Ralf Otto / L'Arpa Festante / Bachchor Mainz

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach: Kantaten, Vol. 1

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Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Johann Sebastian's oldest son (and second child), was clearly the one among all of the composer sons who felt his father's influence most keenly. The result was the rather curious set of cantatas here, composed while W.F. Bach was music director of the city of Halle between 1746 and 1764. That was very late to be writing the kind of chorale-based cantata involved here, and it's a bit startling to realize that when even J.S. Bach's music was considered old-fashioned, his son could obtain a major position working in essentially the same style. It's worth noting that W.F. Bach died in poverty. Quite a few of the arias, as well as the chorales, could have come from the elder Bach's more Italianate works, and it's no surprise to learn that W.F. sometimes, with his back to the wall financially, claimed authorship of his father's music. What gives these pieces their peculiar quality, however, are the movements in which W.F. Bach allows himself to adopt the latest styles. These mostly come at the beginnings of pieces, and there is no more dramatic example than the opening chorus of the cantata Ach, dass du den Himmel zerrisset (track 1). It's strange to hear a piece bookended by this movement and the work's concluding chorale, but the setting fits its multi-section text ingeniously. This isn't always true; hear the soprano aria "Komm, ach komm" (track 20), from the cantata Gott fähret auf mit Jauchzen, where it's as if the pious text simply could not be shoehorned into a more modern idiom. Nothing here is essential listening, but the Mainz Bach Choir and the historical-instrument group L'arpa festante under Ralf Otto team with a fine set of soloists to deliver lively performances throughout; the album is especially recommended to fans of soprano Dorothee Mields. But any aficionado of the music of Bach's sons will find it a conceptually stimulating listen.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Ach, dass du den Himmel zerrissest, BR-WFB F 3 / Fk 93
1 3:15 Amazon
2 7:42 Amazon
3 1:31 Amazon
4 4:40 Amazon
5 0:59 Amazon
Wohl dem, der den Herren fürchtet, BR-WFB F 19 / Fk 76
6 4:45 Amazon
7 7:23 Amazon
8 2:21 Amazon
O Wunder, wer kann dieses fassen, BR-WFB F 2 / Fk 92
9 2:57 Amazon
10 1:49 Amazon
11 9:07 Amazon
12 1:41 Amazon
13 7:46 Amazon
14 1:15 Amazon
Gott fähret auf mit Jauchzen, BR-WFB F 10 / Fk 75
15 4:04 Amazon
16 0:53 Amazon
17 0:46 Amazon
18 4:08 Amazon
19 1:14 Amazon
20 6:19 Amazon
21 0:47 Amazon
22 2:20 Amazon
23 1:06 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick