Tom Service has done an excellent thing in this week's symphony guide by picking a symphony by one of J. S. Bach's sons, Johann Christian Bach, the "London" Bach, to talk about. At this point in music history the symphony is still close to its origins as an overture or entr'acte in an opera so it is a fairly short work in three movements: fast slow fast. Tom picks the excellent Symphony in G minor, op. 6, no. 6:
Nice stormy example of "Sturm und Drang" which, since it was composed in London and before the German literary movement from which the name derives, demonstrates again that the musical phenomenon probably doesn't have much to do with the literary one. As Tom mentions, J. C. Bach was a big influence on the very young Mozart when he (Mozart) visited London in the 1760s. This piece by J. C. Bach could stand up pretty well against a lot of lesser Mozart. It may have even been an influence on the early G minor Symphony, K. 183 by Mozart written a few years later:
But there is a whole lot more going on in the Mozart. There are more melodic, harmonic and rhythmic ideas in the first two minutes than in the whole symphony by J. C. Bach. What we hear in the Bach symphony is the rhythmic stiffness and predictable sequences of Baroque music, without the contrapuntal interest. Listen for example to the development section from about the 1'34 mark to about the 2'15 mark in the first movement of the G minor J. C. Bach symphony. One long sequence in which nothing much happens that isn't predictable.
Apart from his childhood tour of the capitols of Europe, Mozart as an adolescent spent quite a bit of time in Italy and perhaps some of the grace and effervescence of his music in all dimensions, melodic, harmonic and rhythmic, comes from Italian music. Certainly when we listen to the Mozart symphony we hear a harmonic and rhythmic flexibility that makes the phrases much more fluid than the ones in the J. C. Bach symphony.
I hope very much that Tom also gives us a symphony by the older Bach son, C. P. E. Bach, the "Berlin" Bach. He was a much more eccentric composer as we can hear in this symphony in B minor:
Tom Service's series is really about the best and most educational one on music in the mass media these days. Thanks to him for it. The only problem with it is that it tends to present every single piece as an stunning bit of innovative wonderfulness, which is both untrue and a bit dull. He is striving for the utmost diversity in the series, which is good, but one of the reasons for listening to, say, J. C. Bach and C. P. E. Bach, is to notice the ways in which the generation of Haydn and Mozart far exceeded them. A list of the fifty greatest symphonies is likely to be a lot less diverse than Tom's selections as it will probably consist 90% of symphonies by Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart with a few by Schubert, Sibelius, Shostakovich and possibly Mahler, unless I am right about him, in which case, Brahms and maybe Bruckner. And for a token modernist exemplar, Stravinsky, Symphony of Psalms.
Our urge for diversity often ends up conflicting with critical aesthetic judgement. You can't simultaneously ride the horse of diversity and the one of quality. You can't have your horse and eat it too--wait, I think that was a Metaphor Too Far.