Bach and His Legacy

Friday, February 20, First Parish, Wayland
Saturday, February 21, Emmanuel Church, Boston

 

Trio Sonata in G Major, BWV 1038                          Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
   Largo • Vivace • Adagio • Presto


Trio Sonata in C Major for two violins & continuo   Johann Gottlieb Goldberg (1727-1756)
Adagio • Alla breve •Largo • Gigue (Presto)


Trio Sonata in D Major, H. 575                              Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788)
Allegro un poco • Largo • Allegro


Intermission


Sonata in E Major for traverso and continuo, BWV 1035                                     J. S. Bach
Adagio non tanto • Allegro • Siciliano • Allegro assai
 

Sonata in C Major for cello and continuo             Johann Philipp Kirnberger (1721-1783)
Allegro ma non tanto • Adagio • Cantabile [con variazioni]


Quartet in C Major for traverso, violin, viola, and continuo         J. C. F. Bach (1732-1795)
Allegretto • Scherzo (poco allegro)

 

Suzanne Stumpf, traverso
Sarah Darling, violin; Karina Fox, violin and viola
Daniel Ryan, cello; Michael Bahmann, harpsichord

 


Program notes

Among the many musical activities J. S. Bach engaged in during his career, teaching became an important and increasingly vital one. Bach dedicated much time and effort to teaching, early on focusing on the education of his sons and later, while in Leipzig, on the scores of Thomassschule and university students who flocked to him for instruction. Many of his best Leipzig students learned not only through private study with him, but also through their intensive participation in his varied musical performances. Many of his students later became prominent figures in the musical life of Germany and beyond, and thanks to Bach’s painstaking didactic instruction, transmitted and perpetuated his methods of composition through their works and theoretical writings.

Although he may have hoped his contrapuntal style would have been preserved through his students, in his teaching Bach did not insist on slavish imitation of his style, but rather allowed his students to follow the stylistic trends of the day. His students in turn may have become an asset to him, giving him a window on the latest trends which he occasionally incorporated into his own compositions.

A fascinating example of Bach’s teaching methods may be seen in the Trio Sonata in G Major which begins this program. The bass line for this piece was originally composed by Bach for his sonata for violin and continuo, BWV 1021. Bach’s second son Carl Philipp Emanuel is thought to have composed new treble parts for this bass line under his father’s tutelage, resulting in the present work.

Johann Gottlieb Goldberg studied with J. S. Bach beginning in 1737 and later with Bach’s eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann. For most modern audiences, Goldberg’s name is associated with the eponymous set of harpsichord variations Bach composed in 1741-42, which were frequently performed by the young Goldberg for his insomniac patron Count Keyserlingk. As a composer, Goldberg initially wrote in a densely polyphonic Baroque style obviously influenced by Bach. He later modulated to the Dresden style, then to a sophisticated harmonic language akin to C. P .E. Bach. The Goldberg trio sonata included on this program was once thought to have been composed by J. S. Bach and features expressive, richly ornamented, interweaving treble lines in its slow movements, a robust fugue as its second movement, and a lively gigue with engaging banter among the instruments.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s first major appointment was as harpsichordist to flute-playing King Frederick the Great in 1740. Although he composed much music for the court, he never received the king’s recognition as a composer owing to the king’s conservative tastes. C.P.E Bach’s Trio Sonata in D Major was composed in 1747, the same year of his father’s famous visit to the court. The work’s outer movements, composed in a style more favorable to King Frederick are, respectively, lyrical and brilliant in character. It is in the central Largo movement that Bach’s deeply expressive empfindsamer (sensitive) style comes to the fore.

J. S. Bach’s traverso sonata in E Major also has connections with Frederick the Great’s court. Possibly prepared as Bach’s first “musical offering” to the court (either for the king or his flute-playing partner Fredersdorf) as part of his 1741 visit to Potsdam, this piece offers a glimpse into aspects of Bach’s tremendous versatility and adaptability as a composer. In general, it is written in the fashionable galant style that prevailed at court, yet its two slower movements also possess qualities of the highly-emotional empfindsamer style favored by Philipp Emanuel. And although its allegro movements at first appear more straightforward as one would expect from a galant work, its ingenious turns of phrases, rhythmic motifs, and harmonies generate colorful and, at times, playful dialogue between the flute and the continuo.

Johann Philipp Kirnberger studied with J. S. Bach for two years beginning in 1739 and later became one of his most ardent advocates. He transmitted his teacher’s composition methods and concepts in one of his many published treatises. With the collaboration of C. P. E. Bach, he collected and published the first complete volume of J. S. Bach’s chorales, a collection still commonly used and studied by music students today. Kirnberger’s cello sonata in C Major is composed in a mixture of light pre-classical and more severe contrapuntal Baroque styles. Its austere middle movement, a portion of which is composed in strict canon, contrasts sharply with the virtuosic and wide-ranging figuration of the work’s outer movements. The first movement shows Kirnberger’s familiarity with the latest developments in the expansion of cello technique, with its extensive use of the upper registers and thumb position.

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach was the second-youngest son of Johann Sebastian. He spent nearly his entire career at the northwestern German court of Bückeburg, in the service of several enlightened nobles. There, he was free to experiment and developed his own distinctive style that combines passionate intensity (resembling qualities of C P.E. Bach’s works) with lyrical classicism (evocative of the works of his younger brother Johann Christian). J. C. F. Bach’s Quartet in C Major is from a collection of quartets published in Hamburg around 1768. It is composed in the two-movement format used by Johann Christian Bach, Carl Friedrich Abel, and Mozart, but rather than opting for the more commonly-used Minuet for its final movement, J.C.F. composed a jocular and rustic Scherzo.

       © Daniel Ryan and Suzanne Stumpf