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Orchester-Sinfonie in D major, H663 Wq183/1

circa 1771

Bach composed four symphonies during his years in Hamburg, and although they are less well-known today than the earlier set, they are if anything even more extraordinary. Certainly they are more imposing: published in Leipzig in 1780 and dedicated to Friedrich Wilhelm, Crown Prince of Prussia, they bore the title ‘Orchestra-Symphonies’ and were scored for an ensemble of strings, pairs of horns, flutes and oboes, and bassoon—a fuller and more colourful palette which Bach exploited with relish.

The first of the symphonies, in D major, has a dramatic opening which recalls that of Wq182/4, but now amplified into a carefully staged, mighty crescendo. It is hard not to think of Beethoven in this busy movement, not just in its powerful sonorities but also in the way Bach seems to be constantly on the lookout for ways to avoid the obvious—for instance the way in which the last note or chord of one episode might be replaced by first of the next. Even Beethoven, however, would have had difficulty in contemplating the bridge passage which leads to the central slow movement, arriving there in the surprise key of E flat major. This movement is brief, a snapshot of some warmly serene Gluckian operatic scene, and the symphony ends with a finale whose joyful progress is repeatedly interrupted by mysterious, winding questions from the strings.

from notes by Lindsay Kemp © 2015


Arias for Guadagni
Studio Master: CDA67924Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Bach (CPE): Symphonies
Studio Master: SIGCD395Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

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