Recorded on 05/09/2006, uploaded on 01/20/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Adagio - Friends gather and try to
dissuade him from departing
(fugato) - They picture the dangers which
may befall him
- The Friends' Lament
Aria Introduction - Since he cannot be dissuaded, they say
Allegro poco: Aria of
in Imitation of the Post horn
Johann Sebastian Bach's
Capriccio on the Departure of a Beloved Brother is the only surviving
instrumental piece written by the great composer which is programmatic - it has
a story attached to it. The piece was written while Bach was still a teenager.
At that time he was already an orphan and was expected to earn a living. It is
commonly thought that the piece was composed in 1704 for the departure of one
of Bach's older brothers - Johan Jacob - to work in the orchestra of the
Swedish king. As a young composer Bach
was naturally influenced by his predecessors; composers such as François
Couperin and his French Rococo style come to mind when listening to the Capriccio.
The model for this piece however would have been Johann Kuhnau who wrote six
sonatas written on Biblical narratives, with literal descriptive figures.
The six movements of the piece
outline the story: in the first, a tender, repeated pleading figure paints a
picture of the friends gathering to try and persuade him not to leave. The
large number of cadences in the home key of B-flat Major, suggest a reluctance
to let go. In the second movement, his friends warn him of the dangers that may
befall him. The key has abruptly shifted to g minor and this highly ornamented
Fugue loses itself in remote keys with astonishing speed. The theme entrances
keep piling up till the sudden end. In the third movement, the Friends' lament
is literally conveyed through a series of sighing motifs as well as descending
melodic lines. A seemingly repeated bass line gives the impression of a Passacaglia.
In this movement the performer should add harmonic texture to the score which
is only furnished with a figured bass and sporadic melody. The key is f minor.
The fourth movement, which is also the shortest in the cycle, offers the
turning point. The friends now bid a joyous farewell and the mood changes from
melancholy to gaiety. In the fifth movement the postal carriage arrives blowing
its horn. This is enunciated in the music by a downward leaping octave figure.
Then comes the last and most
elaborate movement-the Fugue in Imitation of the Postilion. This is one of
Bach's earliest known Fugues. Now that everyone has left and the composer is
alone, he is writing what is the only thoroughly worked out piece in the whole
Capriccio-a Double Fugue. Bach takes the horn call from the previous movement
and turns it into the countersubject for a trumpet-like main theme. However it
comes with such regularity and independence that we can regard it as another
theme. A third counterpoint is added and grows together with the two other
themes. The three musical ideas reach a climactic point when it seems like an
entire orchestra is now in full swing, and we hear the horn calls coming from
all sides. The piece then ends triumphantly in its home key of B-flat Major. Alon Goldstein
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
A delightful performance by Alon Goldstein of a work which sounds so fresh and romantic and hardly attributable to Bach. I thought it a work of his old age but the maturity of the teenage composer is beyond belief! Gordon Harris
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