musica Dei donum
Wilhelm Friedemann BACH (1710 - 1784: "Sonatas & Trios"
rec: October 12 - 14, 2003
CPO - 777 086-2 (© 2006) (65'20")
Sonata for transverse flute and bc in e minor (F deest)a;
Sonata for transverse flute and bc in F (F deest)a;
Sonata for 2 transverse flutes and bc in D (F 47 / BR WFB B 13)ab;
Sonata for 2 transverse flutes and bc in D (F 48 / BR WFB B 14)ab;
Sonata for 2 transverse flutes and bc in a minor (fragment) (F 49 / BR WFB B 15)ab;
Sonata for transverse flute, violin/2 violins and bc in B flat (F 50 / BR WFB B 16)c
Karl Kaisera, Michael Schneiderb, transverse flute;
Sabine Leer, Ingeborg Scheerer, violinc;
Rainer Zipperling, cello;
Yasunori Imamura, lute;
Sabine Bauer, harpsichord, organ
There is no doubt Wilhelm Friedemann was the favourite son of Johann
Sebastian Bach. He not only paid much attention to his eldest son's
musical education, he also made an effort to make sure Friedemann
obtained a good position as musician. The first post was that of
organist of the Sophienkirche in Dresden, which was not very
prestigious. But, as Peter Wollny writes in the booklet, not that much
was expected from him, and that gave him plenty of opportunity to work
on his development as a composer.
It is rather difficult to position Wilhelm Friedemann in the musical
landscape of his time. In some of his works he follows in his father's
footsteps: his sacred cantatas are very much alike Johann Sebastian's.
He also was a master of polyphony, which was most certainly the result
of his father's education. But he also wrote in the language of the
modern musical fashions of his day: Empfindsamkeit, Sturm und Drang and the galant style.
This is mostly explained by Wilhelm Friedemann's character, which is
described as difficult and restless. Some think he found it very hard to
develop a musical language of his own. But one can also look at it from
a different perspective: the writing in different musical languages is
exactly what his personal style was. Unpredictability and individualism
are features of his musical style, and that seems to reflect his
personality pretty well.
His output in chamber music is very limited. In 1992 the Ricercar
Consort devoted two discs to his complete chamber music, the largest
part of which consisting of pieces for two melody instruments. It also
contained the four trio sonatas which appear on this disc. But Camerata
Köln has recorded two pieces which have been found in the archive of the
Berlin Singakademie, which was rediscovered in Kiev in 1999. As their
existence wasn't known they don't appear in the Falck catalogue.
The unpredictability and individualism of Wilhelm Friedemann's
compositional style are reflected in these chamber music works. The two
trio sonatas F 47 and 48 were probably written at about the same time,
but are different in the order of the movements. The Sonata in D (F 48) follows the traditional pattern: fast – slow – fast, whereas the Sonata in D (F 47) starts with an andante, which is followed by two fast movements – reflecting the new fashion.
Although these trios can be described as written in the galant
style they both contain many elements of polyphony. Both
sonatas contain a movement in which the theme of the first section is
inverted note by note in its second section. The two solo sonatas follow
the old order of movements, but despite some imitation between the
flute and the basso continuo there is little polyphony. The unfinished Trio in a minor (F 49),
on the other hand – the second movement, a siciliano, breaks off after a
couple of bars -, is a three-part fugue, and could easily been written
by Johann Sebastian.
The Trio for two violins and bc in B flat seems to be the latest
of all works on this disc, and probably dates from around 1745. It
starts with a largo which is full of expression because of its thematic
material and its harmonies. It is followed by two fast movements with
Wilhelm Friedemann may have been a difficult character and never made
the career one would expect considering his great talent, his very
individual style makes him quite unique in the German musical landscape.
His music is almost always interesting and enthralling, and the chamber
works on this disc are no exception. Camerata Köln plays them
exceptionally well, and the many twists and turns of Wilhelm
Friedemann's music come out very clearly. The slow movements are played
expressively and the faster movements are realised in a strongly
It's a shame the booklet contains some errors. The tracklist gives the
second and third items (F 48 and 50) in the wrong order, and the numbers of the sonatas F 47 and 48
are swapped. Even so I
strongly recommend this disc.
Johan van Veen (© 2009)