February 01, 2017
Jean Rondeau to release new album 'Dynastie'
The young French harpsichordist Jean Rondeau describes the Bach family as “one of the great dynasties of western music”. Having devoted his first Erato recording, Imagine, to music by the towering Johann Sebastian Bach, followed by a recital of French Baroque music entitled Vertigo, he returns to the world of Bach for his third release, Dynastie. Johann Sebastian is now joined by the most famous of his ten sons, Wilhelm Friedemann (1710-84), Carl Philipp Emmanuel (1714-88) and Johann Christian (1735-82). After two solo recitals, Rondeau also has company in his consort which accompanies him in four concertos and Rondeau’s own arrangement of a sonata by Wilhelm Friedemann.
Imagine, which comprised transcriptions of works by Bach, won Rondeau two top awards in France: for Instrumental ‘Revelation’ of the Year at the Victoires de la Musique and for Solo Classical Instrumentalist of the Year at the Grands Prix de l'Académie Charles Cros 2015. BBC Music Magazine, meanwhile, judged that “Not only is the trajectory utterly sure-footed; he can also generate palpable excitement without resorting to empty bravado ... Rondeau is a natural communicator, unimpeded by the imperative to score academic points ... Make no mistake – this is an auspicious debut.”
The 25-year-old Rondeau has described JS Bach, who has been part of his life since his childhood, as “daunting like a mighty mountain”, but at the same time feels that “his music is so full of humility, so generous, that we have the right and the duty to play it, to share it, and to take the hand that he extends to us.”
Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emmanuel were brothers and Johann Christian was their half-brother. All three of them had a distinctive musical personality: Wilhelm Friedemann’s style vacillated between conservatism (an adherence to the Baroque idiom) and a more progressive approach, whether galant or highly expressive in the North German style; Carl Philipp Emmanuel, the best-known Bach in his time, spent many years at the court of Frederick the Great or Prussia, notably producing a multitude of keyboard works that are sometimes startlingly innovative in form and content, while Johann Christian, who settled in London in 1762, adopted elements of Italian style and exercised an influence on the young Mozart when he spent time in London in 1764-65.
The Bach dynasty provides a wealth of source material for Jean Rondeau: "Wilhelm Friedemann, Carl Philip Emanuel and Johann Christian did their utmost to be worthy of the legacy passed down to them by their father," he explains. "The essential qualities of this legacy are modernity and audacity, which lie at the very heart of musical creativity.
"Musical ideas are not my ideas, they are already in the score. All you have to do is dig deep for them and you will find them. What’s important for me is to be as true as possible in my playing.”
Dynastie will be released on CD, digital platforms and vinyl on 24 February.