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Sanguineus and Melancholicus

  • Type CD
  • Label Channel Classics
  • UPC 0723385111979
  • Catalog number CCS 11197
  • Release date 19 August 2002
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About the album

Sanguineus und Melancholicus What comprises good performance? The ability through singing or playing to make the ear conscious of the true content and affect of the composition. Any passage can be so radically changed by modifying its performance that it will be scarcely recognisable.... Good performance, then, occurs when one hears all notes and their embellishments played in correct time with fitting volume produced by a touch which is related to the true content of the piece (Versuch ber die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen). C.P.E. Bachs instructions illustrates the aestheticism of the era. In his eyes good performance is a matter of portraying rage, anger, and other passions or the briskness of allegros.... the tenderness of adagios. Much of Bachs music has a strong improvisatory character, with large dynamic ranges, dramatic changes of mood, and sudden textural contrasts (The Empfindsamkeit style). These are the affects that the performer must understand and identify in Bachs music. One of C.P.E. Bachs most programmatic chamber pieces is entitled a Conversation between a Sanguineus and a Melancholicus. 

This work, published in 1751, has an extended preface detailing all the main events in the work, so that each individual mood and each element of the situation portrayed can be understood and followed by the listener. Bach writes: An attempt has been made to express as far as is possible by means of instruments alone something for which the resources of voices and a text are perhaps more suitable. It is meant to portray a conversation between a Sanguineus and a Melancholicus, who are in disagreement throughout the first and most of the second movement; each tries to draw the other over to his own side, until they settle their differences at the end of the second movement, at which point the Melancholicus gives up the battle and assumes the manner of the other. The range of characteristics depicted is considerable: complaining, playfulness, pleading, questioning, melancholy, high spirits, bitterness, sadness and so on. In this chamber work C.P.E. Bach defied other writers who were convinced that vocal music was the only way to achieve ideas of this kind, using the text to help elucidate the content. Even Quantz wrote that words and the human voice are a great advantage to the composer, both with regard to invention and effect. However, this problem scarcely troubled Bach, who was in no doubt that expressivity and affect could be achieved in instrumental music. He even found certain advantages in the instrumental genres, among which were the affects of surprise and passion, which he believed could be better achieved with instruments rather than with voices. This was, however, his only venture into this specific programmatic style of chamber music composition, and he avoided invitations to write similar pieces. Probably the clearest indications of the development of C.P.E. Bachs compositional techniques lie with the first and last work on this disc -the Quartet in D Major (1788) and the Trio Sonata in C Major (1731). These two works show how the traditional chamber trio with two melody lines and a continuo accompaniment developed into compositions with an independent, integral keyboard part. 

The Quartet in D major represents a complete breakthrough to the Viennese classical style with an almost Beethovenian stamp. The keyboard part is much fuller and richer and no longer just provides the continuo accompaniment. Indeed there is no need at all for harmonic filling from the keyboard part, and the interplay of the instruments frequently gives rise to wonderful colouristic effects. In this respect the work is in a modern chamber music style. The Trio Sonata in C, written in the older style makes use of many Baroque elements: ritornello form organised around long themes in tonic-dominant paired entries, expansion by imitative sequence and treatment of the melody instruments as interchangeable bearers of the pure musical lines. Very few composers wrote solo pieces for the flute in the Baroque era. Maybe they were concerned about the lack of expressive and dynamic possibilities of the flute compared to the violin or cello.

In writing the solo sonata for flute, C.P.E. Bach followed in his fathers footsteps by composing a work, complete and convincing in structure and with a high level of expression and certain elements of virtuosity. Twenty-nine years separate J.S. Bachs solo Partita for Flute (1718) and C.P.E. Bachs solo sonata (1747). This sonata successfully demonstrates the flutes versatility and agility by providing not only a melodic line but also the bass and harmony notes, and by frequent use of rhetorical figures and extreme dynamic and melodic contrasts. C.P.E. Bach is unusually precise about his dynamics, especially in the first movement, and he stretches the performer with these dramatic alterations in dynamics and with sudden bursts of virtuosic passage work in the faster movements. This piece was recorded at a lower pitch than the other works on this disc (A392), because the particular instrument used resonates best at this pitch. The slow movement (Larghetto) from C.P.E. Bachs Sonata in G minor for viola da gamba and harpsichord has been included on this disc between the two most substantial works to allow for a new, intimate and varied texture. C.P.E. Bachs positions of employment in Berlin and Hamburg enabled him to experience the development of two very different eras. His compositions range from traditional Baroque style, through early Classicism and on to high Classicism. The legacy was established by his father for his early compositions and he later became a guide for Haydn, Mozart and even Beethoven. Ashley Solomon

  • 1
    Quartet in D Major, Wq. 94 I. Allegretto
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    Quartet in D Major, Wq. 94 II. Sehr Langsam Und Ausgehalten
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    Quartet in D Major, Wq. 94 III. Allegro Di Molto
  • 1
    Sonata in G Minor, Wq. 88 Larghetto
  • 1
    Trio Sonata in C Minor 'Sanguineus & Melancholicus', Wq. 161, No. 4 I. Allegretto - Presto
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    Trio Sonata in C Minor 'Sanguineus & Melancholicus', Wq. 161, No. 4 II. Adagio
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    Trio Sonata in C Minor 'Sanguineus & Melancholicus', Wq. 161, No. 4 III. Allegro
  • 1
    Flute Sonata in A Minor, Wq. 132 I. Poco Adagio
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    Flute Sonata in A Minor, Wq. 132 II. Allegro
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    Flute Sonata in A Minor, Wq. 132 III. Allegro
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    Trio Sonata in C Major, Wq. 147 I. Allegro
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    Trio Sonata in C Major, Wq. 147 II. Adagio
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    Trio Sonata in C Major, Wq. 147 III. Allegro
  • 1
    Quadro in G Minor Allegro
  • 1
    Sonata in G Minor, Op. 34 Allegro
  • 1
    Chamber Concerto in G Minor, RV 107 Allegro
  • 1
    Ouverture in D Major La Joye

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