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On-line Book Review

YO TOMITA

FRONT COVER
OVERVIEW

Dimension: 26.1 x 18.3 x 2.6 cm
TITLE The Bach Family and The Keyboard Concerto: The Evolution of a Genre by Jane R. Stevens. (=Detroit Monographs in Musicology / Studies in Music, No.31)
PUBL. DETAILS Warren, Michigan: Harmonie Park Press, 2001. xviii + 269p. Hard back. Price: US$55.00.
ISBN 0-89990-096-8
TO ORDER Harmonie Park Press, 23630 Pinewood, Warren, Michigan 48091-4759, USA. FAX 810-755-4213
SUMMARY
DESCRIPTION A historical-stylistic study of concerto for solo keyboard instrument, written between 1720 and 1790, approaching not only from the studies of documentary and source evidence but also the analytical scrutiny of musical theory and practice at the time.
WORKS COVERED BWV 73, 971, 1042, 1046, 1049-50, 1052-58, 1060-65.
READERSHIP Students and scholars working in the field of keyboard concertos in the 18th century.
RESEARCH 
CONTRIBUTION
Her analytical discussion of individual works by Bach is clear and lucid, which is perhaps the most detailed commentary on these works I have read so far

U nlike what the title might suggest, this is not an exhaustive study of the concertos written by all members of Bach families (incl. extended families); rather it discusses the works of four well-known men only, viz. Bach and his three sons, Wilhelm Friedemann, Carl Philipp Emanuel and Johann Christian.

Stevens’ main aim is to contest a common, simplistic view that keyboard concertos went through the process of transformation sometime between the late 1730s (when Bach wrote his harpsichord concertos for his collegium musicum) and the 1770s (when Mozart began to compose concertos); she attempts to argue that the keyboard concerto actually maintained its continuous generic identity throughout the century.

Contents in brief
1 Introduction
The "Solo Harpsichord Concerto": Issues of Genre
Eighteenth-Century Ideas of Genre
2 Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Bach's "Solo Harpsichord Concertos": Establishing the Repertory
The Impact of Vivaldi
The Concertos for Several Keyboards
The Concertos for Single Keyboard and Strings
3 Interlude: Vivaldi and Tartini in the 1720s

4 Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-84)

Friedemann's Life and Career
The Concertos: Repertory, Sources, and Dating
Chronology and Development
Formal Structures
The New Expressivity and the Galant Ideal
5 Interlude: The Italianate Concerto in Mid-Century Berlin

6 Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-88) until 1755

The Keyboard Concertos: Sources and Chronology
Emanuel's Student Concertos
Early Years in Berlin
Continuity and Consolidation: The Second Berlin Decade
7 Interlude: The Keyboard Concerto in Italy and England in 1750 and 60s
The Beginnings of the Keyboard Concerto in Italy
The Keyboard Concerto in England
8 Johann Christian Bach (1735-82)
The Keyboard Concertos: Sources and Chronology
Christian's First Concertos
The Italian Sojourn
The London Concertos
9 Interlude: Emanuel Bach and Instrumental Performance in Berlin

10 Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach after 1755

The Keyboard Concertos, 1755-88
The Sonatinas for Solo Keyboard, Strings, and Winds
Concertos of the 1760s and Beyond
11 Afterword
Appendix
Bibliography
Index

an in-depth study of the keyboard concertos by JS, WF, CPE and JC Bach

Stevens begins her challenge by first acknowledging the lack of accurate accounts put forward by the scholars in the past as to how the genre of keyboard concerto in Germany emerged and what role Bach played in establishing the genre. As a scholar primarily established as an expert on C. P. E. Bach, Stevens pictures herself as a critical observer, especially when commenting on the research carried out by those specialized in the music of J. S. Bach; yet she does not withhold her own opinions even when discussing such thorny issues as the sources and chronology of Bach's keyboard concertos. The readers will also be assured by her fair and logical assessment of the achievements as well as the issues yet-to-be ascertained in the future research. This objective stance is the characteristics of her approach in this book. Her style of reasoning as well as the manner in which she makes ample use of references to expand every potentially contentious point in footnotes will be excellent examples for students.

Her analytical discussion of individual works by Bach is clear and lucid, which is perhaps the most detailed commentary on these works I have read so far. It is helped enormously by the use of well-conceived diagrams and music examples.

In terms of contribution to Bach Studies (i.e. restricting to her discussion of J. S. Bach), she does not seem to offer any new facts, evidence or significant hypotheses that challenge what we are currently aware of. But it is worth noting the way she presents and argues the complex subject topic so clearly and convincingly. This book of course continues to discuss beyond the works of J. S. Bach, which is outside the scope of this review. One can naturally assume that as she enters into her own territory of specialism she would unfold her original argument ever more powerfully.

In sum, this is an in-depth study of the keyboard concertos by Bach and his three sons, approaching not only from the studies of documentary and source evidence but also the analytical scrutiny of musical theory and practice at the time.

Although this book was published in 2001, it appears that the author was unable to check the publication appeared after 1996; needless to say, not a few significant  publications have appeared between 1996 and 2001, including a new edition for BWV 1052–1059 by Werner Breig (Neue Bach Ausgabe, VII/4, 1999), Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach (1999) and Bach-Handbuch (1999): they are essential reference books to be checked.

Published on-line on 19 October 2001

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