Why was JS Bach’s son CPE once more famous than his father? Cellist Guy Fishman discusses.
W.A. Mozart once referred to Bach as “the father of us all.” The rub is that he wasn’t referring to JS but rather son CPE, arguably the most brilliant of Johann Sebastian’s prodigious children. As legend has it, while CPE was rising to fame, sheet music for JS’s work was used to wrap fish sold in German markets. Ouch!
In this recent conversation with Anne Manson cellist Guy Fishman, who was to join Aisslinn Nosky as a guest soloist at our May concert, compares the music and legacies of these two Bachs. It’s as though having already discovered the alchemy for forging timeless music, JS was left pursuing his decidedly unhip version of perfection into (temporary) obscurity.
Meanwhile, the cool CPE, while never escaping the influence of his father, was much more adept at accommodating himself to emerging styles on the continent, and his popularity soared. In the long run, however, the waning of fashions favoured CPE even less than JS, with posterity ultimately rating Papa Bach as by far the most genius member of this most musical family.
But make no mistake: CPE is, as Guy notes, a giant in his own right; a pioneer with an unmistakable musical voice who helped push Baroque style towards the colours and song-like qualities we associate with Mozart and the classical period. We can hear this in the cheerful, exuberant piece by CPE, performed by Guy and other members of the Handel and Haydn Society (including Aisslinn), that accompanies Guy in this conversation. Watch the video by clicking the thumbnail below.
Guy concludes his Bach-talk with a performance of the Sarabande from JS’s Cello Suite No. 1, whose odd legacy illustrates Guy’s earlier points. Nearly forgotten until the twentieth century, Bach’s Cello Suites did not enter the popular cello repertoire until the 1960s. They are now regarded as one of the crowning achievements of cello composition. Who said the Western Canon isn’t fickle sometimes? Click the thumbnail below to see the video.
Special thanks to PwC Canadafor sponsoring this MCO at Home performance and interview!
More MCO listening and viewing treats…
The concert world loves its prizefighters, and with the Chooi brothers we have two soloists on their way to heavyweight status. Hear them tag-team in this archival MCO concert recording.
Here’s Guy’s colleague Aisslinn Nosky on why the technological constraints under which Bach and Baroque musicians worked make their achievements even more wonderous. Click here to watch.
We’re delighted to provide you with free access (until May 31) to the film Concerto about Victoria Sparks’ premiere with the MCO of Sid Robinovitch’s Percussion Concerto. Click here to watch!
Listen to broadcasts of classic MCO concerts on Classic 107 every second Sunday!
The MCO is very pleased to work with our good friends at Classic 107 to deliver this initiative: on Sunday afternoons, beginning at 2PM, attend a radio concert broadcast of a classic MCO performance from the archives. Brought to you by the Winnipeg Foundation, we will continue the feature every second Sunday. Though we are not able to gather in person, we are able to gather on the radio airwaves for a physically-distanced concert.
The next broadcast concert will be 2PM Sunday, 24 May on 107.1 FM
Listen to years of stellar MCO albums on Spotify
Did you know that you can listen to seven of the MCO’s albums — including collaborations with Philip Glass, Measha Brueggergosman, and Dame Evelyn Glennie — for free on Spotify? Click here to access on our channel. Unsure how to use Spotify? (One of the Millennial editors of MCO at Home was unsure, so no shame.) Here’s an instructional video on Spotify.
The MCO gratefully acknowledges support from the following:
Header images: OXO grater: argos.co.uk; Ozark jaw harp: bavasmusic.com.au; Sony headphones: costco.ca; fidget spinner: bobhq.com; John Packer bassoon: jpmusicalinstruments.com; 2001: A Space Odyssey: amazon.com; Spalding basketball: amazon.ca; baton: overstock.com; Moog Subharmonicon: sweetwater.com; slotted spoon: restonlloyd.com; parsley: prairieherbfarms.com; Japanese knife: rakuten.com.