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John W Barker
American Record Guide, July 2011

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach (1732–95) was the third of the musical “sons of Bach” in order of birth, but he has been overshadowed by his older brothers Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emmanuel, and his younger sibling, Johann Christian. The neglect is perhaps understandable. JCF was the least individual of the lot in personality and the most subject to outside influences (even by his younger brother). He spent most of his career in a small and backwater court, at Buckeburg, subject to the whims of his princely employer—though he was able to work there with the distinguished poet and linguist Johann Gottfried Herder. And, if nothing else, JCF did produce a musical son of his own, Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst, the only composer grandson of old JS Bach, who extended the dynasty into the 19th Century.

As Hannsdieter Wohlfarth’s pioneering thematic catalog reveals, JCF was a prolific composer; and we have a good deal of his instrumental music, mainly in chamber forms. A total of 20 symphonies from his hand have been identified, though 12 have been lost and one survives only in a keyboard arrangement, leaving seven.

Back around 1974, Helmut Muller-Bruhl recorded all seven symphonies…The first four surviving works were recorded by Dennis Russell Davies with the St Luke’s Orchestra and issued by Musical Heritage Society both on its mail-order label…and on Musicmasters…Almost immediately thereafter, Burkhard Glaetzner’s recording of the last three survivors…appeared on Berlin…now reissued as the last disc in the 7-CD Sons-of-Bach set from Brilliant…

This new release offers the same three works as Glaetzner. All three call for an orchestra of strings with winds. The first two of them, part of a series composed roughly between 1765 and 1772, are in three movements and follow the pattern of Italian opera sinfonias, parallel to what his younger brother, Johann Christian, was writing—though No. 10 introduces innovative sonata-form in its first movement. The final work, No. 20, dates from the mid-1790s: it is in four movements, adding clarinets to the winds. It was influenced by the Viennese world of Haydn and Mozart.

Our composer’s style is light and tuneful, but lacking much imagination in either lyrical originality or craftsmanship. Schuldt-Jensen’s Leipzig group gives these works their first appearance in full period-instrument performances—precisely pointed and more crisp than Glaetzner’s, for example. One wonders if Naxos will support another disc to round out the remaining four works of this legacy.

Brian Wilson - Download Roundup
MusicWeb International, February 2011

How many of the sons of J.S. Bach can you even name? How much of their music have you heard? Not much of J.C.F., I imagine—not to be confused with the more famous Johann Christian, the ‘London’ Bach, or his composer relatives Johann Christoff and his son Johann Friedrich. Once again the Naxos Eighteenth-century Symphony series does sterling service in bringing us stylish and attractive performances of music that well deserves an outing. The recording—like all those from classicsonline, it’s at the highest 320k bit-rate—is very good and it comes with the booklet of notes.

For information about J.C.F. Bach, see the Naxos…booklets and the introduction to Ewald V Nolte, Johann Christoph Friedrick Bach: Four Early Sinfonias, A–R Editions, Inc., Madison, 1982.

MusicWeb International, February 2011

This is the third CD released by Naxos dedicated solely to the music of Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach, often known as “Bückeburg Bach”, after the German town in Lower Saxony where he spent most of his life. The previous two releases were of choral works, so this is a first taster from Naxos of the instrumental music. This may well be the first recording of these symphonies since the Cologne Chamber Orchestra’s under Helmut Müller-Brühl on Koch-Schwann in 1993, although the E flat symphony is available on a Capriccio disc also distributed by Naxos (C10283).

Only eight of J.C.F. Bach’s twenty known symphonies have survived World War destruction. The earliest dates back to about 1765, the latest to 1794. The Symphony in C major, W. I/6 probably dates from 1770, according to surviving autograph parts. It is a warm, sunny, almost Italianate work, reminiscent of Luigi Boccherini, with one of the funniest surprises in its third movement in all 18th century music—virtually guaranteed to put a smile on the face of even the most inured of listeners.

The Symphony in E flat major, W. I/10 comes from around the same time and is also in three movements. It is once again a lively, positive piece, perhaps with a little more cloud cover in the first movement than the C major, and again reminiscent of Boccherini.

Though the Symphony in B flat major, W. I/20 is commonly referred to as Bach’s symphony “no.20” (after the catalogue number), none of those between this and the E flat “no.10” above have survived. Moreover, the B flat was written more than twenty years after the first two, and the developments and innovations in the symphony brought about by Joseph Haydn, and later Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, are evident in a number of ways—there are now four movements, the length has doubled, the orchestra has increased in size, there is a greater role for the wind instruments.

The style is also quite different—symphony proper now, rather than old-style sinfonia. Though still clearly of its time—in fact, before its time would be more accurate, given what Haydn and Mozart were writing—J.C.F. was more expert craftsman than iconoclastic artist—this is altogether a much more imaginative and adventurous work; appropriately enough, as this was to be Bach’s last symphony.

The chamber orchestra play immaculately throughout. Schuldt-Jensen had already been conducting this group for eight years by the time of this recording, and their close understanding of each other makes for hugely disciplined performances. The recording is good, although the microphones do sound almost too close, and occasionally pick up intakes of breath. The CD is rather on the short side—it would surely have made more sense to make this a set of four symphonies, leaving a final set of four for some future date.

In sum, this is not indispensable music, but it is attractive and graceful, and gives a worthwhile look at the talents of one of the sons of one of the greatest of musical geniuses.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, February 2011

It’s easy to confuse the various composers of the Bach dynasty, so let’s be clear that this is not the “London Bach”—Johann Christian (1735–1782), who so kindly took the boy Mozart under his wing. This Bach’s music sounds a lot like that of his contemporaries of the Mannheim School fame: Cannabich, Krommer, the Stamitz clan, Richter et al. J.C.F. Bach’s lifespan overlapped Mozart’s short one, but while young Mozart went his own bitter-sweet way, Bach produced well crafted, solid fare in a more conventional style. The three sinfonias are a good sampling of the twenty such works Bach composed, and are played to the hilt by the Leipzigers led by Schuldt-Jensen, in wonderfully brilliant audio.

David Hurwitz, January 2011

One of the least known of J.S. Bach’s musically talented children, J.C.F. Bach (1732–95) composed 20 symphonies that we know of, eight of which survive. Nos. 6 and 10 are early works, dating from the late 1760s or thereabouts, while the rest are late pieces. Accordingly, Nos. 6 and 10 have three pithy movements each, and minimal woodwinds. No. 20, in contrast, has four movements and a full wind complement including clarinets. The music has great charm, and in No. 20 the handling of the wind parts is arrestingly original.

The performances are splendid. Morten Schuldt-Jensen opts for a harpsichord continuo in the early works, but wisely omits it in Symphony No. 20. The playing is obviously “period aware” without making a fetish of it. It helps that the musicians come from the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, and so offer performances in which cultured musicianship never compromises the music’s freshness and charm. The sonics are also very good: warm, well balanced, and wholly winning. A fine release.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2011

The least known of the Bach dynasty, Johann Christoph Friedrich, the second surviving son of Johann Sebastian, spent most of his working life in the German provincial town of Buckerberg. Having been taught music by his father, he was heading towards a career in law when he learned that the position of harpsichordist in the establishment of Count Wilhelm zu Schaumburg-Lippe had become available. He secured the post, and while his employer changed as deaths occurred in their family, he was to remain there for more than 40 years until his death in 1795. Maybe he disappointed the musical world by never reaching the exalted levels of his father, and having been born in the same year as Haydn, he showed no comparative progression in his style of composition. Yet that could equally be attributed to his employer’s desire for music that simply fell pleasantly on the ear. So we have immaculately constructed symphonies, much in the mode of early Mozart, the Sixth and Tenth symphonies cast in three movement, while the Twentieth showed some interest in new trends by the addition of a Minuet. Certainly the opening Allegro to the Tenth bubbles with a joyous activity, and if the slow movements of the two earlier works lacked inspired thematic material, the addition of pairs of clarinets and bassoons impart a more varied texture to the Twentieth. Drawing on members of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Leipzig Chamber Orchestra, under their Danish conductor, Morten Schuldt-Jensen, play modern instruments in performances that are very aware of period style. His tempos for outer movements are brisk and certainly inject a happy vivacity into the music. A very close recording is well-detailed.

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