Date & Time
Timothy Long conductor & harpsichord
J.S. Bach Harpsichord Concerto No. 1 in D Minor
J.C. Bach Harpsichord Concerto, Op 13 No. 4
Assad Suite for Lower Strings
C.P.E. Bach Symphony in C Major
Few families in history can claim to be as talented as Johann Sebastian Bach and his children, each of them carving out their own influential place in musical textbooks. A collection of harpsichord concertos and a symphony are paired with Clarice Assad’s inventive fantasy in five movements on themes of J.S. Bach.
The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
300 S Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Harpsichord Concerto No. 1 in D minor
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Before the advent of modern pianos, harpsichords and organs were the dominant keyboard instruments for over three centuries. Keyboard instruments were originally conceived as accompaniment to vocal music. As the pioneer of focusing on keyboard instrument as a solo repertory, Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643) meticulously edited, revised, and published his corpus of keyboard compositions, including volumes of toccatas and ricercares, and the Fiori Musicali, which became a pedagogical model for later composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach.Born to a musical family, J.S. Bach was a versatile musician and mostly known for his contrapuntal works on the keyboard, including the Musical Offerings (1747) and The Art of Fugue (1751). Bach’s Brandenburg concerto no. 5, BWV 1050 (1719) was the first concerto to feature the harpsichord as a solo instrument; Bach later wrote/arranged 6 solo harpsichord concerti. As a result, Bach’s harpsichord concerti have been the centerpiece in numerous modern performances that feature period instruments, such as seen in today’s program. The earliest surviving manuscript of the D minor concerto can be dated to 1734; however, this source tells us that the original had only the orchestral part without the cembalo (harpsichord) solo. The consensus is that this was originally an organ concerto, composed during the early years of Bach’s tenure at Leipzig. It is not uncommon for Baroque composers to transcribe a given work for another instrument, as it is an economical way to ‘recycle’ and produce a large amount of work for different functions and purposes. This ‘recycling’ gesture can also be seen in the G minor harpsichord concerto (no.6), which is a transcription of the A minor violin concerto.
Leading scholars in the field have argued that there are substantial similarities between this harpsichord concerto and Vivaldi’s virtuosic violin concerto, Grosso mogul, RV 208, which Bach did transcribe for solo organ. In the first movement, Allegro, Bach introduces a catchy ritornello that is played together (Tutti) with every single instrument, colorfully outlining the opening motive. Following a fiery and intense movement, the Adagio is built upon a recurring ground bass pattern—a popular compositional device in the Baroque period—where the whole orchestra and the harpsichord are in unison in the opening ritornello. This stable bass pattern provides a solid ground for florid ornamentation and improvisatory passages. In the last movement, Bach transcribed and reworked a highly violinistic figuration, bariolage, which involves switching and playing on open strings repeatedly. Combining with thematic materials from the first movement, Bach wrote one of the most memorable cadenzas for the harpsichord.
Harpsichord Concerto, Op 13 No 4
Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782)
Born to J.S. Bach and Anna Magdalena Bach, Johann Christian Bach (the youngest of Bach’s eleven sons) was a successful musician who spent most of his life in London—therefore, he is also known as “the English Bach” or “the London Bach.” Following the Galant style, J.C. Bach’s keyboard works ended up shaping the keyboard idioms of Mozart and Haydn. For instance, when on tour as a child prodigy in London in 1764-65, Mozart encountered the works of “the London Bach” and showed his admiration by adapting Bach’s keyboard sonatas into keyboard concertos with a classical-style orchestra (which is similar to the size of a modern chamber orchestra). During J.C. Bach’s time, the fortepiano rose to prominence as a keyboard instrument; therefore, this concerto (for Klavier) could be performed on either a fortepiano, a harpsichord, or a modern piano. This concerto is one of the six published concerti in 1777 and follows a conventional fast-slow-fast Italian concerto form. The outer movements contain highly charismatic passages that resemble works by early Mozart. Following the first movement, the lyrical Andante includes a set of variations on the Scottish folksong, ‘The Yellow-hair’d Laddie’, a popular ballad of the time that was later to be arranged by Haydn.
Suite for Lower Strings
Clarice Assad (b. 1978)
Clarice Assad is a Grammy-nominated Brazilian American composer who seeks to produce an immersive experience for her audience. Inspired by the Baroque traditions and J.S. Bach’s compositions, Assad expands well-known musical themes by J.S. Bach into a five-movement fantasy, “Suite for Lower Strings,” commissioned by the New Century Chamber Orchestra in 2009. Instead of giving the themes and motives to the upper voices, Assad showcases the string section’s lower voices, such as the viola, cello, and bass, like the driving force—basso continuo—in the Baroque period. Movement 1 features the opening theme from the famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Assad fragmented the (counter)motives from the fugal section with refreshing Latin Jazz and pop-inspired rhythms. Movement 2 is based on the opening ritornello of “Jesu, Joy of a Man’s Desiring” (Jesus bleibet meine Freude) from cantata BWV 147, Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben. After the joyful, Yuletide theme, Movement III combines themes from “Sheep May Safely Graze” as well as the motivic figures from the C major prelude (sometimes set as “Ave Maria”) from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1 (1722). Continuing the Bach theme medley, Movement IV not only introduces and overlaps the themes from the cello suite but also Brandenburg Concerto no.3, ending calmly with a quotation of the opening phrase of “Air in D.” Assad closes off the suite with a pastiche of fragmented motives that we have heard earlier while emphasizing the special timbre of lower strings, such as a dramatic glissando effect at the very end of the suite.
Symphony in C Major
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788)
Carl Philippe Emanuel Bach was arguably the most well-known and successful son of J.S. Bach. C.P.E. Bach spent most of his career at the court of Frederic the Great. Informed in both the contrapuntal writing of the Baroque as well as the rising popularity of the Galant style, C.P.E. Bach not only composed charming works that synthesize both traditions but also published a significant keyboard treatise Versuch über die wahre Art Clavier zu spielen (The Art of Keyboard playing), which offers precious information on performance practice for our generation. Originating from the Italian term ‘sinfonia’ or German equivalent ‘Sinfonie’, The term ‘symphony’ here refers to orchestral works (which are mostly strings in the mid-1700s) in several movements. It has been reported that C.P.E. Bach composed a substantial number of symphonies, however, from his musical estate (NV 1790), there are only 18 extant symphonies—which suggests that a large portion of his output in symphonies may have been lost. In any case, CPE Bach was also a savvy businessman who made sure that his music was accessible to a broader audience and market; he published his own keyboard arrangements of several symphonies. Symphony in C major showcases CPE Bach’s own integration of the Italianate type of orchestral writing: the violins are mostly in unison with brief passages in thirds, and the viola usually doubles the bass in octaves.
Min-Young Kim, Concertmaster
Meichen Liao-Barnes, Associate Concertmaster
Natasha Colkett, Principal
Catherine Kei Fukuda
Mary SangHyun Yong, Principal
Branson Yeast, Principal
Anne Peterson, Acting Principal
Nicholas Masterson, Principal
John David Smith, Principal