Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782) was the eighteenth child of the great J. S., and his youngest son. He learned music from his venerable dad, and from his big brother Carl Philipp Emanuel.
J. C. eventually settled in London, but launched his musical career in Italy, after converting to the Catholic faith. I intend to discuss his magnificent Requiem Mass in a future post, and have already gushed a bit over his stunning rendering of the 50th Psalm, Miserere.
Though I am no musicologist, I gather that the mode in which this youngest of the Bachs composed is known as the gallant style. Retrospectively, it represents a transition from the baroque to the classical. The contemporary listener will hear more Mozart than “Bach” in J. C. Bach.
On point of fact, the young Mozart studied with J. C. for several months, and both Wolfgang and his predecessor (and successor) Haydn were influenced in their art by the “English Bach.”
In my opinion, J. C. has a highly distinctive and disarmingly cheerful musical voice. Frequent recourse to brief but striking tensions, and occasional but formidable forays into weightier themes, anchor his good humor in a foundation of truth.
Exploring his works is definitely a top priority for this musical hobbyist.
Here, Anna Kislitsyna and Irene Moretto capture the spirit of J. C. admirably, in this performance of his Sonata for Two Keyboards in G Major:
Since the gallant Bach lived in an age when the medieval harpsichord was being supplanted by the modern fortepiano, it is a stroke of genius on the part of Kislitsyna and Moretto to deliver this duet, which could be performed on two harpsichords or two pianos, with one of each.
Hearing these beautiful instruments together, conveying the work of a man who wrote exquisitely for both, is a lovely reminder of the nature of genuine tradition, which preserves all that is good from the past, while making room for new manifestations of eternal truths.
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