The Bach family is a legendary one; for more than 150 years they had an impressive musical reputation, notably thanks to the genius of J.S. Bach. Yet, behind the towering figure of Johann Sebastian were his many relatives who were also prolific musicians.
Johann Bach, Sebastian’s great-uncle, was a revered musician who often wrote in the Italian polychoral style. In his Unser Leben, two choirs sing different texts which are designed to compliment each other, as in the Lutheran tradition.
Sebastian greatly admired his second cousin, Johann Christoph, whose climactic Lieber Herr Gott and Ich lasse dich nicht (which makes full use of the Venetian double-choir tradition) feature on the disc, along with Der Gerechte, which is a testament to his bold harmonization and use of the augmented sixth. Three pieces by Johann Michael Bach are also part of the collection: the madrigal-like Sei lieber which grows to a full choral texture, Tag, Nun hab’ ich überwunden and Herr du lässest mich erfahen. The final member of the family to be represented is the court musician Johann Ludwig, much revered by Sebastian, with the energetic Das ist meine Freude and the Italianate Unsere Trübsal.
The motets are sung by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, one of the UK’s most internationally celebrated choirs, conducted by Timothy Brown. The disc also features theorbist Liz Kenny, who has since gone on to become a member of Les Arts Florissants, Helen Gough on the bass violin and organist Keri Dexter.