The music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, the second of Johann Sebastian Bach’s sons, is not only worth a detour, it is worth going back on our own’s tracks. Simply because it’s beautiful, uplifting and a perfect start into a new day. This summer, I presented Bach’s Cello Concerto in A minor (Wq. 170), an arrangement of his Keyboard Concerto in A minor (Wq. 26). The keyboard concerto will be the focal point of today’s post. As the cello version, it saw the light in 1750, ten years after Bach had joined the orchestra of the Prussian King Frederic II in Berlin. It was also the year his famous father died.
Oriental exotics and intrigue, power struggles, impossible love, betrayal and reconciliation – those ingredients have tempted librettists and opera composers alike. How they dealt with it, had very much to do with the conventions of the time, the taste of the audience, and the availability of good singers. When Johann Christian Bach, the youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach, made his debut in London, he was appalled by the lack of good singers, and though the King’s Theatre asked him in 1762 to write two operas, he initially refused. However, after the audition of several singers, he agreed, and in 1763, he presented an opera that had long been forgotten, and that I have discovered myself only very recently: Zanaida.
There is no life without Bach, at least not for me, and the moment you are reading this, I will be far away from home, on the beach, sitting in the sand, looking at the blue sky and doing nothing. Nothing except reading, listening to Bach and perhaps pondering whether I will run once more across the beach and throw myself into the waves. Right, I am on my much deserved vacation while at home the grape harvest has begun and the weather is gradually changing into a familiar grey-with-occasional-rain pattern. Welcome autumn!
The other day I felt tired, miserable, distressed. I felt like hiding from the hideous world, from which I felt totally disconnected. Hiding – but where? Johann Sebastian Bach’s music is a good place to hide, a sanctuary of singular beauty, where I always feel welcome, where I can stop thinking, where I don’t have to talk or to explain or justify. In the realm of Bach I can be. To be, to exist, without any conditions attached to it – philosophers from Parmenides to Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel have struggled with the concept. How good it feels to be permeated by Bach’s Concerto for two Harpsichords, Strings and Continuo in C minor (BWV 1060), to forget reality and to contemplate Beauty, Purity, Eternity.