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14 June 2016

Q & A with Reinhard Goebel - conductor, The Bach Family

Reinhard Goebel is one of the most highly regarded early music specialists in Europe, and conducts our final London concert of the season on Saturday 18 June 2016, The Bach Family.  In this exclusive interview, Reinhard discusses the importance of the Bach sons, his own approach to music-making and what audiences can expect from the concert.

What is so special about the Bach family's legacy?

Apart from Johann Sebastian and his sons, the Bach family had an incredible number of Bach musicians and composers spanning five generations, reflecting German history from the Thirty Years War to the Napoleonic Wars.  

Reinhard Goebel (c) Christina Bleier

Can you tell us how you put this programme together?

The programme focuses on JS Bach and sons, four of whom were composers.  Whilst their father was firmly rooted in the sincerities of Protestant belief and composition, each son pursued an individual path.  Wilhelm Friedemann, the eldest, was the brother that was most closely associated with the “old fashioned” teachings of his father, and in time was given custody over a number of Johann Sebastian’s original scores, some of which – in the case of “Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen” – he re-arranged for different forces.  Carl Philipp Emanuel tried to keep up with the latest developments in melody and homophony, whilst Johann Christoph Friedrich and Johann Christian moved in completely different directions.  The former worked in the German village of Bückeburg, whilst Johann Christian, the last son, conquered Milan, Paris, Mannheim and London to become the first and only real international Bach.

Do you come from a musical family?

Well, my mother would sing with her four boys.  I am glad to not have been born into a household of any real “musical traditions”, since I need freedom for my art.  Actually, I remember that, aged 20, I told my teacher Saschko Gawriloff: “I do NOT want to hear anything from you about Bach and Mozart, since I need to find out myself”.  He was very glad and said: “Okay then, I will only teach you violin technique”.  Saschko was always very encouraging of me finding my own way, which is determined more so by historical research than any “traditional” playing of scores.  

Reinhard Goebel (c) Christina Bleier

What do you hope audiences take away from The Bach Family on Saturday?

Different audience members will take away different things from the programme, but we should ask ourselves how was it that one family was able to first dominate the musical life of their tiny provinces, then that of Germany and ultimately that of Europe.

The Bach Family, conducted by Reinhard Goebel, takes place on Saturday 18 June 2016 at the Barbican Hall, London.