Notes and Editorial Reviews
C.P.E. Bach’s keyboard concertos enjoy several fine performances on piano, but finding really top-notch interpretations on harpsichord until recently has proven elusive. For years he was best represented by Gustav Leonhardt’s version of the D minor concerto Wq 23, but this newcomer adds three more works to the still meager C.P.E. Bach concerto discography. Let’s start with the “orchestra”. I use the quotation marks because Musica Amphion consists of single strings–so, five players. They sound marvelous: big and bold in the tuttis, tellingly intimate and expressive in lyrical passages. Here is compelling evidence that string players on period instruments need not sacrifice all timbral beauty in
pursuit of “authenticity”.
Pieter-Jan Belder has recorded lots of Bach before, including a fine set of C.P.E.’s Kenner und Liebhaber works. He’s a brilliant player with ample virtuoso chops for these technically demanding concertos. All three were composed in the 1730s and ’40s; that is, while J.S. Bach was very much alive and active, but they couldn’t sound more different. It’s a remarkable tribute to Emanuel’s independent voice that he was composing such characterful music at this early date; but then, consider who his teacher was and what an example he had to follow, even if his own personal style was quite different.
C.P.E. Bach is best known for his wild, passionate music in minor keys, and we have an excellent example of this in the G minor concerto Wq 6. Listen to the theme of its finale for a remarkable instance of something that still strikes us as uniquely intense and expressively powerful. However, Bach was just as interesting writing happy music in major keys. The finale of the E major concerto, one of only nine published in his lifetime–six of which belong to Wq 43–contains one of his catchiest tunes. However, like the early Concerto in G major Wq 3, the music is just as energetic, just as surprising, and just as compelling. This is just great stuff, and you owe it to yourself to savor these pieces.
– David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Here is another engaging release from Brilliant Classics’ current series of C.P.E. Bach recordings – recordings that celebrate the genius of a composer who was, on account of his harmonic language, preoccupation with improvisation and cultivation of the empfindsamer Stil, undoubtedly the most strikingly individual talent among Johann Sebastian Bach’s sons.
Central to Carl Philipp Emanuel’s output was the clavier, with the composer writing more than 50 concertos for this instrument – an astounding number considering how new a genre the keyboard concerto still was at the time, and a small number of which are detailed on this disc. While J.S. Bach is usually credited with elevating the harpsichord from its traditional role to a solo concerto instrument, his harpsichord concertos are almost certainly arrangements of earlier compositions for oboe, violin etc., and Carl Philipp Emanuel’s collection therefore stands as the first important one of its kind. The works indeed number among the finest of their time, their quality reinforced by the fact that a good few were subject to regular revisions by the composer. Emanuel’s own outstanding ability as a keyboard player is also reflected in the concertos, most of which were conceived with players of advanced technique in mind – the sparkling cascades of the soloist’s arpeggios in the final movement of the E major Concerto Wq14 come especially to mind.
Performing Wq3, Wq6 and Wq14 and bringing to the fore the infectious vitality of these works is Brilliant Classics regular Pieter-Jan Belder. He is ably supported by his period-performance ensemble Musica Amphion, who under the direction of their soloist draw full attention to the remarkable sophistication and certain amount of unpredictability that characterise C.P.E. Bach’s keyboard concertos as a whole.
Recorded on 5–7 September 2012, Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal, Köln.
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