Official Release: 17 September 2021
This Da Vinci Classics album offers numerous stimulating perspectives and insights. The unusual timbral combination sheds new light onto some of Bach’s best-known works; it subtly intrigues the listener in other pieces, which are not among the most played in the Bach repertoire; it also favours a novel appreciation of Bach’s unequalled genius in a variety of different styles.
One red thread fond in many of the works performed here is that of Bach’s interest in Italy and in the Italian style; another is Bach’s extraordinary mastery of the polyphonic language; another is the subject of timbre itself, explored by Bach and by the performers under many viewpoints.
Although Bach never visited Italy, he was deeply fascinated by Italian music and culture, from Palestrina’s vocal style to the novelties of the young Pergolesi, from Corelli’s innovations in the field of violin and orchestral writing to the art of Frescobaldi on the organ and on keyboard instruments in general. And, of course, Vivaldi’s model was crucial for the development of Bach’s own style in the concerto form.
The Capriccio sopra la lontananza del suo fratello dilettissimo BWV 992 dates back to the early years of the eighteenth century. For many (although not for all) scholars, the occasion for its composition may have been the departure of one of Bach’s brothers, Johann Jakob, who was to join the army of Charles XII of Sweden as an oboist. The likely composition date should therefore be approximately 1703-4. As is well known, Bach lost both of his parents as a child (he was not yet 10 years old), and was raised by another of his elder brothers, Johann Christoph. The Bach family was already famous throughout Germany as a family of musicians, and in fact Johann Christoph was an organist in turn, at the Michaeliskirche of Ohrdruf. He not only provided his younger brother with lodging and victuals, but also fostered his musical talent by teaching him both performance and composition. During that time, Bach also followed a kind of “distance learning” course, by copying, analyzing and studying keyboard works by many of the greatest musicians of the time. This activity broadened the young musician’s horizons, nourished his innate curiosity, and formed a habit which he would maintain throughout his life: learning by copying, adapting, rewriting and digesting the works of other great musicians.
A series of works which doubtlessly Bach learnt and appreciated was the collection of Biblical Sonatas by Johann Kuhnau. These magnificent pieces describe in detail some Biblical episodes, depicting particulars of their narratives with numerous and imaginative aural effects. Their model was clearly in Bach’s mind when he composed the Capriccio, whose individual movements vividly represent a story, and whose “meaning” is clarified by the exhaustive labels he provided. The piece’s title is in Italian; the spelling found in the most important source is interspersed with curious errors, bearing witness on the one hand to Bach’s imperfect knowledge of Italian, on the other to his eagerness to employ this exotic language in spite of his linguistic shortcomings. Beyond exoticism, as Raffaele Mellace has rightfully suggested, the Italian title probably alludes to the “affinity” and “closeness” between this work and Frescobaldi’s Capricci.
The first movement of the Capriccio begins on a euphonic movement of thirds and sixths, probably evoking the horns which will feature prominently in the later movements. The second, a fugato, portrays the possible mishaps which could affect the brother’s journey; these are represented by the daring use of distant keys, juxtaposed in a seemingly haphazard pattern, mirroring the hazards of the travel. The touching passacaglia in the third movement portrays the friends’ “lamento” (once more in Italian), with a touching use of chromatic passages and sorrowful expressivity. The fourth movement describes the change taking place in the friends’ minds: although they still mourn the departure of their companion, the necessity of the journey imposes itself, and an atmosphere of expectation arises. The fifth and sixth movements represent a positive change in mood: in the fifth, the postillion’s call is heard on a serene and steadfast tune, whilst in the sixth some thematic elements of the fifth are developed contrapuntally in a fugue skillfully combining polyphonic mastery with an engaging simplicity.
Italy is also found in Prelude BWV 923, whose germinating idea came from a theme by Albinoni. It is a quintessentially improvisational piece, built in the fashion of the free preludes exploring harmonic itineraries through scales and arpeggios, and connecting the chords in a “fantastic” fashion.
Another Venetian composer, Vivaldi, is represented in Bach’s transcription after one of his concertos. As previously stated, Bach constantly transcribed and adapted works by other masters whose music he appreciated. This practice involved cultural, technical and compositional aspects: through it, Bach learnt to know musical languages different from those of the tradition he belonged in, acquired new compositional techniques, but was also able to intervene creatively in a very artistic fashion.
Between 1713 and 1717, Bach transcribed at least twenty-two Concertos by Italian and German masters: some transcriptions are conceived for a keyboard instrument, while the others require the use of a pedalboard. Bach’s knowledge of the originals is probably due to Prince Johann Ernst of Weimar, the nephew of Bach’s employer at that time; the Concerto recorded here is one of the most brilliant in both Vivaldi’s and Bach’s versions. Here the timbral aspect comes to the fore. Bach’s transcription is faithful to the original inasmuch as the overall structure, the general shape and most details of Vivaldi’s writing are respected. However, Bach’s hand is clearly discernible in the efficacious solutions he devised for evoking the alternations between solo and tutti in the transcribed texture; these frequently include a thickening of the contrapuntal texture, which intensifies the “orchestral” effect. Performed by a guitar trio, this version acquires transparency and luminosity, and represents yet another embodiment of the original piece’s potential.
The alternation between a “solo” and “tutti” conception, typical for Vivaldi’s concertos, is found also in the D-minor Toccata and Fugue BWV 538. Moreover, Bach’s use of the title “Toccata” frequently alludes to the Italianate keyboard style, as epitomized by Frescobaldi; this work is probably coeval with the transcribed concerto, since both are thought to have been written during Bach’s stay in Weimar. The label of “Dorian” refers to the relatively ambiguous tonal features of this piece, which is occasionally reminiscent of modal traits typical for the Dorian mode; indeed, a certain archaicism characterizes this piece, which is driven by a powerful dynamic force and a tight thematic unity.
A similar compactness in the musical material is found in the Fantasy BWV 904, which is woven on a pattern of descending motifs, subtly varied and creatively employed. Here, different from Prelude BWV 923, the compositional style is less capricious, and is reminiscent of keyboard transcriptions after vocal models. A certain archaic flavour is found here too, and the prevailing features are those of a masterful contrapuntal writing. The most prominent aspect of the accompanying Fugue is, instead, the combination of two radically different idioms, i.e. the diatonic and the chromatic. The main subject is diatonic, while the chromatic subject enters at approximately one third of the work; at two thirds of the piece’s length, the main subject returns but is now combined with the second. The result is surprising and unexpected, and never fails to elicit the listener’s admiration.
By way of contrast, the Fugue of BWV 847 is more straightforward and succinct. It belongs to the second pair of Prelude and Fugue found in Book One of the Well-Tempered Clavier, Bach’s collection of twenty-four Preludes and Fugues written in 1722, later to be followed by another collection of twenty-four pairs. This is the first pair in the minor mode to be found in the cycle. The Prelude is both similar and dramatically different in concept from the preceding Prelude, in C major: they are similar in their use of repeated patterns exploring chordal movements, but very different in their mood, style and character. The Prelude recorded here is lively, motoric, enthralling, whereas the first Prelude was dreamy, intimate and poetic. The C-minor Fugue is grounded on a clearly shaped rhythmic cell, conferring to the piece an allure suggestive of dance movements.
The album is completed by four of the fifteen Symphonies, or Three-Part Inventions. These pieces, conceived by Bach with pedagogical aims in both the performative and compositional field, display fugato-like structures: they do not follow the strict rules of fugal writing, yet are similar to fugues in the overall effect and in the treatment of polyphony. The Symphonies selected here are among the most beautiful of the collection, and demonstrate the degree of artistry and poetry Bach employed even in these “educational” works: they not only train the pupils’ polyphonic skills, but rather provide the learners with models of good taste and of creative fantasy.
Together, the pieces recorded here display Bach as a “student”, as a teacher, as a keyboard player, as a polyphonists: above all, as a creative genius whose works not only bear, but rather invite creative appropriations such as the one realized by the recording artists.
Liner Notes © Chiara Bertoglio
In tempore belli: In Tempore Belli Guitar Trio is a music project born at Francesco Molmenti’s suggestion in time of a virus upsetting our planet.
The quarantine ordered to citizens, allowed Fabiola Miglietti, Davide Moneta e Francesco to gather in the same house and play music of the Baroque repertoire. And that was made easier by the fact the they have been musical partners in different formations for several years now, giving concerts, winning competitions and making recordings.
Moreover, each of them has always been fascinated by and keen on the Baroque repertoire and that made them focus on Johann Sebastian Bach. All the music on this album was transcribed for this project by the trio.
Francesco Molmenti is a guitarist and a musicologist. He was introduced in the six-strings world by his first teacher, Lucia Pizzutel, who supported him until his graduation - accomplished cum laude at the Conservatorio “G. Tartini” of Trieste with the teacher Frédéric Zigante. Francesco has enhanced his education by attending electronic music and conducting courses and, in particular, by delving into musical history and theory. He graduated cum laude in musicology at the University of Cremona. There he also obtaied the PhD with a thesis dedicated to the theorist of the Renaissance Johannes Tinctoris. In 2018 he graduated cum laude in the Master of Guitar for “high perfection and musical interpretation” at the Conservatorio “A. Boito” of Parma.
From 1994 to 2001 he distinguished himself in more than ten different national and international competitions, always winning the 1st Prize. These results would lead him to perform as a soloist, soloist with orchestra, and in various chamber ensembles, in several Italian and foreign countries. He currently performs as a soloist, with the Res intimae guitar trio and with the Extravagantia – guitar & harpsichord duo.
Davide Moneta had been student of the guitarist Francesco Molmenti (Liceo Musicale “Antonio Stradivari” - Cremona), who introduced him to the world of classical guitar through performing in several masterclass, concerts and competitions. Davide graduated at the Conservatorio di Musica “G. Verdi” of Milan with the teacher Paolo Cherici. During the final year of undergraduate degree studies, he took part to Erasmus+ Programme and had the pleasure of studying with Margarita Escarpa at Conservatorio Superior de Música de Vigo (Spain).He is currently studying with the guitarist Andrea Dieci at Istituto Superiore di Studi Musicali “Vecchi-Tonelli” of Modena. He has entered several competitions since 2019, and won the 1st Prize at the 37° Rassegna Chitarristica of Mondovì (2013), the 1st Prize at “La chitarra volante” Competition of Brescia (2014), the Absolute Winner Prize at the 14° Concorso Riviera della Versilia “Daniele Ridolfi” of Viareggio (2014) and the 2nd Prize at the Young Talent Competition of the Niccolò Paganini Guitar Festival of Parma (2016).
Davide has attended many guitar masterclasses with international renowned artists such Lucia Pizzutel, Frédéric Zigante, Gianni Nuti, Lorenzo Micheli, Pablo Marquez, Nuccio d’Angelo, Timo Korhonen, Djani Sehu, David Tanembaum, Tom Patterson and Vera Ogrizovic.
Fabiola Miglietti started playing guitar in 2003, and she studied with guitarists Emanuele Girardi, Francesco Molmenti, Marco Piperno and Maria Vittoria Jedlowski. She attended the Guitar Academy “A più corde”, based in Sacile (PN), founded by Lucia Pizzutel and Francesco Molmenti. Fabiola attended many guitar masterclasses with international renowned artists such as Andrea Dieci, Andrea De Vitis, Matteo Mela, Lorenzo Micheli, Judicaël Perroy, Lucia Pizzutel and Frèdèric Zigante and she stood out in many different national and international competitions. In chamber music section, together with the guitar player Davide Moneta, with whom she has steadily played since 2015, she won the Absolute Winner Prize at the European Classical Guitar Competition “Enrico Mercatali” of Gorizia and the Absolute Winner Prize (100/100) at the Young Talent Competition of the Niccolò Paganini Guitar Festival of Parma. In 2017 the duo obtained the 1st Prize at the National Guitar Competition “Giulio Rospigliosi” and the 2nd Prize at the 40° National Guitar Competition “Ansaldi” of Roburent (both of them in “no age limit category”).
Johann Sebastian Bach: (b Eisenach, 21 March 1685, d Leipzig; 28 July 1750). Composer and organist. The most important member of the family, his genius combined outstanding performing musicianship with supreme creative powers in which forceful and original inventiveness, technical mastery and intellectual control are perfectly balanced. While it was in the former capacity, as a keyboard virtuoso, that in his lifetime he acquired an almost legendary fame, it is the latter virtues and accomplishments, as a composer, that by the end of the 18th century earned him a unique historical position. His musical language was distinctive and extraordinarily varied, drawing together and surmounting the techniques, the styles and the general achievements of his own and earlier generations and leading on to new perspectives which later ages have received and understood in a great variety of ways.
The first authentic posthumous account of his life, with a summary catalogue of his works, was put together by his son Carl Philipp Emanuel and his pupil J.F. Agricola soon after his death and certainly before March 1751 (published as Nekrolog, 1754). J.N. Forkel planned a detailed Bach biography in the early 1770s and carefully collected first-hand information on Bach, chiefly from his two eldest sons; the book appeared in 1802, by when the Bach Revival had begun and various projected collected editions of Bach’s works were underway; it continues to serve, together with the 1754 obituary and the other 18th-century documents, as the foundation of Bach biography.