CPE Bach: Oboe Concertos

C.P.E. Bach’s two surviving oboe concertos both began as keyboard concertos that were later transcribed for oboe; their intended performer was probably Johann Christian Fischer, a virtuoso based in Potsdam in the mid 1760s. This would perhaps account for their technical and immensely challenging solo lines, which suggest that, like his father, Carl Philipp Emmanuel revelled in pushing instruments and performers to their limits.

The highpoints of both concertos are their slow movements, which feature music of such beauty and chromatic melancholy – achieve by muting the oboe with sheep’s wool – that the emotion is profoundly moving. The concertos are complemented by the Pastorale in A minor and Sonata in G minor. Although the Pastorale is of uncertain authorship and may have been composed by C.P.E Bach’s brother Wilhelm Friedemann, the Sonata can be dated to the mid 1730s.

Like the concertos, this work has a highly effective slow movement, in this case the opening movement, containing music of great beauty and high emotional charge. A fast movement follows, and the work concludes with a virtuosic set of variations.

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