Bach Jr’s inventive string symphonies sparkle in these performers’ hands

Gli Incogniti: Beyond the Limits

Gli Incogniti: Beyond the Limits

The Strad Issue: June 2021

Description: Bach Jr’s inventive string symphonies sparkle in these performers’ hands

Musicians: Gli Incogniti/Amandine Beyer (violin)

Works: C.P.E. Bach: Complete String Symphonies

Catalogue number: HARMONIA MUNDI HMM 905321

When Gottfried van Swieten, nobleman and diplomat, commissioned a set of symphonies from C.P.E. Bach, he told him not to worry that they might be difficult. Bach took him at his word and produced six works that are not just technically taxing occasionally, but also harmonically adventurous, spiced with chromaticisms, and structurally inventive.

The first one, in G major, launches forth in a high-spirited welter of semiquaver runs – scales, arpeggios and broken chords over three strings. The playing by Gli Incogniti (see December’s Session Report) is crisp, ebullient and dramatically coloured. The central-movement Poco adagio is delicate, with progressions of light, dry staccato quavers.

The pattern is broadly the same across all six symphonies, graced by constant invention. The final Presto of no.2 in B flat major starts dynamically on the dominant of E flat and seems reluctant to get to the home key. There are nicely weaving violin lines in the sombre Adagio of no.3 in C major; gentle, plangent playing alternates with stern dotted rhythms in Largo of no.4; the opening Allegretto of no.5 in B minor is full of dynamic contrasts, played with tenderness or gusto as required. There are juicy suspensions in the central Poco andante of no.6 in E major. The playing is packed with character and sensitivity, and recorded in a generous acoustic.