The London Baroque

Irmgard Schaller, Violin
Richard Gwilt, Violin
Charles Medlam, Violoncello
Terence Charlston, Harpsichord

The Program


Trio Sonata in C (after organ sonata) BWV 529

J. S. Bach

Fantasia for harpsichord solo F.19

W. F. Bach

Tro Sonata in B-Flat H.584

C. P. E. Bach

Sonata in G for cello and continuo

J. C. F. Bach

Duet in G for 2 Violins

J. C. Bach

Concerto in D Major for harpsichord and strings, K.107/1

J. C. Bach (arr. Mozart)

Program Notes

The Bach family is perhaps the best known musical family of all time, its members spanning many generations. In this program, we sample the music from two generations: J.S. Bach himself, the pivotal and best-known representative, and his four musical sons — Wilhelm Friedemann, Carl Philipp Emanuel, Johann Christian and Johann Christoph Friedrich.

Wilhelm Friedemann was Johann Sebastian's eldest, and possibly favorite son. He was born in 1710, and showed early promise as a musician. He became one of the best organists of his day and is sometimes known as the “Halle Bach” as he was employed as organist at Halle's Liebfrauenkirche for nearly twenty years. Carl Philipp Emanuel, Bach's second surviving son of his first marriage, also showed a great talent for music from an early age. He was born in 1714 and went on to become an expert keyboard player. He was employed as harpsichordist to the music-loving Frederick the Great for some twenty-seven years before taking up the post of director of church music in Hamburg in 1768. Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach, born in Leipzig in 1732, was the eldest surviving son of Johann Sebastian and his second wife, Anna Magdalena. Taught music by his father, he matriculated at Leipzig University to study law, but when Johann Sebastian became ill in 1750, he gave up his student career to accept a position of chamber musician to Count Wilhelm of Schaumburg-Lippe in the town of Bückeburg. He remained here for the rest of his life, becoming known as the “Bückeburg Bach”. Johann Christian, the youngest son of Johann Sebastian, was born in Leipzig in 1735. When his father died 15 years later, he moved to Berlin to study with his older brother, Carl Philipp Emanuel. He subsequently traveled to Italy and in 1762 visited London, where he stayed for the rest of his life, becoming known as the “London Bach”. When the eight-year old Mozart visited London in 1764, J.C. Bach was greatly impressed by his prodigious talent and enjoyed improvising at the keyboard with him.

J.S. Bach Trio Sonata in C (after organ sonata) BWV 529

1685-1750 Allegro - Largo - Allegro

The date of origin of the six organ trio sonatas cannot be ascribed with any certainty. It is likely that Bach wrote them at the beginning of his Leipzig years for his then thirteen year old son, Wilhelm Friedemann. They are virtuoso showpieces, the two treble parts being played by the hands, the bass part on the pedals. Bach himself was no stranger to the practice of arranging his and other's music, and we have followed his lead by arranging the fifth of the six organ trios for the standard baroque trio-sonata instrumentation of two violins with continuo provided by cello and harpsichord.

W.F. Bach Fantasia for harpsichord solo F.19

1710- 1784

Of the four Bach sons, Wilhelm Friedemann seems to have been the least interested in reconciling his training under his father with the newer styles, vacillating throughout his career (and often within a single work) between the old and the new. This Fantasia alternates three types of musical idea — fast triplet passage-work in duple time, a triple-time Grave reminiscent of the French overture style, and two fugal sections. It was probably written around 1770 when he left Halle and became increasingly active as a keyboard virtuoso.

C.P.E. Bach Trio sonata in B-flat for two violins and b.c. H.584

1714-1788 Allegretto - Largo - Allegro

Since his long-time employer, Frederick the Great, was a keen flautist, it is hardly surprising that most of Carl Philipp's early trios are written for flute and violin with continuo. However, later in his career he turned to the two-violin combination for which he wrote nine trio sonatas. This one, in B flat, was written around 1754, and published in Musikalisches Mancherley in 1763.

J.C.F. Bach Sonata in G for cello and b.c.

1732-1795 Allegro - Rondeaux

Johann Christoph Friedrich wrote three sonatas for cello and continuo, of which one is lost, and one for cello and obbligato keyboard, which survives only in a transposed and heavily edited 20th century version. The exact dates of none of the sonatas are known. They are all elegant works, clearly showing the influence of the new "classical" style of Mozart and Haydn.

J.C. Bach Duet in G for two violins senza basso

1735-1782 Andante - Allegro - Allegro assai

Johann Christian's six duets for two violins were published in London around 1775. They are truly galant pieces, showing, like the music of his older brother J.C.F., the influence of the new classical style. The writing is virtuosic, full of special effects such as string-crossing, double-stopping, bariolage and open string pedals, not omitting, in the first movement, the more cantabile possibilities of the violin.

J.C. Bach/Mozart Concerto in D major for harpsichord and strings K 107/1

Allegro - Andante/Adagio - Tempo di Minuetto

In around 1772, before composing his first original keyboard concerto, Mozart made several arrangements of keyboard sonatas by various other composers by giving them an accompaniment of two violins and continuo. Three of these concertos were based on sonatas by J.C. Bach. This concerto in D major is an arrangement of J.C. Bach’s three-movement sonata Op. 5 no. 2.

The Performers

London Baroque was formed in 1978 and is now regarded worldwide as one of the foremost exponents of baroque chamber music, enabling its members to devote their professional lives to the group. A regular fifty or so performances a year has given the group a cohesion and professionalism akin to that of a permanent string quartet.

Their repertoire spans a period from the end of the sixteenth century up to Mozart and Haydn with works of virtually unknown composers next to familiar masterpieces of the baroque and early classical eras. London Baroque also expands to larger forces in order to tackle the chamber orchestra repertoire and works involving a consort of singers.

There is hardly an important. venue or festival where they have not appeared and are regular visitors at the Salzburg, Bath, Beaune, Innsbruck, Utrecht and Stuttgart festivals.

They have toured the US in 1985 (twice), 1987,1989,1992 and 1994 and are regular visitors to Japan.

London Baroque records for Harmonia Mundi, France. Recent releases of Lawes and CPE

Bach have received great critical acclaim... "as usual they bring to the music a rich and colorful sound... praise can be too high for the sensitive and deeply expressive assumption of the solo violin..." Their extensive discography covers much of the major baroque repertoire - and more besides. Future plans include the trio sonatas of Leclair and Handel serenatas with singers.

The performances were immaculately controlled, at all times a delight to the ear - supple, flexible playing which touched the heights of virtuosity and the depths of emotion.
There was an electricity charging their well-varied programme and stimulating us anew. Foremost of their attributes was a technical security which allowed them such flamboyance in the first place.
"a combination of polish and verve . . . wickedly wonderful interplay".
London Baroque seems born to the baroque. They simply presented the wonderful old music with such understanding and immediacy that each composition sounded as if it has been written yesterday - the audience was thrilled.
London Baroque plays with a sensitivity of phrase, a warmth of sonority, a projection of solo lines, a rhythmic vitality, exuberance and excitement . . . Throughout the evening the audience sat in rapt attention, not only for the variety but also for the exquisite music-making . . . London Baroque is one of the finest baroque ensembles performing today.
London Baroque are now at the pinnacle of their field, and rightly so with their breathtaking brilliance and intonation, finely worked-out tone colours and technical perfection.
One seldom hears a concert that presents such undisturbed joy in early music.
No compact disc could possibly have captured the force and rhetoric of this vital music. We hope to see these artists next year
The highest level of execution, beauty of sound, perfect intonation and stylistic approach. The result was a combination of verve and credibility seldom found. We do not hesitate to name these four young musicians the best specialists in their field.


Copyright 1996-9 by Houston Early Music 
P.O. Box 271193 | Houston TX 77277-1193 | Phone 713-432-1744 |
P.O. Box 271193 | Houston TX 77277-1193 | Phone 713-432-1744 | email
Copyright 1996-2003 by Houston Early Music.  Updated January 17, 2004