With his 2017 release on Erato, Jean Rondeau illustrates the beginnings of the harpsichord concerto, which can be traced from the Baroque masterpieces of Johann Sebastian Bach through the early Classical period, represented here by works of his sons, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, and Johann Christian Bach. While this celebrated musical dynasty contributed to many forms in the 18th century, the keyboard concerto was given a special, innovative treatment by the Bachs, who effectively put the genre on the map.
"…Musica Antiqua convey equal vitality and character to the two most striking rarities here. JCF Bach’s double concerto for fortepiano and viola appears as a prototype symphony with important solo interjections. Melodically unexceptional, it is nevertheless stylish in a jejune way. CPE Bach – the most iconoclastic of the sons – successfully combines the prevailing keyboard instruments of the day, harpsichord and fortepiano. Fingers fly with aplomb – and no little mischief – as one is left to ponder the impact of this last Bach generation on Mozart and Beethoven, with whom there were (and are) of course many significant connections. Goebel provides a historical wake-up call." ~Gramophone
That Bach's motets are not his most popular sacred choral works is easily explainable. When asked to choose between the Passions' spiritual drama, the Mass' magnificent architecture, the cantatas' infinite diversity, or the motets' inward piety, most listeners will more likely choose any of the former before the latter. Still, for concentrated intensity, it is hard to surpass the motets, particularly in performances as superlative as these by the Nederlands Kamerkoor under Peter Dijkstra.
Although conductors invariably include the six great motets of Bach (BWV225-230) in recordings of these works, they seldom if ever seem to agree which if any other of Bach's motets to perform with them. John Eliot Gardiner very sensibly goes for the lot, adding Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren (BWV231) and the little-known Der Gerechte kommt um which does not even have the benefit of a Schmieder number. As well as these, Gardiner also includes two short pieces which belong, at least nominally, to the cantata category, BWV50 and BWV118. In the case of the latter there is much justification for doing so for it's a single movement choral piece in motet style written for a funeral in about 1736 and revised for a performance around 1740. Here we have what sounds to me like a compromise; in other words the horns, cornetto and sackbuts of the first version (possibly intended for an open air occasion), with the strings and woodwind of the second. This may be explained in the texts, none of which has been included with my review copy.