Mozart's view of the music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was wonderfully contradictory: he observed that Bach's music would be considered old-fashioned in his own time, but that "he [Bach] was the father, and we are the children." This set of six CPE Bach symphonies from the early 1770s gives listeners the opportunity to think more deeply on Mozart's statement. Mozart might easily have heard these works, and if music moved in the direction of lightness and grace from Bach's style during Mozart's creative lifetime, one can still hear a lot of CPE in Mozart. The six symphonies here are not representative of Bach's "Sturm und Drang" style; all but one are in major keys, and even the gracefully chromatic middle movement of the Symphony in B minor, Wq 182/5, is extremely Mozartian. The economy of form, with unexpected harmonic turns achieved with the smallest possible deployment of motivic resources, feels like Mozart. The six symphonies were commissioned by the Baron van Swieten, the Viennese diplomat responsible for turning Mozart's interest toward J.S. Bach, and he specified that the younger Bach should not feel any restrictions in terms of technical complexity. The symphonies have a good deal of technical complexity that may remind one of Haydn's Op. 20 string quartets as well as Mozart. At any rate, these works are highly listenable, and they get appropriately rough performances from Finland's Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra under Sakari Oramo. There are a few other performances of these works, but the transparency and vigor of these readings recommend them to any fan of J.S. Bach's most daring son.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|String Symphony in G major, Wq. 182 No. 1|
|String Symphony in B flat major, Wq. 182 No. 2|
|String Symphony in C major, Wq. 182 No. 3|
|String Symphony in A major, Wq. 182 No. 4|
|String Symphony in B minor, Wq. 182 No. 5|
|String Symphony in E major, Wq. 182 No. 6|