In our times, the name of Bach is associated first and foremost with the most famous representative of the family, Johann Sebastian. Such was not the case during the eighteenth century, however, when far greater popularity was enjoyed by the third of the Leipzig cantor’s eleven sons: Carl Philipp Emanuel. In 1773 the music lover and prominent patron Baron Gottfried van Swieten commissioned ten symphonies from him, specifying that the composer should employ the utmost freedom and pay no heed to technical difficulties. These works may be seen as an example of the Empfindsamer style of ‘heightened sentiment’ cultivated by C.P.E. Bach, and they are characterised by abrupt changes of mood and distinctly marked tonal contrasts. A similar style is presented by the Concerto in A minor, which the composer arranged for three different solo instruments: harpsichord, flute and cello. Another of Johann Sebastian’s sons, Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach, was inspired by the output of his elder brother, as exemplified by his Sinfonia in D minor, HW I/3. This is his only work in the genre scored solely for strings, and it presents an aesthetics close to Sturm und Drang (‘storm and stress’). The Bach family circle also included the composer and violinist Johann Gottlieb Graun. His virtuoso skills must have aroused the admiration of Johann Sebastian himself, who employed him as violin teacher to his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann.
Simply… Philharmonic! Project 3:
The seventeenth-century gambist Jean Rousseau, in the preface to his Traité de la viole, described the history of the viola da gamba. He emphasised the special role of the English in the instrument’s development, pointing to their links to the composing of the first chordal works for viola da gamba and to their dissemination in other kingdoms. Although Rousseau’s interests were focussed mainly on the French school of viola da gamba playing at that time, he noted how, before the instrument reached France, the English traditions spread to German lands. Towards the end of the seventeenth century, those traditions were influenced by a local school of violin virtuosity, which led to an equally virtuosic treatment of the viola da gamba. A significant development in the north of Germany was the composing of sonatas for viola da gamba and an obligato keyboard instrument; three such works were written in Leipzig by Johann Sebastian Bach. In Berlin, one of the most outstanding gambists of the day, Ludwig Christian Hesse, collaborated with Johann Gottlieb Graun, and his skill probably inspired Graun to compose concertos of a virtuosic character. The history of the German School ended with Carl Friedrich Abel, whose output included twenty-seven demanding compositions for solo viola da gamba, inscribed together with seventeen sonatas by Arcangelo Corelli and an anonymous harpsichord work in The Drexel Manuscript.