Classical Music | Piano Music

Johann Sebastian Bach

Capriccio on the Departure of his Beloved Brother, BWV 992  Play

Alon Goldstein Piano

Recorded on 05/09/2006, uploaded on 01/20/2009

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

Capriccio on the Departure of his Beloved Brother, BWV 992   Johann Sebastian Bach

I.         Arioso: Adagio -  Friends gather and try to dissuade him from departing

II.         Andante (fugato) -  They picture the dangers which may befall him

III.         Adagissimo - The Friends' Lament

IV.         Aria Introduction -  Since he cannot be dissuaded, they say farewell

V.           Allegro poco: Aria of the postilion

VI.         Fugue 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

Classical Music for the Internet Era™

Listeners' Comments        (You have to be logged in to leave comments)

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

Submitted by geharris1 on Sun, 06/19/2011 - 16:58. Report abuse