Forgive me, Johann Christian, for ever thinking of you as a half-baked Mozart--especially denigrating from a music lover who much prefers Haydn to Mozart! As penance (if you can call sheer pleasure penance), I have been getting to know as much of your work as I can. Listening to this three-CD set from Anthony Halstead and the Hanover Band has been an especial ear-opener. While I can't say that these overtures have the true stamp of theater about them, as Mozart's greatest overtures clearly do, Bach's music is always diverting and often much more than that. There are many beauties and occasionally high drama as well in these little works. And in the Ballet Music from Amadis des Gaule, there is music of such delicate color and panache that I think immediately of Rameau.
Some of these overtures will be familiar to you if you know Bach's symphonies, since they are just a reworking of the same. But most of this music will be new to you and will bring surprise and pleasure, I'm sure. Much of the credit is due Halstead and his band. By this point in their traversal of what seems all of Bach's orchestral music, they are expert at capturing the essence of this composer, whose musical ideas and orchestration are bolder and more scintillating than anybody could have imagined before the birth of the original-instruments movement. If anyone thinks of J. C. Bach as a merely genteel proto-Mozart, as I mistakenly once did, listen to these CDs and be chastened--and royally entertained in the bargain.