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A review of CPE Bach’s Die Israeliten in der Wüste (1769) by JF Reichardt

August 24, 2008

JF Reichardt wrote this review of CPE Bach’s oratorio Die Israeliten in der Wüste (The Israelites in the Desert) after becoming familiar with the work in a piano reduction. The review was published in 1774 as part of a larger work. The oratorio was written in 1769.

This one such masterpiece by Herr Kapellmeister Bach….for here is found such flowing, pleasing, and natural lyricism as only Kayser and Graun have ever been able to achieve.

It astonished me to see how far this great man was able to descend from those Olympian heights, which are as natural to him as flying close to the sun is to an eagle, in order to put simple song within the reach of us poor mortals.

And how fittingly, how perfectly each expression is conveyed; how strong, how overpowering the cry of the despairing people, how original the expression of their mockery and contempt of God and of their leader, how majestic the voice of Moses addressing the people, and how imploring, how deeply humble his prayer to God as he bows into the dust, how overwhelming the joy of the liberated people, how utterly delightful the whole of the final scene, in contrast to the horror of the earlier scenes of misery; none of this can I begin to convey to you, for there is no other language adequate to express it than that of Bach’s music.

JF Reichardt, Briefe eines aufmerksamen Reisenden die Musik betreffend, 2 Vols, Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig, 1774, Frankfurt am Main and Breslau, 1776, R/Hildesheim etc., 1977, ii, pp. 14f.
Quoted in: Ottenberg, Hans-Günter, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (trans. PJ Whitmore), OUP, 1987, ISBN 0 19 315246 0, p.124.

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