Sinfonia in F major, H. 665
2 flutes, 2 oboes, bassoon, 2 horns, harpsichord, violins, violas, cellos, basses
notes by Anthony Suter
I. Allegro di molto
Around the same time that our founding fathers were busy de-colonizing themselves from British rule, the second oldest surviving son of J.S. Bach was carrying on the family business of writing music for various people who would pay him to do so. Carl Philipp Emanuel wrote his Sinfonia in F major (and other works in the Wq. 182 group, for those of you familiar with musicological cataloging of such things) in the years right around 1776, in Hamburg. The works of this era show a rather progressive approach to the orchestra; these were intended as works with independent wind parts, rather than simple doublings (often added by the composer after the fact) of a string orchestra piece. Still rather Italian in style, these works do exhibit more interesting explorations than his earlier works, many of which that were written while employed in Berlin. They all, however, maintain the same overall structure of a three movement form consisting of a slow movement between two outer fast movements.
One of four Bach children to become musicians, Emmanuel became an important and admired transition figure in the years between what are generally referred to as the Baroque and Classical eras. His music was in much greater circulation than his father's, though by the mid-19th century that reversed. Still, Emanuel's music was mentioned favorably by a large number of important composers, including Mozart, Haydn, and even Brahms.
The first movement of the Sinfonia in F major begins with a single line, doubled in octaves in the strings, which is repeated twice before the winds enter and fill out the orchestral texture. This fast movement alternates between tutti sections and some rather delicate writing for two or three voices at a time. The second movement is rather striking in its sparseness and proclivity for very noticeable dissonances. The movement begins with a dialogic exchange between the violas and cellos, coloring the opening of this minor-key movement rather darkly. In contrast, the last movement returns to F major and is cast in two large, repeated sections.
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