This five-disc set provides ample opportunity to appreciate the warm musical personality of JC Bach, the "London Bach", youngest and most famous (in his own day) son of Johann Sebastian Bach. His sunny rococo idiom must have seemed fresh and revitalising to London audiences back in the 1770s when Handel's shadow still dominated most music-making. Although later eclipsed by the far greater achievements of Mozart (who was, incidentally, an enthusiastic admirer of JC), Bach's music still sounds vibrant and fresh today.
It's true that these symphonies occasionally fall back on cliche--with the odd flashy, brilliant passage substituting for inspiration--but for the most part they are elegantly crafted, with outer movements characterised by graceful rhetorical gestures and chock full of melodic invention; and deceptively simple slow movements where Bach's loveliest, most affecting writing is in evidence.
Anthony Halstead and the period-instrument Hanover Band are enthusiatic interpreters, albeit not always as smooth and elegant as the music demands. The collection also presents multiple versions of some symphonies with alternative scoring--notably the Op. 9 disc, which has two versions each for two works, one for a regular ensemble of strings with oboes, another scored more colourfully with extra clarinets and bassoon parts--the latter are claimed to be Bach's original orchestrations which were simplified for mass publication.
It's safe to say that if you buy these five discs (and they're cheap!) you will never have a moment's regret--but you will have many, many moments of joy as a result of this delightful music.