> JC Bach - Opera Overtures, Vol. 3 [CC]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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J. C. BACH (1735-82)
Opera Overtures, Volume 3:
Endimione; Temistocle; Lucio Silla; Amadis des Gaules (Overture and Incidental Music).
The Hanover Band/Anthony Halstead.
Recorded at Rosslyn Hill Chapel, Hampstead on April 1st-6th, 2000. [DDD]
CPO 999 753-2 [62'09]


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I have yet to find a piece of music by J. C. Bach which has failed to delight. The so-called 'London Bach' (he moved to the UK capital in 1762 and spent the rest of his life here) enjoyed considerable success during his 46 year life-span. His skill in orchestration and his ability to evoke a number of emotions are demonstrated on this excellently-recorded collection of Opera Overtures and Ballet Music.

The first two overtures on this disc, Endimione, G15 and Temistocle, G8, date from 1772. 'Endimione' was first performed at the King's Theatre, Haymarket, London on April 6th of that year, with the composer's future wife, the soprano Cecilia Grassi, taking the part of Diana. Typically for his opera overtures, it begins in festive, jubilant manner: the energy generated, particularly in this performance, is utterly captivating. This movement is full of life, contrasting perfectly with the gallant, elegant Andante. The finale foregrounds hunting-horn calls, presumably representing Diana (goddess of the hunt).

'Temistocle' was commissioned by Prince Carl Theodor and was premiered as the opening opera for the Mannheim season beginning in November 1772. The subject also tempted the likes of Caldara, Porpora and Jommelli. Again, the opening movement (of three) is lively, although the actual level of invention is less than that displayed by 'Endimione'. The score is interesting, nevertheless, for its inclusion of three clarinetti d'amore in the slow movement (characterised by a somewhat throaty timbre) and also for the bustling Presto finale, a first cousin to Mozarts 'Le nozze di Figaro' overture in intent.

The title of 'Lucio Silla' (G9) will be familiar to collectors from the Mozart opera of the same name. J. C. Bach's opera came about as a direct result of the success of 'Temistocle', and in fact it began the opera season of the very next year in Mannheim. According to Andreas Freisenhagen's well-informed booklet notes, this overture is 'regarded as one of Bach's best orchestral works of all': and certainly there is little arguing with the compositional skill employed here.

The Overture and Ballet Music from 'Amadis des Gaules,' (G39, 1778/9), Bach's last opera, takes up nearly half of the total playing time of the disc. It was written for the Academie Royale de Musique in Paris, but was not a success when presented there in December 1779, in the midst of the French-versus-Italian opera debate raging amongst Parisians. As far as 'Amadis' is concerned, the ballet music is a distinctly French trait, whereas the three movements of the Overture represent the Italian influence.

The highlight of the ballet music is the penultimate 'Ariette et choeur' for (uncredited) tenor and orchestra: a superbly crafted piece. The final, zippy, celebrational 'Tambourin' forms an excellent conclusion to this fine disc.

All performances by the Hanover Band under Anthony Halstead are of the highest order and will give the greatest pleasure. Recommended.

Colin Clarke


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