Jonathan Cohen's small choral-instrumental group Arcangelo has rightly earned praise for its performances of works by Johann Sebastian Bach, clean yet flavored by flexible, chamber music-like interactions. You might easily spend the money for the state-of-the-art Bach Magnificat in D major, BWV 243, offered here, with the splendidly clear sound of St. Mary the Virgin and St. Mary Magadalen, Tetbury, Gloucestershire, an added attraction. But you may be wondering what the plural "s" refers to in the Magnificats of the slightly confusing title, which might easily have indicated "Bachs." What's recorded here are Magnificats by two of Johann Sebastian Bach's sons, Johann Christian Bach, the so-called "London Bach," and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. The two younger works make a fascinating pair. The brief Magnificat in C major, E22, of Johann Christian Bach, was actually composed in 1760, before he moved to London. Its style is marked by that of mid-century Italian opera, and it helps make the case for J.C. as an influence on Mozart's sacred music with its long, fluent lines. Perhaps more interesting is the Magnificat in D major, H772, of C.P.E. Bach, which shares its key with that of the elder Bach. The two works likewise share a grand manner, shading off in C.P.E.'s Magnificat into the highly expressive empfindsam language that was his specialty. It's a fascinating example of what was once called the anxiety of influence, but the work can stand on its own and deserves more frequent performance. Not only an album of superior Bach family performances, but also a worthwhile excavation of two rarely heard works.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by James Manheim