Anyone who has heard Mikhail Pletnev's Scarlatti knows that he has a real feel for the improvisatory element in Baroque and pre-Classical music, and no one was more improvisatory, capricious, and emotionally extravagant than C.P.E. Bach. Play him straight, and his keyboard music risks sounding perilously thin and disjointed. Give his music the measure of fantasy it demands, as here, and the result is pure jazz--"Baroque blues" really is an accurate description of C.P.E. Bach's special sound world. In any performance of these works, timing is a critical element. Pletnev understands this, phrasing the abrupt runs and turns that constitute the first movement of the G minor sonata in a way that carries over the numerous pauses and relates them to the larger whole. He does this not by smoothing over textures or by underplaying harmonic or dynamic contrasts, but by highlighting them wherever possible. The result is a tantalizing "guess what happens next" invitation to some delightful listening.
It should be obvious from the foregoing that Pletnev never tries to imitate the sound of the harpsichord or fortepiano, but calls upon the full resources of his instrument to bring each work to life and maximize sectional variety (perhaps the single most important element in the three rondos included in this collection). In the F-sharp minor sonata his remarkably independent left hand underlines every harmonic twist and turn, and his romp through the syncopations that characterize the tiny D major sonata overflows with energy and character. In slow movements, the emotional heart of these works, Pletnev never lets the music drag. He brings an operatic eloquence to the recitative-like sequences that often comprise their principal thematic material and underlines their expressiveness with a wonderfully fluid freedom of phrasing and subtle use of dynamics. In short, the music really speaks. Pellucid sonics and a rich, singing tone that never becomes harsh or brittle cap a release that's simply outstanding in every way. On a non-musical subject, the cover features a hideous, deathly pale picture of a piece of Pletnev's face. Someone was paid for this?
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com