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Bach & Sons: Piano Concertos / Knauer, Norrington, Zurich CO

Bach / Knauer / Zurich Chamber Orch / Norrington
Release Date: 10/11/2011 
Label:  Berlin Classics   Catalog #: 300270   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian BachCarl Philipp Emmanuel BachJohann Christian Bach
Performer:  Sebastian Knauer
Conductor:  Roger Norrington
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zurich Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 19 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BACH Keyboard Concertos: Nos. 1, 2. C. P. E. BACH Keyboard Concerto in E, W 14. J. C. BACH Keyboard Concerto in E?, op. 7/5 Sebastian Knauer (pn); Roger Norrington, cond; Zurich CO BERLIN 300270 (78:34)


Sebastian Knauer, scion of a highly musical family of burghers (the booklet reproduces an 1821 painting of the Knauer Read more family sitting around and listening intently to a lady harpist), is a pupil of Philippe Entremont, Gernot Kahl, and Karl-Heinz Kämmerling, with additional input from Christoph Eschenbach, András Schiff, Alexis Weissenberg, and György Sandor. This is his third recording as a pianist, his previous CDs being devoted, respectively, to Schubert and Mendelssohn. In a sense, it’s an unusual stylistic compromise for historically informed performance fans: Roger Norrington conducts the Zurich Chamber Orchestra with straight tone, but not with any real stylistic difference in phrasing between the three Bachs, while Knauer plays a modern Steinway, model D-274. I’m not disturbed by this, but I sense that several readers will have a minor fit over it.


Knauer’s style is elegant, clean, and like certain predecessors in modern-piano Bach—Lipatti, Gould, and Schiff—he has a wonderfully effervescent style, almost playful, especially in the cadenzas. It’s obvious that he really enjoys this music, and he makes an excellent case for the J. C. Bach concerto, which is the least-known of the four. Here, he and the conductor seem to be highlighting his relationship to the other Bachs rather than emphasizing his cross-influence with his good friend Mozart.


There is no real surprise to Norrington’s accompaniments, except in the slow movement of the J. S. Bach Concerto No. 1. This has a dark, almost sinister quality to it that I don’t recall ever hearing in anyone else’s interpretation. Whether the idea was the pianist’s or the conductor’s is not stated. Their performance of the C. P. E. Bach concerto in E makes an interesting contrast with the famous recording, in the complete set of the composer’s keyboard concertos, by Miklós Spanyi and conductor Péter Szüts (this concerto appears on BIS 785). In addition to Spanyi’s use of various period instruments—on this concerto he uses a 1989 reproduction of a 1749 Silbermann fortepiano—there is much greater relaxation and rhythmic flexibility, without loss of momentum, in Szüts’s conducting; one might say, a Reinhard Goebel approach as compared to Trevor Pinnock. Both, of course, are valid interpretations.


One final, peripheral comment: Knauer has three days’ growth of stubble on his cover photo. Don’t male classical artists ever shave nowadays? Or, if they do, is it done three days before a concert or a photo shoot so as to preserve the scruffy look? To me, it’s quite unseemly and out of character for a serious artist. Fortunately, you don’t have to look at him while listening to the CD!


FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Harpsichord in D minor, BWV 1052 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Sebastian Knauer (Piano)
Conductor:  Roger Norrington
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zurich Chamber Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1738-1739; Leipzig, Germany 
2.
Concerto for Harpsichord in E major, BWV 1053 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Sebastian Knauer (Piano)
Conductor:  Roger Norrington
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zurich Chamber Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1738-1739; Leipzig, Germany 
3.
Concerto for Harpsichord in E major, Wq 14/H 417 by Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach
Performer:  Sebastian Knauer (Piano)
Conductor:  Roger Norrington
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zurich Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1753; Berlin, Germany 
4.
Concertos (6) for Keyboard, Op. 7: no 5 in E flat major by Johann Christian Bach
Performer:  Sebastian Knauer (Piano)
Conductor:  Roger Norrington
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zurich Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1770; London, England 

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