Thursday, December 12, 2013

C.P.E. Bach - Symphony In F Major Wq. 183/3

C.P.E. Bach, known as Emmanuel to his friends, left the employ of Frederick The Great in 1768 after spending 30 years in Berlin. The years in Berlin had been fruitful as he composed many works for the keyboard while there as well as writing his famous An Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments. This book changed keyboard technique forever and is an invaluable guide to how music was performed in Bach's day.  He was one of the first musicians that recommended the use of the thumbs when playing the keyboard. There is some evidence that his father J.S. Bach also allowed the use of the thumbs in certain circumstances, but Emmanuel broadened their use.

It was not only this treatise that changed the unorthodox to the orthodox. Emmanuel's compositions did also. He stands between two musical eras, the Baroque and Classical. He didn't compose music in the galante style of his younger brother Johann Christian either. Emmanuel's music takes sudden turns, runs the full gamut of emotions. He keeps the listener off balance, for just as you get a good foot hold of what's going on, he throws the listener a curve. That is what makes his music appealing for some, and perhaps not so much for others. Robert Schumann disliked Emmanuel's music, Johannes Brahms loved it.

After his stint in Berlin Emmanuel got the position of director of music in Hamburg, succeeding his godfather Georg Philip Telemann who had recently died. Emmanuel was more of a businessman than his father, for while he was in Hamburg he published and sold his compositions himself and earned more money than his father ever did.

While he was in Hamburg he wrote the set of  symphonies known as the Four Symphonies In Twelve Obbligato Parts. These symphonies were printed in Emmanuel's lifetime and intermittently throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. They are the only works of C.P.E. Bach that have an unbroken history of performance from Emmanuel's lifetime to the present.

The third symphony in F Major follows the three movement pattern of the rest of the symphonies in the set:
I. Allegro di molto - Bach begins straight away with a theme of short statements followed by a pause. The theme quickly evolves into longer statements. After a short pause the woodwinds make their comments and the theme returns to its evolution through the strings. The second theme also consists of short statements by the strings, but the wind instruments play more of a role in this one by filling in the harmonies. The strings proceed to a trill followed by a large downward leap. A short interlude is played by the strings, and the trill and downward leap is repeated. The development section has the first theme commented on and the second theme interjects with key changes. The first theme reappears, the second theme is played in the tonic, complete with the trills and downward leap. The first theme appears once again, but is suddenly cut short as a brief lead-in is played that changes the mood and prepares for the second movement that is played without pause.

II. Larghetto - The violas and cellos play a theme in D minor that is taken up by the whole orchestra. Bach instructs the cembalo (the keyboard instrument that is part of the basso continuo) to remain silent through this short movement.

III. Presto - The cembalo is directed to resume playing as a sprightly theme is played by the violins and winds as the rest of the orchestra backs them up. The music plays piano for a few bars, and the orchestra answers with a forte. This section is repeated. The second section has the music change keys and elaborate on the theme. This section is also repeated.

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