Hyperion Records

Italian Concerto in F major, BWV971
composer

Recordings
'Bach: Angela Hewitt plays Bach' (CDS44421/35)
Bach: Angela Hewitt plays Bach
Buy by post £50.00 CDS44421/35  15CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
'Bach: Italian Concerto & French Overture' (CDA67306)
Bach: Italian Concerto & French Overture
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67306 
'Angela Hewitt – Bach Performance on the Piano' (DVDA68001)
Angela Hewitt – Bach Performance on the Piano
Buy by post £16.00 DVDA68001  2CDs DVD  
Details
Movement 1: [untitled]
Track 1 on CDA67306 [3'41]
Track 1 on CDS44421/35 CD12 [3'41] 15CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 9 on DVDA68001 CD2 [3'47] 2CDs DVD
Movement 2: Andante
Track 2 on CDA67306 [5'38]
Track 2 on CDS44421/35 CD12 [5'38] 15CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 10 on DVDA68001 CD2 [6'16] 2CDs DVD
Movement 3: Presto
Track 3 on CDA67306 [3'25]
Track 3 on CDS44421/35 CD12 [3'25] 15CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 11 on DVDA68001 CD2 [3'27] 2CDs DVD

Italian Concerto in F major, BWV971
EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Le Cerf de la Viéville wrote that Germany ‘was not great in music, their compositions being as harsh and heavy as their genius’. Handel was no doubt the first German composer to be presented in France, but not until 1736. Bach was ignored. The latter faced criticism closer to home when Johann Adolf Scheibe wrote in his journal Der Critische Musicus (1737): ‘The great man would be the object of admiration if he possessed more pleasantness and made his compositions less turgid and sophisticated, more simple and natural in character.’ Bach was very hurt by this attack, and asked a friend, J A Birnbaum, professor of rhetoric at the University in Leipzig, to reply. The battle went on for months and ended in a stalemate. Yet in 1739 Scheibe published a review of Bach’s Italian Concerto that seemed to reverse his earlier decision: ‘… pre-eminent among works known through published prints is a clavier concerto of which the author is the famous Bach in Leipzig … Since this piece is arranged in the best fashion for this kind of work, I believe that it will doubtless be familiar to all composers and experienced clavier players, as well as to amateurs of the clavier and music in general. Who is there who will not admit at once that this clavier concerto is to be regarded as a perfect model of a well-designed solo concerto? But at the present time we shall be able to name as yet very few or practically no concertos of such excellent qualities and such well-designed execution. It would take as great a master of music as Mr Bach, who has almost alone taken possession of the clavier.’

Scheibe was a follower of the new ‘Art Galant’ which favoured the more melodic style of Bach’s sons rather than the formal counterpoint of their father. Perhaps that is why he was so taken with the Italian Concerto, as it leans more in this direction. All through his life, Bach learned by copying out works of other composers, among them Vivaldi, Albinoni, Corelli and Marcello. He was particularly drawn to the concerto grosso and transcribed many by Vivaldi for keyboard. Writing for a two-manual harpsichord gave him the opportunity to distinguish between tutti (full orchestra) and solo passages, indicating them with the words forte and piano. A pianist, having only one keyboard, must do this by changing dynamic level and tone colour. This distinction, however, is far from clear-cut all the time, and still requires a great deal of imagination on the part of the player. Often one hand is marked at a different dynamic level from the other.

The opening bars of the Italian Concerto, which could not be more affirmative, are immediately repeated in the dominant key, and separated by rests that are too often cut short by the anxious student. In the solo passages, the right hand generally takes the role of soloist, with the left accompanying and occasionally adding some more melodic material. The jewel of the piece is the slow movement, marked Andante (so not too slow). A rhapsodical melody of great beauty soars freely over a highly organized and at times sequential bass which, except for the two cadential bars, constantly repeats the same rhythmic figure. This movement is perhaps the closest to its Italian models, although its florid embellishments are completely written out by Bach rather than left to the performer’s fancy. Again Bach was criticized by Scheibe for this: ‘Every ornament, every little grace, and everything that one thinks of as belonging to the method of playing, he expresses completely in notes; and this not only takes away from his pieces the beauty of harmony, but completely covers the melody throughout.’ In his defence, Birnbaum makes the point that only very few performers have a sufficient knowledge of ornamentation not to spoil the composer’s intentions, and that Bach is fully entitled ‘to set the wanderers back on the right path by prescribing a correct method according to his intentions, and thus to watch over the preservation of his own honour’. How fortunate for us that he did! To conclude the work, Bach writes a high-spirited Presto, combining all his brilliance at the keyboard with a sense of fun. In the episodes the melodic material jumps from one hand to the other, allowing no let-up whatsoever. Pianists especially tend to let this movement run away completely, forgetting that even in a Presto Bach is agile enough to dance!

from notes by Angela Hewitt © 2001

Track-specific metadata
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Details for DVDA68001 disc 2 track 9
Movement 1: [untitled]
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-08-00145
Duration
3'47
Recording date
1 January 2007
Recording venue
Fazioli Pianoforti, Sacile, Italy
Recording producer
Nico Heinrich & Ludger Böckenhoff
Recording engineer
Uli Aumüller
Hyperion usage
  1. Angela Hewitt – Bach Performance on the Piano (DVDA68001)
    Disc 2 Track 9
    Release date: March 2008
    2CDs DVD
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