C. P. E. Bach: 6 Hamburg Symphonies

Ensemble Resonanz, Riccardo Minasi
Es Dur ES 2053

Bach’s six three-movement string symphonies represent the ultimate in the move from the Baroque, with its single mood (or affekt) within each movement, to the Pre-classical concept of depicting many short, contrasting motivic ideas in order to rapidly change the emotional experience of the listener within a short space of time. Here Minasi takes this concept to its ultimate limits, with wide-ranging dynamic contrasts and dramatic pauses. Ensemble Resonanz bridge that gap between period and ‘modern’ instruments while remaining as true as possible to the composer’s intentions. Such a repertoire taxes the most accomplished of players, and only very occasionally was I aware of some very slight imperfections in intonation from this ensemble, which did not detract from a pleasurable listening experience. ‘Pleasurable’, however, may not be the best choice of word, as these works demand intense and careful attention from the listener to fully appreciate the composer’s intentions. For they could never have been conceived, as so much music of the period was, as music to entertain the composer’s patron Baron van Swieten.

I knew the 3rd of these works particularly well, but never realised, until I read the excellent booklet notes, that the opening dramatic motif of it’s adagio spelt out ‘BACH’, followed by an E (for Emanuel)!

Ian Graham-Jones