Concert Notes: Beyond Baroque

MCO’s Beyond Baroque can be heard in Melbourne on Sunday 30 April at Melbourne Recital Centre & Thursday 04 May at The Deakin Edge, Federation Square.

Beyond Baroque


CPE Bach
Sinfonia in E minor Wq177 Fandango

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788), the second surviving son of JS Bach and his first wife Maria Barbara, was an important and influential composer of the second half of the eighteenth century; composing more than 1000 works including songs, oratorios, keyboard dance movements and sonatas, concertos and symphonies.

The catalogue of CPE Bach’s works lists eighteen symphonies composed over a period of thirty-five years. Eight of these symphonies date from his time in Berlin between 1738 and 1768. The Symphony in E minor was composed in 1756 (the year of Mozart’s birth) and is one of his most popular works. In its design and execution we see the craftsman at work. Note, for example, the contrast of the explosive tension of the opening Allegro assai with the resolved song-like phrases of the Andante moderato. The final Allegro provides a sense of unity to the work. Another version of this symphony (Wq 178) includes winds.


Viola Concerto in G major TWV51:G9
Ouverture Les Nations TWV55:B5

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) was one of the most highly revered and prolific composers of his day. His music and reputation were of the highest order and he remained at the forefront of musical innovation throughout his lifetime, contributing to musical life, publishing, music education and music theory. Telemann’s music provides an important link between the late Baroque and early Classical styles. He was a good friend of JS Bach, and became godfather of CPE Bach.

The Viola Concerto in G major was written between 1716 and 1721 and is the only viola concerto known to have been written by Telemann. The work is in four movements. The wistful Largo provides a sense of contemplation before proceeding into the mildly restrained yet energetic Allegro. The Andante in a contrasting minor key again returns to the mellow character of the opening movement with the writing predominantly in the upper register of the instrument. The Presto provides an exciting finale full of verve and joyful display.

The Ouverture TWV 55:B5 was probably written in or before 1723. Telemann composed more than 200 multi-movement works called Ouverturen. Although he wrote a number of multi-movement works with the individual movements named after nationalities or countries, Les Nations (The Nations) was not a title assigned by the composer. Telemann’s international suites use typical characteristic elements associated with particular nationalities and regions. These suites follow a similar structure of an opening French overture, a pair of minuets, a series of national dances and a concluding movement. In this case the opening French overture commences with a slow introduction marked with dotted figures, moving into a fast fugal central section with a return to a slow section to close. The pair of minuets precedes the contrasting national dances. Les Turcs (The Turks) is emphatic and exotic and contrasts to the sedate Les Suisses (The Swiss) movement, the dance-like Les Portugais (The Portuguese) is again contrasted with Les Moscovites (The Muscovites). The final movement provides even more contrast between Les Boiteux (the Lame) and Les Coureurs (the runners). It was usual for all movement in a suite to be in the same key. In this work, two movements Les Suisses and Les Boiteux are in the relative minor key providing further contrast.


WF Bach
Symphony in F major

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-1784), the eldest son of Johann Sebastian and Maria Barbara Bach, was taught by his father. Michael Kennedy in the Oxford Dictionary of Music states that Wilhelm Friedemann was “Possibly also the favourite son, but one who sadly failed to justify parental hopes”. Regarded as one of the greatest organists of his day and renowned for his improvisatory skills, his compositions include many church cantatas and instrumental works, particularly for keyboard. He wrote ten symphonies. The F major symphony is the first of five published during his time in Dresden where he lived between 1733 and 1746. The work has the nickname “Dissonant”. The opening Vivace is in the style of a French overture and is marked by shifts in tempo and tonality. The Andante is a calm and tender aria. This is followed by a lively Allegro and the work concludes with a graceful Menuetto.


JS Bach
Concerto for Viola in E flat major BWV1053R
(reconstructed by Wilfried Fischer)

Johann Sebastian Bach’s (1685-1750) orchestral music includes suites, overtures, sinfonia and concerti. The concerti are for a range of solo instruments (including harpsichord, violin and flute) as well as numerous for multiple instruments.

The viola concerto is a reconstruction of a series of earlier works by JS Bach. It is based on Harpsichord Concerto No. 2 in E major BWV 1053 which was the composer’s arrangement of his Oboe Concerto in F major BWV 1053R. In this work he re-used materials from the cantatas Gott soll allein mein Herze haben (God alone shall have my heart) BWV 169 where the opening Sinfonia and alto aria Stirb in mir (Die in me) are the basis of the first and second movements, and the Sinfonia from Ich geh’ und suche mit Verlangen (I go forth and seek with longing) BWV 49 is reflected the final movement.

The three movements are all in a three-part da capo (A-B-A) form. The first movement is an exciting contrapuntal interplay between the soloist and the orchestra. The Siciliano is marked by a beautifully forlorn main theme. The final Allegro returns to the drive and momentum of the first movement and is marked with virtuosic writing for the solo instrument.


Catalogues numbers

In attending any concert an audience is confronted with a seemingly secret language of catalogues. Many composers identify their works via an opus number. The word Opus (Latin for ‘work’) is usually used to designate the published works of a composer and their order of publication – they do not always relate to the actual date and order of composition or, in fact, all of a composer’s works.

In order to make some chronological sense of a composer’s outputs musicologists have gone about researching and ordering the works of composers chronologically and by genre. The lists assist us to place a composer’s work within a timeframe and in relation to other works written at the time. With some composers their outputs are identified by both an opus number and a newer catalogue designation.

In today’s program CPE Bach’s works were first catalogued by Alfred Wotquenne in 1906 which led to the Wq numbers being used. A revised catalogue was produced in 1989 by E. Eugene Helm resulting in an H numbering system. Both systems are sometimes used.

WF Bach’s works were catalogued by Martin Falck in 1913. The catalogue was published as Friedemann Bach: Sein leben und seine werke, mit thematischem vel’Zeichnis seiner kompositionen und zwei bildem and we see the use of the F catalogue numbers.

JS Bach’s works were catalogued as BWV: Bach-Werke‐Verzeichnis (Index to Bach’s Works). The catalogue is entitled Thematisch‐Systematisches Verzeichnis der musikalischen Werke von Johann Sebastian Bach which was compiled and edited by Wolfgang Schmieder in 1950.

Georg Philipp Telemann’s vast catalogue was brought together by Martin Ruhnke as the TWV: Telemann-Werke-Verzeichnis and is based on the three volume Georg Philipp Telemann: Thematische- Verzeichnis seiner Werke Systematische (1984, 1992, 1999).

*David Forrest