Wednesday, October 30, 2013

C.P.E. Bach - Keyboard Concerto In D Minor Wq. 23

The influence of C.P.E. Bach on composers of his own era and of other generations is large. Mozart said about him that "He is the father, we are the children".  Haydn acknowledged that Bach was a major influence to his instrumental music. After Bach's death in 1788 his reputation slipped somewhat, although Beethoven admired his music greatly and recommended Bach's book An Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments as a teaching tool.  Bach was eclipsed further after Mendelssohn helped revive popular interest in the music of his father, Johann Sebastian Bach in the late 1820's, and Schumann commented that as a creative musician Carl was far behind his father. His music was not entirely forgotten, as Brahms admired his music and edited some of it, but it wasn't until the late 1950's that Carl's music became more well known through recordings of some of the symphonies and keyboard sonatas.

Bach wrote in many different genres including nearly one hundred concertos with roughly half of those for keyboard instrument. As this was a period of transition not only in musical form and expression but of the instruments themselves, Bach labeled his concertos for keyboard, harpsichord or piano.

The Concerto in D Minor Wq.23 (the Wq is an abbreviation for the name of the musicologist who in 1906 assembled the first catalog of Bach's music, Alfred Wotquenne) is written for keyboard, strings and continuo and is in 3 movements:

I. Allegro -  The 1st movement is in a type of sonata form, and begins with an angular, quirky theme. This theme and other secondary ones that are related to the main theme are played by the orchestra alone. The piano then jumps in with the first theme. The piano takes center stage and is answered by the orchestra. These beginning themes are developed slightly, and this section can be thought of as the exposition. There follows a development section that expands upon the themes at length. The main theme keeps bouncing back into the picture until what amounts to a type of recapitulation begins. After further exploring of the themes, the orchestra has the final word and brings the movement to a close.

II. Poco andante - Music that strolls gently from the instruments in splendid contrast to the drama of the first movement.

III. Allegro assai - Bach returns to the mood of the first movement with a theme that leaps and then pauses after the leap, like the instruments need to catch their breathe. This leaping followed by a pause appears throughout the movement, along with brilliant passage work for the soloist. The soloist joins in the leaping and taking of a breath later in the movement as the music remains energetic throughout. After a leap shared by strings and soloist, there is a short cadenza for the piano and the strings have the last word with a sigh of exhaustion.

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