- Leite mich nach deinem Willen, motet for chorus, 2 oboes, 3 horns, strings & continuo, H. 835, Wq. 227
- Herr Gott, du bist unser, inauguration cantata (for Pastor Schäffer) for 4 voices, chorus, orchestra & continuo, H. 821m, Wq. 253
- Mein Heiland, Meine Zuversicht, motet for chorus, 2 oboes, strings & continuo, H. 830, Wq. 221
- Der Herr lebet, inauguration cantata (for Pastor Fredrici) for 4 voices, chorus, orchestra & continuo, H. 821g, Wq. 251
- Amen, amen, Lob und Preis, motet for chorus, 2 oboes, 3 trumpets, strings & continuo, H. 834, Wq. 226
The music on this disc dates from the 1780s, late in C.P.E. Bach's career, when he was the music director for the city of Hamburg. While Mozart was wrangling with archbishops and nobles, and soaking up the revolutionary winds blowing from France, these pieces were written for the most old-fashioned kind of event imaginable -- ceremonies marking the inductions of prominent individuals to the Lutheran ministry. The odd but rather deep liner notes (you know you're dealing with a German recording when you pick up the notes and read something like "Nevertheless, the contradiction between subjective and objective consideration remains") provide a good deal of the works' reception history, and one learns that a generation after they were written, they were already being condemned as insignificant relics of an older way of doing things. Many listeners will reach the same conclusion; Bach's festival cantatas are uneasy mixtures of chorales and operatic arias, with rather pompous passages of trumpets and drums that don't mesh with the more melodic materials, all tied to religious texts that, like some of those promulgated today, seem to protest too much. Yet a certain kind of philosophically oriented listener will be intrigued. What happens when geniuses take comfortable, well-paid positions far from the latest developments? Why do young musicians move to New York, or Los Angeles, or Atlanta, or Nashville, instead of attempting to make great music in Wichita, or Scranton, or Sioux Falls? Conductor Ludger Rémy (check out the photo of him, with cigarette, on the back of the booklet!), with his Himlische Cantorey small choir and Les Amis de Philippe orchestra, try to divorce the music from any historical considerations and give us an "objective" look. And, of course, one can find the unique and daring expressive personality of C.P.E. Bach here if one looks for it; the sequence of musical events is quite imaginative, and, as with a lot of C.P.E. Bach, the two cantatas here (framed by single choruses with similar purposes) sound unlike any other music of their time. The boxy sound of this recording is wrong; this was music performed in big Hamburg churches, and it needed to sound resplendent, or at least imposing. However, libraries should collect this very unusual and quite thought-provoking disc, and anyone who has pondered the relationship between music and the historical currents in which it flows may want to hear it as well.