Sunday, August 1, 2010

Johann Christian Bach's Cara, la Dolce Fiamma Performed by Philippe Jaroussky and Le Cercle De L'Harmonie, Directed by Jérémie Rhorer


Above, something from the recording discussed here by David Yearsley — Christian Bach's Castrato Arias. The author suggests that "father Bach might have regretted that second name after his youngest had moved to Italy in 1755 and converted to Catholicism, that sect [sic] feared and hated by Orthodox Lutherans with an intensity that surely surpassed the antipathy of Shiite for Sunni, and vice-versa." I doubt that, given the masses the father composed.

This, I do not doubt: "Like so many Protestant musicians who worked in Italy in the 17th and 18th centuries, the parallel sensual appeal of Catholicism and opera proved difficult to resist: the mighty fortress of Lutheran austerity could not long hold out against this siege of sumptuous decadence." On the recording under consideration, Mr. Yearsley writes:
    The excellent orchestra behind Jaroussky is called Le Cercle de l’Harmonie and it provides the necessary weather for buffeting this ship forward. His finger to the wind, director Jérémie Rhorer finds the gusts and eddies that bring this style to life. Built of simple figures, predictable harmonies, and regular phrases, this is music that lives or dies in performance, and here it soars.

    Jaroussky is a great singer and even greater musician. His intonation and his technical facility in tossing off demanding passages, trills, and other feats of 18th-century song are remarkable.
And on the composer, the author has this to say:
    In contrast to the endless repetitions of words and phrases favored by J. S. Bach in his cantatas—themselves miniature, sacred operas—these Italian texts were to be treated more as refined conversation and elegant oratory, rather than bombastic sermon. The gallant was music that put the “lite” in Enlightenment. There was joy, entertainment and just enough paradoxical profundity to be found in its radiant superficiality. Far easier to mimic than either the complex and colossal fugues of his father and the restive intensity of his guardian half-brother’s music, the gallant style was quickly mastered by the youngest Bach son after his arrival in Italy....

    Of all the Bachs, Christian was the only truly international star in his lifetime. He rode his Italian success to London in 1763, where he came to dominate the vibrant opera scene. Thus he became known as the “London Bach,” a genial man with a talent for accessible, marketable music for the stage for the home. The strength of character and long-reach vision that sent him venturing across Europe without the security of a solid Lutheran job back in the Bach heartland is captured in Thomas Gainsborough fine portrait of him from 1776.

    Bach continued to receive commissions come from across Europe, and he became the prime force in the public concert life of the British capital. Ultimately, he might have wished for that lost Lutheran security, as his ventures led him to financial troubles and early death in 1782.

    “What a loss to the musical world,” wrote the young Mozart, who had met and warmly supported by Christian during the young Mozart’s visit to London in 1764. The modern musical world is rediscovering his music again through efforts like those of Jaroussky, a wonderful singer, even when venturing, like Bach, out of his native element.

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Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.