The freedom of a great musician0
Despite the great musical evenings, Frederick the Great of Prussia has left the Court of Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach in Potsdam. Tired of the lack of consideration received, the young Bach – second son of the great Johann Sebastian – is headed back to his beloved Leipzig in Saxony, where he wants settle upon a new direction for his career.
From his father, who died that same year of 1750, he learned everything, he was his only teacher, but Carl Philipp has an extraordinary innate talent which makes him understand that the new epoch is the expression of passions, of feelings and of emotions. Beyond the complexities of reason, he is willing to replace the stereotyped Baroque “affetti” for personal “feelings”. He wants to express himself through music, to find his own subjective discourse on emotions, searching for “the beauty in variability.”
Carl Philipp writes in his essay, True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments (1753):
“A musician can not move others if he himself is not excited. It is essential to feel all the emotions that one hopes to make arise in ones listeners, because in this way through the revelation of his sensitivity, one can encourage similar sensitivities in others. In the languid and sad passages one will become languid and sad, and this must be heard and seen. In the same way, in passionate and joyful passages one must immerse oneself in the right mood; and so, constantly varying the passions, just silencing one will raise another. “
Over the years, Carl Philipp fulfilled his desires developing the Empfindsamer Stil, the style of extreme sensitivity. His sonatas became musical discourses with unpredictable courses, as with the feelings of a future passionate romantic; and finally, he founded in the Free Fantasy – without pre-established schemes – the best way to express oneself.
In the 1770s, Charles Burney, the indefatigable musical traveler, saw him play and he wrote these words for us:
“Playing, staring like a madman, drool dangling from his lips, indifferent to everything which does not satisfy his passion.”
“… When he expressed, externally, a long note in the key, with slow pathetic movements, he skillfully knew how to extract sensitive sounds of sorrow and lamentation from the instrument …”
“… After dinner he sat down again at the piano and played, without stopping, almost to eleven o’clock at night. During this time he was excited, showing such enthusiasm, that not only played with but also had the gesture of ecstasy … “
The last 20 years were spent in Hamburg, a city which was known as the “Hamburg of Bach”. The year was 1788 and Carl Philipp, who was already 74, would not permit himself leave us without a legacy in the form of the Free Fantasy in F # m, a nod to the future full subjectivity of Romanticism.
Today we can hear this work in the magnificent version by Sofya Melikyan recorded in the Bruno Walter Auditorium of the Lincoln Center (New York).
Ignacio Botella Ausina