Notes and Editorial Reviews
C. P. E. BACH
: Fantasies in F,
; in C,
; in f?,
. Sonatas: in e,
; in e,
; in g,
Abschied von meinem Silbermannischen Claviere,
Mathieu Dupouy (clvd)
HÉRISSON 02 (60:23)
In 1773 Charles Burney published in his
The Present State of Music
volume devoted to the northern countries a description of C. P. E. Bach improvising at his instrument of choice, the clavichord, noting that he got into it so far that he began behaving somewhat strangely: “His eyes were fixed, his underlip fell, and drops of effervescence distilled from his countenance.” Moreover, at the end of this display, he was in a state of emotional exhaustion. Today this would sound a bit more like a fit of some sort, possibly even a seizure, but this was also observed by Johann Friedrich Reichardt some years later, and there can be no doubt that these works, sometimes published in more conventional generic forms such as sonatas or at others in a more improvisatory manner as fantasies, were what inspired keyboard players to infuse emotion and drama into their music. Given that the works were filled with strange harmonic shifts, abrupt dynamics, and non-sequitur transitions, not to mention a wide variance in tempos and technical effects, sometimes all within the space of a few bars, to call it simply
(usually translated as “sensitive” or “sentimental”) doesn’t seem quite radical enough. In these works, particularly the strange and disturbing Fantasy in F? Minor, also subtitled “C. P. E. Bach’s Sentiments (
),” one finds the same sort of foreshadowing of the modern age that occurred previously with Carlo Gesualdo, though of course the music of both cannot be compared in the same breath.
Clearly, these sometimes fiendishly intimate works are not always meant for larger venues, and indeed Bach’s instrument of choice was the soft, resilient clavichord. For loud and boisterous pieces, other keyboards were more suitable, but the clavichord was an instrument that required considerable finesse to play. Mathieu Dupouy presents this group with considerable focus, playing each of the fantasies as if he were channeling Bach. The movement is fluid, the attention to outlining both the abrupt harmonic shifts and fragmentary bits of themes (such as in the lengthy C-Major Fantasy, Wq 59/6) is sensitive to the often complex notation. He knows how to shade his dynamics, how to use the odd special devices (such as the
, a sort of keyboard vibrato), and how to derive the tempos from the music rather than superimpose them onto it.
As one may notice, I have refrained from actually speaking about Bach’s music itself, but numerous recordings already exist, played on a variety of instruments, including the clavichord. There is a really nice disc by Andreas Staier from a few years ago on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, and as far back as 1987 Gustav Leonhardt recorded some of these on the clavichord. But this disc is perhaps the first time I found a recording that may actually come close in mood and feeling to what the composer emoted to Burney over two centuries ago. And really, is not that the entire
for this style of music in the first place? Highly recommended.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
Works on This Recording
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