A history and analysis of the double orchestra Op. 18, No. 3 Sinfonia by the youngest son of JS Bach and the inspiration of Mozart: Johann Christian Bach. Johann Christian was a great composer in his own right, seen in this well-scored overture-form work composed in 1781. JC Bach went on to dominate the Classical Period in music history.
Sinfonia for Double Orchestra in D major, Op. 18, No. 3
JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH
Born September 5, 1735 in Leipzig
Died January 1, 1782 in London
Johann Christian Bach, the youngest son of Johann Sebastian and his second wife, Anna Magdalena, was one of the most cosmopolitan members of the Bach family. After the death of his father in 1750, Johann Christian went to live with a half-brother, Carl Philipp Emanuel, who, as cembalist at the court of Frederic II in Berlin, continued his instructions in clavier playing. Burney, the historian, attributed Johann Christian’s “expressive and masterly performance on the pianoforte” to Carl Philipp Emanuel’s teaching. It was while Johann Christian lived in Berlin that he began to compose concertos for the piano.
Around 1754 he went to Italy where he was a musician to the friendly and protective Count Agostino Litta at Milan. He had some lessons with the famous Padre Martini of Bologna, and, he would often send his compositions to him for criticism. Soon after going to Italy he was converted to Roman Catholicism and, in 1760, he obtained the post of organist at the Milan cathedral. His numerous choral works and three successful operas greatly enhanced his reputation and opened up the way for him in England.
In 1762 Johann Christian arrived in London. His operas soon won him great renown. Some time before 1764 he was appointed Music Master in the Queen’s Household – Queen Charlotte, who had only recently left her native Mecklenburg-Strelitz to become the wife of George III, was quite interested in music. Bach began a series of concerts with Carl Friedrich Abel which continued for many years, and for which he composed many of his outstanding instrumental works, symphonies, concertos, sonatas and other chamber music.
His compositions made a deep impression on the child prodigy Mozart (1756-1791) when he, with his father and sister, went to London in 1764. Johann Christian was responsible for arranging the royal entertainment by the Mozarts. It is quite generally recognized that Bach’s symphonies and concertos became a real influence in the future composition of Mozart. Mozart admired Bach, and later wrote, “I love him with all my heart.”
The Sinfonia for Double Orchestra is the third of a set of six such works, called “Grand Overtures,” and published as Opus 18, probably in 1781, in London. The first, third, and fifth of the set were composed for double orchestra. The third, discussed occasion, calls for a first orchestra consisting of two oboes, two bassoons, two horns and strings; the second orchestra consists of flutes and strings. There are three movements: Allegro, Andante (G major), and Allegro assai.
* The cover image is Thomas Gainsborough's oil-on-canvas portrait of JC Bach.
* The audio files embedded/linked above comprise the three movements of the Op. 18/3 Sinfonia. The Failoni Orchestra of Budapest is performing. I found this to be the only suitable recording freely available with the excerpt of the third of the Op. 18 set. There are others, including the very popular complete set of 6 by the Hanover Band. These are only examples. Please support working artists and purchase music and art legally. Thank you.