The opening Allegro Assai from Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Concerto in A minor, Wq.170, presented in celebration of his 300th anniversary. Performed on original instruments by the Early Music ensemble Voices of Music, William Skeen, soloist; 4K UHD video from our Virtuoso Concertos concert, November, 2014.
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Q. What is Early Music performance, or historical performance?
A. We play on instruments from the time of the composers, and we use the original music and playing techniques: it’s a special sound.
Q. Why are there no conductors?
A. Conductors weren’t invented until the 19th century; since we seek to recreate a historical performance, the music is led from the keyboard or violin, or the music is played as chamber music~or both
Q. What are period instruments or original instruments; how are they different from modern instruments?
A. As instruments became modernized in the 19th century, builders and players tended to focus on the volume of sound and the stability of tuning. Modern steel strings replaced the older materials, and instruments were often machine made. Historical instruments, built individually by hand and with overall lighter construction, have extremely complex overtones—which we find delightful. Modern instruments are of course perfectly suited to more modern music.
Q. Why is the pitch lower, or higher?
A. Early Music performance uses many different pitches, and these pitches create different tone colors on the instruments. See https://goo.gl/pVBNAC
C.P.E. Bach transformed the musical language at the end of the Baroque, and as part of this process he also elevated the role of the cello, so that as a solo instrument it became the equal of the keyboard, violin and flute. This new balance is represented by the presentation of Bach’s concertos in multiple forms: the solo parts for the cello concertos were also arranged for harpsichord and flute. Although it is tempting to speculate that the cello versions were composed first, or specifically with the cello in mind, it is also quite possible that Carl Philipp could, first of all, handle the composition of three versions simultaneously, and, second, that he, like his father, was accomplished on a variety of instruments but was primarily a keyboard player. Nonetheless, the rich textures and compelling virtuosity of the concertos for cello make a persuasive case that the Carl Philipp–who occasionally cut a few compositional corners for lesser commissions–invested his best efforts in these concertos, which show a composer willing and able to emerge from the shadow of his extraordinary father, J.S. Bach.
Performing parts based on the critical edition Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: The Complete Works (http://www.cpebach.org) were graciously made available by the publisher,
the Packard Humanities Institute of Los Altos, California.
The Musicians and their Instruments
Voices of Music performs on original instruments: hear the music played on instruments from the time of the composer.
Lisa Grodin, baroque viola by Mathias Eberl, Salzburg, Austria, 1680
Kati Kyme, baroque violin by Johann Gottlob Pfretzschner,
Mittenwald, Germany, 1791
Carla Moore, baroque violin by Johann Georg Thir, Vienna, Austria, 1754
Maxine Nemerovski, baroque violin by Timothy Johnson,
Bloomington, Indiana, 1999 (after Antonio Stradivari, Cremona, Italy, 17th century)
Farley Pearce, violone by George Stoppani, Manchester, 1985, after Amati, 1560
Hanneke van Proosdij, Italian single manual harpsichord by Johannes Klinkhamer, Amsterdam, 2000, after Cristofori, Florence, c1725
William Skeen, baroque cello by Gianbattista Grancino, Milan, 1725
David Tayler, archlute by Andreas von Holst, Munich, 2012,
after Magno Tieffenbrucker, Venice, c1610
Tanya Tomkins, baroque cello, Lockey Hill, London, 1798
Gabrielle Wunsch, baroque violin by Lorenzo Carcassi, 1764.