A son of Jewish Russian immigrants playing around with African American music, composing for an audience of white Americans. Does it get any more American than that?
If there is any song that represents the best in America, it would be Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, at least today. If nothing else for the clarinet glissando at the beginning. Which was a bit of joking around by the band that Gershwin had the good sense to keep in. In fact the piece as we know it is a collaboration between Gershwin, the composer, Ferde Grofe’ who scored the piece for the band and later larger orchestras and members of the band as with the clarinet intro. Also his brother Ira who changed the name.
Especially when your name is Bach and your father is Johann Sebastian Bach.
Last month I was listening to NPR and a piece about the music of CPE Bach, JS Bach’s second eldest son. I came home and bookmarked the article to save it for a later time. And what better than Fathers day.
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was born in 1714, educated by his dad, then spent nearly 30 years in Berlin as the harpsichordist to Frederick the Great before decamping to Hamburg to become the city’s director of church music. As a composer, Bach charted his own startling, original path and was a principal proponent of a trend called Empfindsamer Stil, or loosely translated, “sensitive style.” In Versuch über die wahre Art das Klavier zu spielen, his 1753 treatise on how to play the keyboard, Bach emphasizes music’s ability to touch the heart and trigger emotions, saying that musicians should play “aus der Seele,” from the soul.
In his music, Bach zigs and zags, suddenly slams on the breaks, punches the gas or, in the Allegretto from the E minor concerto from 1748, dares to interrupt the piano with stentorian outbursts of strings.
Bach’s restless and quirky game plan is perhaps a rebellion against his father, whom he considered old-fashioned. C.P.E. is often thought of as a bridge from the baroque era to the new age of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. But I think he also foreshadows the freewheeling romantics.
The article recommends several selections and over the last month I have listened to several other selections and found Emanuel Bach’s music very enjoyable and often very different from either his fathers or those like Mozart who followed. Some of the shifts in tempo and volume are more reminiscent of the early 20th century than the mid 18th century.
I was thinking of repeating a favorite Charlie Parker jazz session when I saw todays selection in the youtube algo suggestion list. A beautiful gospel that seem just right for today, even for this nonbeliever.
Walk in peace.
Taj Mahal – lead vocals, Wynton Marsalis – trumpet, Eric Clapton – guitar, Don Vappie – banjo& guitar, Dan Nimmer – piano, Chris Stainton – keyboards, Carlos Henriquez – bass, Ali Jackson – drums & tambourine, Marcus Printup – trumpet, Victor Goines – tenor sax, soprano sax, clarinet & bass clarinet, Chris Crenshaw – trombone