.
The A major starts off flighty and capricious, with a characteristically bouncy orchestral ritornello. The second movement features carefully contrasted dynamics from the orchestra; the lamenting solo allows for truly beautiful legato playing. The finale is a high-spirited affair, as energetic as those of the Haydn symphonies.