Bach Sweets

Friday, February 10, Emmanuel Church, Boston
Sunday, February 12, Worcester Historical Museum, Worcester

Trio Sonata in A Major for two violins and continuo, op. 1 no. 3    Tomaso Albinoni (1690-1770)

        Grave • Allegro • Grave • Allegro   

Fugue in A Major on a theme of Albinoni, BWV 950    Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Concerto in D Minor            Alessandro Marcello (1671-1750)
        Andante e spiccato   


Concerto nach Italiänischem Gusto, BWV 971        J. S. Bach
        Vivace • Grave • Allegro

Inventio in C Minor for violin and continuo, op.10 no. 6    Francesco Antonio Bonporti (1672-1749)
  Balletto (Allegro)
  Aria (Comodo assai)
  Fantasia (Allegro non presto)

Concerto in D Major for traverso, strings, and continuo, S. 225        Johann David Heinichen (1683-1789)
  [Allegro]   • Andante • Allegro   

Suzanne Stumpf, traverso; Christina Day Martinson, and Katherine Winterstein, violins
Marcia Cassidy, viola; Daniel Ryan, cello; Michael Bahmann, harpsichord

Program Notes

Throughout his life, J. S. Bach took a keen interest in the works of his contemporaries and predecessors. As a largely self-taught composer, Bach absorbed the styles and procedures of a great variety of composers, integrating them into his own unique style. Well-known examples of this include his use of the stile antico polyphonic style of Palestrina in the Gratias agimus tibi movement of the B Minor Mass, and his adoption of the fashionable galant style beginning in the 1730s in the Christe eleison of that same work and in the Peasant Cantata, Goldberg Variations, and Musical Offering.

Bach’s son C. P. E. Bach cited dozens of composers who influenced his father, but surprisingly, Antonio Vivaldi, the Marcellos, or the earlier generation of Italian instrumental composers were not on this list. The concertos and sonatas of these Italians, especially Vivaldi, however, certainly had a decisive influence on the development of Bach’s compositional style. 

Bach’s first biographer Forkel described Bach’s encounter with Vivaldi’s concertos: “He studied the chain of ideas, their relation to each other, the variation of the modulations , and many other particulars.” Bach made a study of the concertos of Vivaldi and others through transcribing them for solo keyboard from 1713-1716. A concerto by Alessandro Marcello was among the works he transcribed and is heard on this program in its original version for solo wind instrument, strings, and continuo. An important feature of Bach’s transcription of this work is the profuse embellishment he added to the Adagio movement, giving modern performers an example of his ornamentation practices.

C. P. E. Bach stated that his father developed his technique of fugal writing through private study and reflection. He occasionally derived inspiration from the fugue themes of other composers and, in the early 1700s, composed several keyboard fugues based on works by Corelli, Legrenzi, and Albinoni. The Fugue in A Major is based on the subject of the second movement of Tomaso Albinoni’s Trio Sonata, op. 1, no. 3. 

First published in Venice in 1694 as part of a collection of twelve sonatas, Albinoni’s work is composed in the four movement Sonata da chiesa format with expressive slow movements replete with suspensions and chromaticism contrasting with fugal fast movements. Albinoni’s fugal movements are engaging more for their lively ensemble interaction than for contrapuntal qualities. Bach’s fugue, in contrast, shows deeper and more sustained contrapuntal interest, with extended episodes that explore fragments of the subject and modulate into a variety of keys.

Perhaps the culmination of Bach’s study of the Italian instrumental idiom is in his Concerto after the Italian Taste for solo harpsichord. Published in 1735 in the second part of his Clavier-Übung, the work combines the technical brilliance of the virtuoso Italian ensemble concerto with the harmonic and polyphonic complexity of a Bach keyboard work.

Franceso Antonio Bonporti was a priest, violinist, and composer active in Trent and Padua. Among his many published collections of instrumental music is his opus 10 set of “Inventions” for violin and continuo. Four of these works were copied out by Bach and were long thought to be composed by him. Bach almost certainly appropriated the title Invention from Bonporti for the keyboard works he composed for teaching purposes in 1723. Bonporti’s Invention no. 6 heard in these performances is an eclectic suite with extravagant violin writing characteristic of this unjustly neglected composer.

Originally from Leipzig, Johann David Heinichen was a student of Johann Kuhnau at the Thomasschule there. In 1710, he went to Venice where he absorbed the Italian operatic style and came into contact with the leading musicians. While in Italy he taught Crown Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen (who later became Bach’s patron) and was subsequently engaged as his Kapellmeister in Dresden. His chief responsibility there was composing for the large virtuoso orchestra, and his compositions would very likely have been heard by J. S. Bach on his Dresden visits. Heinichen’s Concerto in D Major was composed in the most up-to-date Italian style, with a three-movement format and strong unison passages in the orchestral tuttis.

© Daniel Ryan and Suzanne Stumpf