> CPE BACH Keyboard sonatas Cerasi METCD1032 [CC]: Classical Reviews- April 2002 MusicWeb-International

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C. P. E. BACH (1714 - 1788)
Keyboard Sonatas E minor, W65,5/H13; B flat, W65, 20/H51; E minor, W62,12/H66; B flat, W65,44/H211; C, W65,47/H248; G, W65,48/H280.
Carole Cerasi (harpsichord/fortepiano).
Recorded at Forde Abbey, February 16th-18th, 2001.


Experience Classicsonline

For her fascinating second disc on Metronome, Carole Cerasi has chosen six sonatas by C. P. E. Bach which were not included in the main publications of that composer. By taking a sonata per decade of the composer's creative life, Cerasi succeeds in providing a 67-minute overview of C. P. E. Bach's creative output. It is a tribute to her artistry and understanding of C. P. E. Bach's idiosyncratic idiom that the recital grips the listeners attention from the very first note and refuses to let go.

Cerasi plays the first three sonatas of her disc on a lively double-manual harpsichord by Bruce Kennedy, after Michael Mietcke (c1704) and the remaining three on a Jean Boscou fortepiano, after Johann Andreas Stein (early 1780s). This reflects what happens in C. P. E. Bach's scores: terraced dynamics appropriate to double-manual harpsichords are replaced in the 1760s and 1770s by more graduated dynamics. Whatever the piece and chosen mode of communication, Cerasi shows herself an interpreter of remarkable insight.

This disc, then, is a worthy successor to her award-winning debut disc of Pièces de clavecin by Jacquet de la Guerre (METCD1026 - to be reviewed ). The music of C. P. E. Bach speaks with a unique voice and one that to this day poses a daunting interpretative task for performers. Bach's invention seemingly knows no bounds, and neither does his daring: there are textures and harmonies here which retain their power to shock right to the present day. The spirit of the new shines throughout these pieces. Unafraid of sparse textures and adventurous harmonic twists, the music of C. P. E. Bach makes for compulsive listening, and nowhere more so than in Cerasi's fine accounts.

The excellent recording conveys the brightness of the harpsichord but, commendably, never becomes uncomfortable. There is an extraordinary range of expression presented by C. P. E. Bach: try the quasi-orchestral sonorities of the Allegro di molto finale of the Sonata in E minor, H13 (<Sample 1>); or the seemingly improvisatory gestures of the opening movement of the B flat Sonata, H51 (<Sample 2>). These gestures, far from making the music diffuse, add to its fascination: it is clear, aurally, that there is a master's hand at work throughout. The E minor Sonata, H66 is particularly interesting as it actually presents as a late example of the Suite (with Menuets I, II, III in addition to Allemande, Courante, Sarabande and Gigue). Cerasi impressively captures the character of each of its five movements, from the courtly Allemande through to the bright, jolly but expertly crafted Gigue.

The three Sonatas played on the fortepiano bring with them an abrupt shift in sound. Although more rounded in tone, C. P. E. Bach's adventurous new world in these pieces comes across as just as challenging to the listener. Listen to the flourishes at the opening of the Allegro assai of the B flat Sonata, H241 (<Sample 3>), performed with great panache and aplomb by Cerasi, and to the angular phrases thereafter. Indeed, these very phrases point to the biting, almost pointillist Andante of the C major Sonata, H248, a truly stunning piece of compositional daring. Even the more gentile and civilised Andantino first movement to H280, which might lend the listener a false sense of security, acts as a foil to the ensuing intimate and sparse Adagio e sostenuto.

This is a stunning disc. I urge anyone even remotely intrigued to try it.

Colin Clarke

See also review by Peter Grahame Woolf


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