The Family Bach

Dame Jane Glover, conductor


Sinfonia from Cantata No. 42

Violin Concerto No. 2 in E Major


Adagio and Fugue for 2 Flutes and Strings in D Minor


Flute Concerto in B-Flat Major


Symphony in G Minor

Born into a musical dynasty that stretched over 250 years and six generations, three of the great J. S. Bach's sons were noted composers in their own right. Jane Glover and the orchestra explore diverse works by Wilhelm Friedemann, Carl Philipp Emanuel, and Johann Christian Bach in a program that also includes one of their father's beloved violin concertos.

Preconcert lectures will take place on Sunday at 6:30 pm (Athens Room, DoubleTree Hotel) and Tuesday at 6 pm (Chicago Cultural Center) and will be given by Carl Grapentine.

Subscribe & Save


J. S. Bach

  • Sinfonia from Cantata No. 42
  • Violin Concerto in E Major, Allegro

W. F. Bach

  • Adagio and Fugue in D Minor

C. P. E. Bach

  • Flute Concerto in B-flat Major

J. C. Bach

  • Symphony in G Minor, op. 6, no. 6


Johann Sebastian Bach is best known for his monumental contributions to music history, but the fact that he had twenty children serves as a significant footnote to any discussion of his legacy. Bach had seven children—four of whom survived to adulthood—with his first wife, Maria Barbara, and thirteen children—six of whom survived—with his second wife, Anna Magdalena. His progeny span decades: when Regina Susanne, his youngest child, was born in 1742, his eldest was already thirty-four years old. And they cross musical periods as well. Several of Bach’s children went on to become important composers, and tonight we’re hearing music by the three whose works survive:
his oldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann, born in 1710; Carl Philipp Emanuel, born in 1714; and Johann Christian, born much later in 1735. While the elder Bach was a strong influence on all three, the sons’ music is of the future, not the past, pushing forward stylistically into the Classical era and pointing the way to the age of Mozart and Haydn.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Sinfonia from Cantata 42

Johann Sebastian Bach stands at the pinnacle of the Baroque period. One of the genres with which he is most associated is the cantata, an extended vocal work (often with a sacred text) consisting of a succession of recitatives and set pieces such as arias, duets, and choruses. As the cantor for the Thomaskirche
in Leipzig, Bach had to provide a cantata for every day in the church calendar. “Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats” (On the evening, however, of the same Sabbath), BWV 42, was written for the first Sunday after Easter and performed for the first time on April 8, 1725. Bach may have borrowed the sinfonia from a 1718 secular cantata celebrating the birthday of Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen—“Der Himmel dacht auf Anhalts Ruhm und Glück,” BWV 66a. The sinfonia is in essence a concerto grosso, with a string ensemble plus a concertino comprised of woodwinds, oboes, and bassoons. Bach plays with the sonic possibilities of these groupings throughout, sometimes bringing them together, sometimes exploring their timbral contrasts.

Violin Concerto No. 2 in E Major, BWV 1042
Although we often think of Bach as a keyboardist, he was also an
accomplished string player. As his son Carl Philipp Emanuel wrote, “From his youth up to fairly old age he played the violin purely and with a penetrating tone…He completely understood the possibilities of all stringed instruments.” It has generally been thought that Bach’s violin concertos date from his time in
Cöthen, where he served as Kapellmeister from 1717 to 1723, and that he resurrected them for performance in Leipzig at the Collegium Musicum, a student society founded by Telemann in 1701 that met at a local coffee house. More recently, scholars have suggested these works were created anew in the 1730s for the Collegium. Regardless of when they were composed, the concertos are an excellent illustration of Bach’s facility with the violin and thorough absorption of the Italian style. Based on Vivaldi’s three-movement concerto form, the E Major Concerto features tightly constructed, Italianate outer movements imbued with Bach’s signature dense counterpoint. The repetitive ritornello structure, in which solo statements alternate with repeating orchestral interludes, becomes Bach’s playground for subtle invention and variation. The rhapsodic slow movement is an instrumental aria, with the violin’s lush, melancholy melody punctuated with expressive dissonances.

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-1784)
Adagio and Fugue for 2 Flutes and Strings in D Minor, F. 65

The second child (and oldest son) of Johann Sebastian and Maria Barbara, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach was born on St. Cecilia’s Day, the feast day of the patron saint of music. With only two children, Bach had plenty of time to lavish attention upon his son, nurturing his prodigious talent and carefully designing
his education. It paid off—Wilhelm Friedemann reportedly developed a wide range of interests, including law, music performance and composition, mathematics, and philosophy. He was also accomplished on the organ and violin, and by the age of ten was working with his father on a collection of keyboard music known as the Klavier-büchlein vor Wilhelm Friedemann Bach.
Johann Sebastian even wrote a letter of application to help his son obtain his first job in 1733 at the Sophienkirche in Dresden. (The same year, Johann Sebastian presented the Kyrie and Gloria from the Mass in B Minor to the Dresden court.) Wilhelm Friedemann appears not to have lived up to his potential, however. After leaving Dresden in 1744, he held posts in Halle,
Brunswick, and Berlin, but his musical catalog included only sporadic publications and an unfinished opera. Later in life, his increasingly difficult personality allegedly led to the loss of patrons, and he eventually turned to selling his father’s manuscripts to escape poverty.

Wilhelm Friedemann composed the Adagio and Fugue for 2 Flutes and
Strings—also known as the Sinfonia in D Minor—for the church in Dresden, which used instrumental ensembles in part of the Mass. The opening movement—slow, melancholy, and slightly mercurial—blends soaring melody with expressive suspensions before moving directly into a highly expressive fugue, in which complex Baroque textures and Classical clarity freely mingle.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788)
Flute Concerto in B-flat Major, Wq. 167 (H 435)

Born on March 8, 1714, in Weimar, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach—known
colloquially as C. P. E.—was the second son of Johann Sebastian and Maria Barbara. Like his older brother, C. P. E. was strongly influenced by his father, and music was his intended vocation from the start. In 1740, he became the harpsichordist for Frederick II of Prussia, and in 1767 moved on to the post of
music director in Hamburg. Ultimately, C. P. E. was perhaps the most famous of the musical brothers, making notable contributions in many musical genres as well as pedagogy. And he was extremely influential—when Mozart uttered his famous quote, “Bach is the father. We are the children!,” he was referring not to Johann Sebastian, but rather to Carl Philipp Emanuel.

Carl Philipp Emanuel was at the forefront of the galant, a style that ironically sprang up in opposition to his father’s musical aesthetic. With its turgid textures and complex fugues, Bach’s music was considered artificial. His son, however, advocated for melody-dominated music with clear musical textures, pointing the way to Mozart and Haydn. The notion of empfindsamkeit, or highly sensitive expression, was equally important. As C. P. E. wrote, “A musician cannot move others unless he too is moved. He must of necessity feel all of the affects that he hopes to arouse in his audience…constantly varying the passions, he will barely quiet one before he rouses another.”

Originally scored for harpsichord, Carl Philipp Emanuel’s Concerto in B-flat Major was arranged for flute for Frederick II, an excellent amateur flutist. The galant style and empfindsamkeit aesthetic are audible in the concerto’s three
Textual clarity reigns in the opening Allegro, with occasional abrupt changes in character rippling the smooth surface. The mood shifts dramatically in the Adagio, with its achingly passionate opening melody. An energetic Allegro assai closes the concerto on a jaunty note.

Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782)
Symphony in G Minor, op. 6, no. 6, W.C12

Born on September 5, 1735, in Leipzig, Johann Christian was the youngest son of Johann Sebastian and Anna Magdalena. Like his brothers, Johann Christian studied music with his father, moving to Berlin after his death to study with his older brother, Carl Philipp Emanuel. In 1756, Johann Christian relocated to Italy, studying music with Padre Martini in Bologna, serving as organist at a Milan cathedral (and much to his Lutheran family’s dismay, converting to Catholicism), and writing operas for the famous houses in Turin and Naples. It was his move to London in 1762, however, that earned him the nickname “the English Bach.” With Carl Friedrich Abel, he cofounded and managed the Bach-
Abel subscription concerts, subsequently shifting his focus to instrumental music. Dating from before 1769 and published in 1770, Johann Christian’s Symphony in G Minor was most likely written for and performed at one of these programs. The symphony’s minor mode strongly recalls the “Sturm und
Drang” style popular at the time, a sensibility audible in the first movement, a terse and darkly emotive Allegro. After an unsettling Andante più tosto Adagio, a brooding Allegro molto full of staccato horns and string explosions ends the symphony on an appropriately dramatic note.

© Jennifer More, 2016