Notes and Editorial Reviews
C. P. E. BACH
Harpsichord Concerto in d
, Wq 23. H 427
Ana-Marija Markovina (pn); Federico Longo, cond; Saxon CP
GENUIN 85054 (2 CDs: 91:35)
C. P. E Bach’s keyboard sonatas have a growing presence in the libraries of music lovers, but this fine recording of his delightful and sometimes quirky Württemberg Sonatas reminds us that their continued relative absence on the concert stage is undeserved and disheartening.
These six sonatas from 1744 are pleasantly bite-size, each with three movements and lasting approximately 10 minutes. Without exception they are eminently listenable, filled with melodic invention and formal concision, and peppered with surprising twists and disruptions. Granted, the novelties are not as striking as those in his later works, but the seeds of the experimenter are here, and it is instructive to imagine these works alongside the contemporaneous works of his father, who was in his last decade and producing masterpieces of an entirely different sort from his second surviving son’s. Those pianists keen to present historical narratives in their recitals would do well to include these as a missing link between Bach and Haydn, particularly with their respect to the birth of the sonata form.
Ana-Marija Markovina performs with elegance and style, avoiding the temptation to foreshadow some of the expressive extravagances of his later works. Rather, it is the early sonatas of Haydn that are most keenly anticipated in her clearly textured readings.
I was especially taken with the sonatas and individual movements in minor keys, the mode that always seemed to bring out the best in the composer. In the E-Minor Sonata (Wq 49/3 H 33) one can hear the occasional hesitation in unexpected places, the odd harmonic progression, and even a hint of the impatience of early Beethoven, though admittedly in embryonic form.
The “bonus” CD consists of the composer’s most famous keyboard concerto, indeed the only concerto thought to have emerged from his pen until well into the 19th century. Markovina pairs nicely with Federico Longo and the Saxon Chamber Philharmonic, delivering a turbulent opening movement, a plaintive and graceful second, and ominous mood swings in the finale.
The notes relate some fascinating philosophical underpinnings of Emanuel Bach’s art, but unfortunately give no specifics about the works themselves. This would not be particularly bothersome in the age of Wikipedia if the repertoire were better known, but with these works the listener is left to guess about particulars. Overall this is a valuable addition to the expanding recorded canon of an important composer’s seminal keyboard works.
FANFARE: Michael Cameron