Johann Sebastian’s last surviving son, Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782), was the most fluent, cosmopolitan and successful. Crucially, he was also the only Bach to scale the heights in the elusive and political realm of opera. He also pioneered public concerts in London and offered important guidance to the young Mozart (they played duets together) and travelled throughout Germany and Italy, in the process converting to Catholicism. As an adopted Englishman, he lived comfortably as a gentleman of Soho, was befriended by the Royal family, notably as music master to Queen Charlotte, and was painted by Gainsborough in a famous portrait. By the late 1760s, JC was established as both the pre-eminent and best-paid musician in London. Charles Wesley noted that he charged staggeringly high fees, resonating with JC’s revealing quip, ‘CPE lives to compose. I compose to live’.
Amadis de Gaul was JC’s last opera, a tragédie lyrique of love, jealousy and revenge composed for the Académie Royale de Musique in Paris in 1779. The overture is a fine exposé of JC’s theatrical flair and knack for creating thrilling orchestral effects, honed from his experience of the great ensemble in Mannheim. Rushing scales, stirring sequences, contrasting melodic pathos and the cut-and-thrust of the original are happily reincarnated in this new version where the material is completely re-juggled: the whole orchestra re-measured for two instruments!
- Trumpet in C
- Trumpet in E-flat
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