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J. C. Bach: 6 Piano Sonatas Op. 17 / Spiri

Release Date: 10/09/2007 
Label:  Arte Nova   Catalog #: 844310   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johann Christian Bach
Performer:  Anthony Spiri
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

J. C. BACH Piano Sonatas, op. 17: No. 1 in G; No. 2 in c; No. 3 in E?; No. 4 in G; No. 5 in A; No. 6 in B?. Andante in B? Anthony Spiri (pn) ARTE NOVA 844310 (75:18)

Johann Christian Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach’s youngest son, was about 20 years older than Mozart was. His death preceded that of Mozart by about 10 years. With a musically (and otherwise) prolific and already musically famous father, and with many musically prominent older siblings, Read more and then with Mozart as a contemporaneous musical prodigy 20 years his junior, J. C. Bach faced a challenging musical career. New Jersey-born Anthony Spiri also faced a challenging musical career just by living in the 20th and 21st centuries as a very talented musician. Spiri has done well, studying with such luminaries as Rudolf Firkusny and Kenneth Gilbert, and appearing with such notable musicians as Peter Schreier, Christine Schäfer, Gidon Kremer, and Ernst Haefliger, to name a few. He is a fine pianist based on his work on the disc, and in my view he has fared better than J. C. Bach has.

Artur Schnabel stated that he only performed music that is better than it can be played. The music on this disc would not be part of Schnabel’s repertoire because it is not as good as it is played. These sonatas are pleasant enough, but they are uninspired and, for the most part, lack gravitas, with the possible exception of the C-Minor Sonata. What is curious is that these sonatas sound like poor imitations of the early Mozart piano sonatas, but this is absolutely incorrect because the reverse is actually the truth. These sonatas slightly predate Mozart’s earliest efforts, so that Mozart’s earliest sonatas are, in fact, imitative of Johann Christian Bach’s op. 17 (which Mozart is presumed to have played). But Mozart’s early sonatas are masterpieces that far surpass the efforts of J. C. Bach.

Those seriously interested in classical music should listen to these sonatas to understand how they influenced Mozart. Many phrases in these sonatas can be associated with developed ideas in the earlier Mozart sonatas. I don’t think that a listener can fully appreciate Mozart without hearing these works. On that basis, I recommend it. The sonic quality of this disc is very good.

FANFARE: Burton Rothleder
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Works on This Recording

Sonatas (6) for Keyboard, Op. 17 by Johann Christian Bach
Performer:  Anthony Spiri (Fortepiano)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1779; London, England 

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