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Classical - Released October 2, 2015 | Mirare

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Editor's Choice
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Classical - Released January 1, 2016 | Oehms Classics

Once derided as a perpetual drunk, reviled as the Bach son who dared sign his father's name to his own work, and his reputation barely surviving its usage as a fictionalized cause celèbre by the Nazi party, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach is starting, at the beginning of the twenty first century, to come into his own at last. Anthony Spiri, an American-born pianist who lives and works in Munich, Germany, weighs in on W.F. Bach on Oehms Classics' Wilhelm Friedemann Bach: Three Fantasias -- Three Fugues -- Three Sonatas, a handsome collection that features three recently discovered works never before heard. Right off the bat, one of the previously unknown pieces, the Fantasia in C minor, really grabs your attention. The opening and middle sections betray the work of a questing, reflective soul deep in thought, whereas the contrapuntal contrasting material comes straight from idiom of his father, and not a second-rate approximation of it, but in music fully worthy of the model. Many composers have taken the music of Johann Sebastian Bach into other contexts, but it is highly illuminating to discover that Bach's eldest son was among the first to do so. The program exhibits several facets of the unpredictable, eccentric nature of W.F. Bach and from listening to this, it is easy to see how his explosive-cum-expressive style remained at odds with the galant manner that dominated his era. The Fantasia in A minor F. 23 sounds not so much like an eighteenth century keyboard piece as a post-modern concoction based on one, so shot through with abrupt gestures, awkward syncopations, and outright crankiness it is. Anthony Spiri plays these pieces on a modern piano, and as it has been long established that W.F. Bach's music sounds good on a modern instrument, this should not hinder most listeners other than those who simply must have a period keyboard in such music. SWR's recording, however, is a bit distant, dim, and fuzzy; this is the only concern in what is otherwise a splendid program, further illuminated by Spiri's own excellently written and detailed notes. © TiVo
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Classical - Released March 3, 2015 | Oehms Classics

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Cantatas (sacred) - Released January 4, 2011 | Carus

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Chamber Music - Released May 8, 2020 | Laplace Records

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Classical - Released January 11, 2019 | Naxos

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Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, born in 1710, was the oldest son of Johann Sebastian, and probably the most ill-fated: he failed to hold down a job, scraped by with teaching, and died in poverty. One may speculate as to the reasons for this, but it may have had something to do with what has been called the anxiety of influence. All the Bach children struggled with their father's mighty example in one way or another, but the process is especially visible in these flute duets, thought to be early works by Friedemann. They veer precipitously between dense contrapuntal writing and lighter movements that presage the changes in style that were sweeping across Germany in the 1730s. This may not result in really coherent music, but it's also never dull. There's a good deal of technically quite difficult music that's confidently handled by flutists Patrick Gallois and Kazunori Seo. There's a fascinating effect stemming from the fact that the instruments carry equal weight throughout, but this is accomplished in different ways. Sample the intricate first movement, with the curious tempo marking of "Allegro e moderato," of the Duet No. 4 in F major, F. 57 for a taste. The rather harsh studio sound from Naxos is a disincentive here, but the album is a worthwhile look into the mind of perhaps the least well-known of Bach's composer sons. © TiVo
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Classical - Released March 30, 2018 | Brilliant Classics

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Classical - Released June 17, 2010 | Ricercar

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Classical - Released May 7, 2009 | Mirare

Hi-Res Booklets Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
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Classical - Released January 1, 2004 | Accent

Distinctions 4 étoiles du Monde de la Musique - 9 de Répertoire
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Cantatas (sacred) - Released January 4, 2011 | Carus

Booklet
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. © TiVo
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Classical - Released June 3, 2014 | Naxos

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Classical - Released January 1, 1997 | Centaur Records, Inc.

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Chamber Music - Released March 6, 2012 | harmonia mundi

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Classical - Released November 27, 2007 | Naxos

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
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Classical - Released January 15, 2008 | harmonia mundi

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Classical - Released January 1, 2000 | Accent

It is easy to think of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach as an underachiever of sorts; owing to his limited output -- at least compared to his younger siblings -- and his reputation as a lush and as the loser of roughly a third of Johann Sebastian Bach's output that had been willed to his care. When you combine such foreknowledge with the notion that he composed six duets for two flutes, produced in great numbers for the amateur market in the eighteenth century, one might deduce that recording such works by the eldest Bach son would be a negligible pursuit at best. That is certainly not the case with Accent's Wilhelm Friedemann Bach: Six Duets for Two Flutes; this is a highly compelling and endlessly fascinating collection of pieces that places the use of canonic procedures within the Bach family into an entirely different context. "Pieces set if very difficult keys must be played only before listeners who understand the instrument," wrote Johann Joachim Quantz in 1752, "and are able to grasp the difficulty of these keys on it; they must not be played before everyone." Quantz was specifically speaking about the eighteenth century transverse flute, a solid wooden instrument with a single key employed in this excellent recording by recorder virtuosi Barthold Kuijken and Marc Hantaï. Based in Dresden, Quantz was among the likely musicians for whom the first four of these duets were intended, and he was not an amateur by any standing; Quantz thought them good enough to pull examples from them in a flute method he published in 1752. The other two duets are very late works, written in the 1770s, and are keeping with the stylistically unpredictable and eccentric manner found in Bach's last keyboard works, though the earlier set of four are in ways just as challenging. Sometimes a phrase will start in strict canon, with a brightly colored, Italianate theme, and one thinks, "Dad!" However, along the way, Wilhelm Friedemann might stick in an extra note somewhere, resulting in an asymmetrical pattern, and then one thinks, "Not Dad." Asymmetry is a distinctive hallmark of the eldest Bach's canonic thinking. How to match up irrevocable elements into a unified whole with some manner of sophistication is the issue at hand. In this sense, Bach is not only successful, but the great variety of unpredictable textures he achieves and the great care taken not to run wholly off the rails is an integral part of what keeps the cycle of six interesting, even at times nail-biting. Kuijken and Hantaï demonstrate a facility with these difficult period instruments that would have astounded Quantz, and the disc is anything but boring. Accent's Wilhelm Friedemann Bach: Six Duets for Two Flutes will prove essential for flute players or a Wilhelm Friedemann Bach enthusiast, though its appeal is not nearly as limited as one might think. © TiVo
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Classical - Released May 1, 2014 | Brilliant Classics

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Classical - Released January 1, 2002 | Carus