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Van Swieten would have known that the result would be symphonies in the fervently emotional and unpredictable style cultivated at that time by composers in northern Germany and known as Empfindsamkeit (roughly translating as ‘ultra-sensitive’), a style in which Bach had already shown notable mastery in his solo keyboard works; and he would probably have expected it to be further enlivened by the turbulent, mainly minor-key spirit of Sturm und Drang (‘storm and stress’) that was at this time affecting composers in many parts of Europe, most memorably Haydn. But even Van Swieten must have been amazed by the vivid originality of Bach’s response. Here are the nervy extremes of expression—thrust at us in affecting melodies, angular lines, jarring key-changes, febrile dynamic contrasts and lurching changes of direction—that mark Bach out as a composer of urgent individuality. Symphony No 5 starts out with a melody which is somehow both elegant and tense, and further underminings by scrabbling unison lines and threatening full-orchestral chords ensure that the mood never feels entirely comfortable. The second movement breaks in unexpectedly to bring a more settled melancholy, but this is soon swept aside as the finale pitches headlong into further agitation.
from notes by Lindsay Kemp © 2015
|Bach (CPE): Symphonies|
CPE Bach: a trailblazer, whose music is bright and effervescent, constantly shifting and wrong-footing the listener with wild changes of colour and direction. And yet CPE Bach is these days almost entirely eclipsed by his father, Johann Sebastian. ...» More