“But up to that point no instrumental music had appeared, in which such rich and yet well-ordered harmony was united with such noble song, and so much beauty and order reigned with such original temperament as in the first two sets of sonatas….and the first concertos of this master [CPE Bach].” – Composer and Essayist Johann Friedrich Reichardt
“In the second half of the 18th century, the name ‘Bach’ was almost exclusively associated with the initials ‘CPE,” writes The Guardian, and for good reason: In his lifetime, Carl Philip Emanuel Bach, eldest of Johann Sebastian Bach’s composing sons was far more famous, prosperous, and influential than his illustrious father. Conductor Roger Norrington puts it this way: “Though his music is hardly ever done now, there is little doubt that Emanuel is the best of the Bach sons. More tongue-in-cheek and heart-on-sleeve than his father, there’s a wonderful feeling of openness to his music that you rarely find in baroque music.” In his new scholarly edition to the keyboard works of CPE Bach, musicologist Hans-Günter Ottenberg notes,
In a way, Bach demonstrates in his “Prussian” Sonatas what the keyboard sonata was capable of around 1740. It was probably above all this stylistic breadth—with varied idioms and movement types, harmonic refinements, dynamic contrasts, unconventional rhythmic phrases, and ever more pronounced surprise effects—which led to Bach’s music being described as full of “stylistic anomalies.”
“Since a musician cannot move others unless he himself is moved, he must of necessity feel all of the affects that he hopes to arouse in his listeners.” So wrote Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788) in his influential Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments.
We tell you all this because the beauty – and quirkiness! – of CPE Bach’s keyboard music has an ardent champion in our our own Heifetz pianist Jingxuan Zhang. To the extent that in 2022 we paused our All-[JS] Bach-and-only-[JS] Bach rule to make room for an hourlong recital of the younger Bach’s music at our annual Bach Around The Clock celebration. Listen and be delighted, and join us on Saturday, March 18th, for the 2023 edition of our 12-hour marathon concert celebrating All of Bach!