CPE BACH: Hamburger Sinfonien 1-6 – Ostrobothian Ch. Orch./ Sakari Oramo – Alba

CPE BACH: Hamburger Sinfonien 1-6, Wq 182 – Ostrobothian Chamber Orch./ Sakari Oramo – Alba multichannel SACD ABCD 374, 63:11 [Distr. by Albany] ****: 

It’s hard not to be a CPE Bach fan; his Empfindsam style, a method used to produce extreme feelings and emotions in music through the employment of sudden dynamic changes, unexpected and often startling harmonies, and a good dose of rhythmic impetus and chromatics, often makes the concurrent pleasantries and decorum of the galant style seem rather tame and pedantic. Even Mozart’s music shows no little influence from the “Hamburg” Bach, with its incorporation of some of these same elements, especially in the scores where he consciously turns back to the Baroque.

With CPE Bach it was in reverse; though the Classical era was well set in during his lifetime, his basis of composition remained firmly grounded in many Baroque principles while striking out in the forms of the later age. Bach, whose “Philipp” comes from his godfather Telemann, wrote these six symphonies on commission from Gottfried von Swieten, the Dutch diplomat who served the court of Fredrick the Great for six years. They are among his most popular pieces, along with his four Wq 184 symphonies for orchestra (Wq 182 are for strings only), and his cello and flute concertos, though the entire catalog has not one dud in it!

My favorite in years past was recorded by Raymond Leppard on Philips, but I can’t seem to locate it anywhere. This one, in radiant SACD sound (the first so offered) immediately jumps to the top of the list, noted conductor Sakari Oramo proving himself a first-rate Bachian, while the energetic and alert playing of the Ostrobothian Chamber Orchestra is as much as anyone could ask for. If you don’t know this music, you really don’t know what you are missing, and this is the best place to find out.

—Steven Ritter

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