About this Recording
8.550066 - BACH, J.S.: Keyboard Favourites
English 

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)

Johann Sebastian Bach was born in 1685 in the town of Eisenach, where his father, Johann Ambrosius, was court trumpeter and director of the town music, a task in which he showed extraordinary versatility by playing the violin, wind instruments and the organ. The Bach family had been well enough known for its musical activities for several generations, and Johann Sebastian was trained to follow the same trade. In 1694 his mother died and in the following year the death of his father made it necessary for him to move with his 13-year-old brother Johann Jacob to Ohrdruf, where the eldest of the brothers, Johann Christoph, was organist.

Bach's early career was as an organist. In 1703, after a brief period as a court musician at Weimar, he was appointed organist at the Neuekirche in Arnstadt, a town with which members of his family had long had connections. In 1707 he moved to Muehlhausen as organist of the Blasiuskirche and in the following year became court organist and chamber musician to Duke Wilhelm Ernst, the elder of the two brothers who jointly ruled the duchy of Weimar.

In 1714 there came a chance of a position as organist in Handel's native town of Hallé, but Bach declined the post when it was offered, remaining in Weimar with the new title of Konzertrneister. Three years later he moved from Weimar to Coethen, after brief imprisonment in the former town, as the Duke was unwilling to release him for service elsewhere. In Coethen Bach enjoyed the position of Court Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Coethen, and occupied himself with providing music for the court orchestra and its players. The prevailing Pietism of the court made attention to church music unnecessary and allowed an emphasis on more secular forms, including a number of compositions for the harpsichord and other key board instruments, a number of them designed for the instruction of his children and other pupils.

Bach's departure from Coethen was precipitated by Prince Leopold 's marriage to a Bernburg princess with no love of the arts. His first wife, Maria Barbara Bach, had died in 1720, and he re-married a week before his patron, taking as his second wife Anna Magdalena Wilcke, daughter of the court trumpeter at Weissenfels. In 1723 Bach was appointed Thomaskantor in Leipzig, where he had responsibility for the music of the five principal city churches, assuming additional responsibility for the university Collegium Musicum in 1729.

For the rest of his life Bach remained in Leipzig, where matters were not always arranged to his satisfaction. The city authorities at times seemed to lack understanding of his aims, while the choir school of St. Thomas added its fair share of dissension. Nevertheless it was here that he was able to provide, according to the obligations of his position, a large quantity of church music, cycles of cantatas for the church year. For the university he wrote and arranged a number of remarkable harpsichord concertos, and for the harpsichord he prepared an important series of Clavieruebungen, four collections of keyboard pieces, the last of which, containing (the so-called Goldberg Variations, appeared in 1741/2.

There are general difficulties in providing exact dates for many of the keyboard compositions: The Capriccio sopra la lontananza del suo fratello dilettissimo was written in 1704, when Johann Jacob Bach enrolled as an oboist in the Swedish guard and was in the contingent under Charles XU that went to Istanbul (where he took flute lessons from Buffardin). The Capriccio provides a series of vignettes of Johann Jacob's departure, culminating in a lively fugue based on the sound of the post-horn.

The first five of the six French Suites formed part of the Clavierbuechlein, the little collection of pieces that Bach put together for his second wife, Anna Magdalena, while he was at Coethen. The sixth suite was added, presumably at Leipzig, to make up the customary set of six. The title was not of Bach's devising, but seems to have been used by others to distinguish these relatively simple German dance suites from the more complex set known as the English Suites. The sixth suite starts at once with an Allemande and Courante, to which there is no prelude, followed by the traditional slow Sarabande. Three further French dances lead to a final Gigue.

The Italian Concerto (Concerto nach italienischem Gusto) was published in Leipzig in 1735 as part of the second Clavieruebung, where it is coupled with a French overture. The concerto transposes to the keyboard the style of a Vivaldi solo concerto, with outer movements constructed on the ritornello principle, in which the orchestra would provide a repeated framework for solo episodes, and the second movement in the manner of an accompanied aria.

The C Minor Toccata, BWV 911, with its double fugue, has been dated to 1717, later than the group of four toccatas written in earlier days at Welinar. The chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D Minor, written at Coethen, and revised in Leipzig about the year 1730, has retained its impressive popularity, with an appeal even to the dullest ears, as generations of commentators on Bach have continued to point out. The C Minor Fantasia and Fugue seems to have been written in Leipzig in 1738 and some have detected in its two-section structure the influence of the Italian harpsichordist Domenico Scarlatti. Bach's exact contemporary.

Joseph Banowetz
Joseph Banowetz is internationally recognized as an artist whose performances of the Romantic literature of the piano have earned the highest critical acclaim. Fanfare Record Magazine (U.S.A.) termed him one of "the pre-eminent 'three B's of Liszt Playing."

Born in the United States, part of Banowetz's early training was received in New York City with Carl Friedberg, a pupil of Clara Schumann. After continuing his studies at Vienna's Hochschule fuer Musik und Darstellende Kunst, Banowetz's career was launched upon his graduating with a First Prize in piano. He was then sent by the Austrian government on an extended European concert tour. Subsequently he has performed throughout North America, Europe, Russia, and Asia. In 1966 he was awarded the Pan American Prize by the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C.

Following his rust appearances in the Orient in 1981, Banowetz's tours there have received ever- increasing enthusiastic response. He is the rust foreign artist ever to be invited by the Chinese Ministry of Culture both to record and to give world premiere performances, of a contemporary Chinese piano concerto (Huang An-lun Piano Concerto, Op. 25b). Banowetz has recorded with both the Hong Kong Philharmonic and the China Central Opera Orchestra of Beijing.

Monique Duphil
Born in Bordeaux, France, Monique Duphil studied in Paris at the Conservatoire National Superieur with Marguerite Long, Jean Doyen and Joseph Calvet. Graduating with a Premier Prix in piano and a Grand Prix in chamber music, she continued studies with Vladimir Horbowski and Herriet Serr. Since her Paris debut at age 15 with the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, uninterrupted success and recognition have led Ms. Duphil to a world-wide career performing in more than 50 countries throughout the five continents.

She has appeared as soloist with such distinguished orchestras as the Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Quebec Symphony, Warsaw Philharmonic, Bavarian Symphony, Bern Symphony Orchestra, Mexico State Symphony, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony, Sydney Symphony and the New Zealand Symphony.

Much appreciated as a chamber music partner she has performed with Henryk Szeryng, Karl Leister, Ruggiero Ricci, the Vienna String Quartet, the Musikverein Quartet, the Salzburg Mozarteum Trio, Jean Pierre Rampal, Pierre Fournier, and many other renowned artists. Each season she tours in duo with her husband, the American cellist, Jay Humeston.

Recently, the Cleveland Plain Dealer's critic wrote of Ms. Duphil's performance: “A brilliant pianist of ravishing tone, refined taste and impeccable technique. Her musicianship was masterful and her interpretation spell-binding.”


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