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Satirino records · Bach - Italian Concerto

Italian Concerto BWV 971, Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue BWV 903,
French Overture BWV 831, A minor Sonata after Reinken BWV 965

Kenneth Weiss, harpsichord


Recorded at 
Cité de la Musique, Salle de l’Amphithéâtre 21-23 XII 2005
Harpsichord
Jean-Henri Hemsch, Paris, 1761, collection du Musée de la musique, Paris
Harpsichord preparation and technical assistance
Jean-Claude Battault
Tuning
Karoly Mostis - Young [Tartini /Valotti]
Sound engineer, producer, editing, mastering
Jiri Heger, Musica Numeris France
Design
le monde est petit
Image
Bellagio and Lake Como, Italy © Klaus Hackenberg - Corbis

Coproduction Cité de la musique, Paris

Cm Logo Paris

Press Reviews 

‘What shines out in his performance is the quality of the melodic phrasing and architectual clarity.’
Le Monde de la Musique - Philippe Venturini
 
‘Quite apart from his impeccable finger technique, Kenneth Weiss seems to be at the height of maturity, revealing a musical discours in which inspiration rivalises with elegance.’
À nous Paris - Coralie Welcome

Liner Note

Curious about all forms of music, Bach did not merely seek to aquaint himself with them. He wanted to understand, to penetrate the thought behind them, making copies, and even transcriptions of Vivaldi, Couperin, Handel, Telemann, Frescobaldi, Pergolesi and many others; there are numerous examples, all more or less well-known. Less well-known is the adaptation he made of a work by Reinken. While still a young man studying at the Lüneburg Gymnasium, "[Bach] would sometimes go to Hamburg to listen to the then celebrated organist, Johann Adam Reinken, in the church of Saint Catherine" if we are to believe his second son, Carl Philipp Emanuel. The music of the Great Man of Hamburg was thus an early focus for the young musician's admiration, and it was no doubt during this period that he came to know Reinken's Hortus musicus, his "Musical Garden", published in 1687. This was a group of six sonatas in four parts, for two violins, viola and bass continuo. Bach appreciated them sufficiently to have made copies and then transcriptions for solo harpsichord of two of them and a fugue of a third. But as was his wont, in reducing the instrumentation to a single harpsichord, he also enriched his model, adding here a new voice, there new developments, and a level of overall ornamentation lacking in the original: re-creations in the purest sense of the word. This attitude was characteristic of him, as can be seen in his adaptation of the first sonata in the collection, making it his A minor sonata (BWV 965) with its considerably amplified fugue and gigue, compensating with density what the work lost in diversity of colour.

The Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue occupies a special place in Bach’s works. It is one of his most audacious compositions, so much so that it has even been attributed to Wilhelm Friedemann. The manuscript did in fact fall to the lot of the musician's eldest son, who never sold it but kept it by him. Did it have a particular significance for him? As the work unfolds, Bach does in fact appear to be in a state of shock, in the grip of an intense emotion. These violent shocks and rocketing lines in a dramatic recitative full of broken chords and tortured harmonies, these crawling lines of chromatic movement, all underline the emotional climate of the moment. And such intensity, such exaggerated chromatism is no mere display of virtuosity by a composer seeking to astonish his audience. There is more to seek, and a closer look shows that the Fantasy is in fact segmented according to the periods of a funeral oration as defined by the rules of rhetoric with which Jean-Sébastien was so deeply imbued. The outburst of the choral "Ah, how vain, how fleeting is human life!" in the middle of this discourse confirms the hypothesis. Everything leads one to believe that the work was composed in 1720, under the effect of the unexpected death of Maria Barbara, the composer's first wife. The Fantasy is indeed a rending lamentation, after which the Fugue, from a mysterious, almost laborious start, builds up a formidable weight and strength to forge obstinately towards the re-conquest of self-mastery in the face of pain.

The Italian Concerto and the French Overture are the two pieces with which Bach constructed his second book of harpsichord music. We know that after moving to Leipzig, from 1726 he began to publish works for the keyboard which were, as he said himself, intended for a public of enthusiasts and connoisseurs. In the full flower of his human and professional maturity he wanted to make known his talent. The first volume, finished in 1731, consists of the six Partitas [1]. Four years later there appeared a new collection entitled "Second part of the Clavier Übung, consisting of a Concerto in the Italian style and an Overture à la française, for a harpsichord with two keyboards. Composed for the recreation of amateurs by Johann Sebastian Bach, Kapellmeister to the Prince of Saxe-Weissenfels and Director of Music of the City of Leipzig. Published by Christoph Weigel the Younger".

Bach had organised the Partitas in his first Clavier Übung in a logical order, a progression, that suggested a concluding work in F major. And here it was, the work awaited, in the Italian Concerto, and as counterpart a French Overture in the opposing key of B minor, a masterfully coherent realisation of a perfectly thought-out project. After the German style of the six Partitas, here was Italian taste (nach Italienischen Gusto) and the French manner (nach Französischer Art). This is Bach the European, who drank from every source and realised a unique synthesis of all the musical cultures of his time, in a universal and immediately recognisable language, even if one is unable to say specifically what came from this or that influence, this or that style. What strikes us in the Concerto and the Overture is his depth of understanding of the other members of the European Concert of Nations, so dear to the Baroque Spirit, from the firework displays of digital dexterity and the clarity of Italian formal architecture to the pomp and circumstance of Versailles and the taste for dance rhythms found in the melancholy elegance of France under Louis XV…

GILLES CANTAGREL

Translation - Richard Maxwell

[1] Kenneth Weiss has recorded the six Partitas for Satirino Records, reference SR011

Record  Sr061

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Concerto nach Italiœnischen Gusto (Clavier Übung II) BWV 971
1 - (without title) [4'30]
2 - Andante [4'56]
3 - Presto [3'57]

Chromatische Fantasie und Fuge BWV 903
4 - Fantasie [5'41]
5 - Fuge [6'02]

Ouverture nach Französischer Art (Clavier Übung II) BWV 831
6 - Ouverture [7'27]
7 - Courante [2'01]
8 - Gavotte 1 & 2 [3'29]
9 - Passepied 1 & 2 [2'38]
10 - Sarabande [2'56]
11 - Bourée 1 & 2 [2'18]
12 - Gigue [2'47]
13 - Echo [3'24]

Sonate in a-Moll nach der Sonata 1 in Jan Adam Reinkens "Hortus musicus" BWV 965
14 - Adagio - Fuga (Allegro) - Adagio - Presto [7'04]
15 - Allemande [2'05]
16 - Courante [1'48]
17 - Sarabande [1'36]
18 - Gigue [3'03]

Total time 67'51