Celebrating C.P.E. Bach

Tuesday, Mar 01, 2022
Juilliard Journal
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CPE BachFest

By Karin Brookes

In March, Juilliard’s Historical Performance department will celebrate the many aspects of C.P.E. Bach’s musical legacy in a series of three concerts: a vocal and keyboard recital, a concert of chamber music, and a grand symphonic program featuring Juilliard415. Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714–88) was far more famous and influential in the 1780s than his father, Johann Sebastian, thanks largely to his court position in Berlin as the accompanist to Frederick the Great. (When Mozart said “Bach is the father, and we are his sons,” he was actually talking about C.P.E.) Unlike his father’s primarily theological cultural sources, C.P.E.’s were more reflective of the burgeoning secular discourse in the latter half of the 18th century and, as such, provide a critical link between his father and Handel, and Mozart and Haydn.

CPE BachFest, which runs March 22–28, is happening thanks to the generous support of the Packard Humanities Institute, which is celebrating the completion of a massive project called Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: The Complete Works, a critical edition of all of C.P.E.’s works. You can explore this extraordinary undertaking at cpebach.org, where these meticulously edited and beautifully printed volumes are available as free downloads.

Screenshot of an archival piece of sheet music
C.P.E. Bach’s manuscript for his Symphony in E Minor, which will be played at CPE BachFest on March 28 (Photo: Courtesy of Bach Digital)

To start things off, the great Robert Levin, who is not only one of our great masters of pianos old and new but also the editorial chair of the C.P.E. Bach Complete Works project and a Juilliard guest faculty member, will deliver a master class, and Christoph Wolff, professor emeritus of historical musicology at Harvard and former Juilliard faculty member, will give a doctoral forum.

As a background to the festival, the Juilliard Library will have a special exhibit of its C.P.E.-related holdings, including several volumes that were crucial to the new critical edition.

Originally scheduled for spring 2020, this festival was first postponed to 2021, and then again to this spring. Unfortunately due to the ongoing pandemic, the festival concerts at the Boston Early Music Festival (March 26) and in Alice Tully Hall (March 28) will not be joined, as initially planned, by students from the Royal Conservatoire of The Hague (affectionately known as Koncon—for Koninklijk Conservatorium) as they are unable to travel to New York City. In April, fingers crossed, the Juilliard415 students will fly to The Hague with Paul Agnew to join their counterparts for three performances of C.P.E. Bach’s rarely performed oratorio, Die Israeliten in der Wüste.

The various partnerships are a fitting tribute to the numerous European and American institutions and individuals who worked with the editorial board to complete this comprehensive and scholarly edition, which was itself only possible due to the 1999 discovery of the library of the Sing-Akademie in Berlin (a marvelous story in its own right, involving the restitution from Ukraine of more than 5,000 manuscripts, many of them by Bach’s sons, that were thought to have been lost during World War II).

Just as Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: The Complete Works is described on its website as a “living edition,” so the collaboration between Juilliard HP, one of the newest historical performance departments, and the Koncon, one of the oldest, is constantly growing and evolving. Following the two institutions’ initial collaboration—in 2016 to perform
J.S. Bach’s Mass in B Minor—they partnered in a quartet festival in 2018, and this past December, an HP quartet played at the 100th anniversary of the Netherland-America Foundation while their counterparts celebrated the same event in The Hague.

Karin Brookes is administrative director of Historical Performance



CPE BachFest, Mar. 22–28

Doctoral Forum: C. P. E. Bach and the History of Music by Christoph Wolff (Mar. 22; students, faculty, and staff only)

Master Class With Robert Levin (Mar. 23)

Lieder David Belkovski (MM ’20, historical performance) directs Juilliard singers from the fortepiano (Mar. 24 at New York Public Library for the Performing Arts)

Chamber Music performed by HP students (Mar. 25 at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, presented by the church’s St. Andrew Music Society)

Juilliard415 conducted by Paul Agnew in C.P. E. Bach’s Symphony in E Minor, Cello Concerto in A Major, String Sinfonia in C Major, Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Stande, and Symphony in D Major (Mar. 26 presented by Boston Early Music Festival at First Church, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Mar. 28 at Alice Tully Hall)