Christophe Rousset / Les Talens Lyriques

The Bach Dynasty

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The challenge for performers offering multigenerational Bach programs is that Bach's sons, to a greater or lesser degree, were Classical-era composers, and few groups do both Classical and Baroque music really well. This problem plagues even the superbly equipped ensemble Les Talens Lyriques and its top-notch harpsichordist and leader Christophe Rousset. The program concept is strong: Rousset attempts to give an idea, within the confines of a single disc, of the varying nature of the sons' responses to having such a musically totalizing father as an example. Often, C.P.E. Bach's answer was to be extreme, and the Symphony in C major, Wq 182/3, heard here provides an excellent example of his extremity with the bizarre modulations undertaken at breakneck speed in its opening movement. The opening performance of the J.S. Bach Harpsichord Concerto in D minor, BWV 1059, is very strong, and the soloists are impressive: cellist Atsushi Sakaï offers a lovely example of sustained tension in a lyric movement in the cello concerto's Largo, and flutist Jocelyn Daubigney is unfazed by the technical display that represented part of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach's take on his father's legacy. But the orchestra has a very un-Classical brusqueness in the two works of the sons. The finale of C.P.E.'s Symphony in C major is meant to be a piece of courtly grace in which the shocks of the first two movements almost, but not quite, disappear -- strange ideas float by like uneasy memories. But the relaxation necessary to catch the effect is missing from the performance here, and the W.F. flute concerto is also too astringent. The players can nowhere be faulted technically, and the music here is never boring -- but the listener will once again be reminded of how much tastes changed in the middle of the eighteenth century.

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