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Briefly Noted: J. C. Bach

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J. Christian Bach, Missa da Requiem / Miserere, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, RIAS Kammerchor, H.-C. Rademann

(released on October 11, 2011)
HMC 902098 | 74'55"
Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782), the youngest son of J. S. Bach, may also be the most famous son, perhaps after the elder C. P. E. Bach, with whom Johann Christian went to live in Berlin after their father's death. Christian Bach's time in London has been the most examined, with some of his piano concertos getting wide listening for their influence on Mozart, but also the symphonies and, only recently, the operas. This new disc is the second in a series from conductor Hans-Christoph Rademann, following up on a fine performance of Johann Ludwig Bach's Trauermusik with two pieces of sacred music from early in Christian Bach's career. In 1755, J. C. Bach set off for Italy, a voyage that included beneficial study with Padre Martini in Bologna. Bach converted to Catholicism and held church positions in Milan, where he premiered the two early sacred works recorded here, settings of the Requiem Mass (some parts of the text left out) and the penitential psalm Miserere mei Deus. In the fourth volume of A General History of Music, Charles Burney relates that this period of vocal music study in Milan was responsible for the "losses his hand had sustained by disuse, and by being constantly cramped and crippled with a pen," meaning that J. C. Bach's keyboard writing did not contain the most difficult technical demands. The pieces are worthy listening, showing the young Bach absorbing the historically grounded ideas of Padre Martini, using a cantus firmus drawn from Ambrosian chant, as well as Venetian divided-choir texture and concerto opposition of solos and tutti. The performance is lovely, with excellent playing from one of the best early music ensembles around, and fine singing from the RIAS Kammerchor and soloists.

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