The son of the peerless Johann Sebastian, Wilhelm Friedemann was the least famous Bach of his time. Yet he is now regarded by some as the most brilliant of the Bach children, and is occasionally reported to have been his father's favourite. A master of numerous different keyboard instruments, he was not particularly prolific, and of his 100 or so known works, many remained unprinted until the 20th century.
The pieces that do survive and which feature on this recording are brilliantly virtuosic and at the same time quirkily expressive, always striving for originality in ways that ran against the established modi operandi of Bach's day. In fact, the composer was so committed to allowing the musical complexity that came naturally to him to flower fully that, unlike his more business-minded brothers, he resisted adapting his style to suit amateur musicians. In addition, his fantasias, in particular, give us a glimpse into
what must have been an impressive flair for improvisation. Alternately witty, cerebral, imaginative, emotive, dark and effervescent, and always challenging, this is not music for the faint-hearted performer.
Enter Claudio Astronio, a keyboard-player and conductor with a career that also spans jazz and pop music. For this album, Astronio has chosen to record all of W.F. Bach's keyboard works – which were never assigned to a particular instrument – on the harpsichord (with the exception of four miniatures played on the organ), rendering this recording a truly unique homage to the composer. Fanfare magazine has praised Astronio's "ability to convey the character and emotional dynamic of a vocal line" as "incredibly beautiful, sensitive and deeply touching".
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach was the least famous son of the great Johann Sebastian in his time. Yet reportedly he was his father’s favourite, and he was regarded as the most original and innovative of his offspring.
Wilhelm Friedemann left relatively little music, and much was only published only in the 20th century. He was an extraordinary keyboard player, which is shown in his works for the harpsichord, a collection of sonatas, fantasias, fugues and dances. His amazing improvisation skills are reflected in his style: original, witty, clever, sometimes dark and always full of imagination they are uncompromisingly challenging, a far cry from the charming and pleasing works of his brother Johann Christian (the London Bach). This is the first complete recording of Wilhelm Friedemann’s keyboard works on 6 CD’s, a tour de force by Italian Claudio Astronio, conductor, organist, harpsichordist, musicologist, an amazing artist with an open mind, pioneer in Early Music with a fondness of pop and jazz as well. “Astronio’s ability to convey the character and emotional dynamic of a vocal line is incredibly beautiful, sensitive and deeply touching” wrote Fanfare, America’s classical magazine.
Recorded in Italy in 2015–2017.
Features previously unpublished scores from the Vilnius manuscript.
Contains liner notes and a biography of the artist.