Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788), Johann Sebastian's prodigiously talented second son, acquired his musical skills at his father's knee, but emerged from the paternal shadow before he was 25. His reputation as a keyboard player was cemented--and perpetuated--by his "Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments"; as a composer, he developed a style distinctly his own: innovative, adventurous, deliberately willful, yet characterized by an inward, subtle sensitivity. He exerted a profound influence on succeeding generations; Mozart reportedly said, "He is the father, we are the children."
These four symphonies, written in 1775, all have three movements connected by a fermata or short cadenza. Within this form, Bach achieves extraordinary diversity of character, mood, and expression, with contrasting articulation, rhythm, and dynamics; the conversational juxtaposition of winds and strings creates variety of color and texture. The fast corner movements are sparkling and gracious, with trills adding spice and humor; the slow middle movements sing serenely and lament mournfully.
The Cello Concerto, composed around 1753 during Bach's 30-year employment at the court of Frederick the Great, is very beautiful; the slow movement with its Neapolitan chords and chromaticism is deeply moving. It also exists in versions for flute and harpsichord, the former written for the Emperor, the latter probably for Bach himself. The cello version, which combines the flute's sustaining quality and the keyboard's nimbleness, is considered the most successful; the solo part is extremely difficult, with leaps, jumps, and runs. The period instrument orchestra, tuned a half-step low, is most excellent; the solo cello sounds a bit subdued, but the performance is brilliant and expressive. --Edith Eisler