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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
The Complete Keyboard Concertos - Volume 11
Concerto in C minor H. 448 (1762)
Sonatina in G major H. 97 (1762)
Concerto in B flat major H. 413 (1742)
Sonatina in E major H. 100 (1763)
Miklós Spányi, tangent piano
Concerto Armonico, Péter Szüts
Rec: October 1998, Phoenix Studio, Budapest-Diosd, Hungary.
BIS CD-1097 [72.06]
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Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was the most illustrious of Johann Sebastian Bach’s sons. His composing career was long and he was quite prolific, writing dozens of sonatas, concertos and other works. According to Miklós Spányi, there are 52 keyboard concertos and 12 sonatinas, in addition to the many solo keyboard works. 

One of the unique characteristics of this recording is the use of a tangent piano - a sort of hybrid instrument whose character lies somewhere between the harpsichord and clavichord. It has a beautiful and unique sound. The down side is that it is a very soft instrument, and it does not work quite so well with an instrumental group.

Miklós Spányi is clearly the reigning performer of C.P.E. Bach’s keyboard music, with this complete set that never fails to delight. Whether solo music or concertos, he has brought original instruments (clavichord and tangent piano) to the performance of this fine music. This disc contains two concertos and two sonatinas, written over a span of 20 years.

C.P.E. Bach’s concertos are in the standard three-movement form, with a wide range of melodic material, and an interesting interplay between the soloist and the orchestra. The opening movement of the C minor concerto on this disc is typical of this style, with perhaps a bit more presence of the orchestra than some other concertos. The orchestra’s sound, however, is quite dense and bass-heavy, detracting a bit from the delightful melodies.

The two sonatinas included here are in two-movement form, with both movements in the same key, and the orchestra includes strings, two flutes and two French horns. The tone is light and playful, resulting in music that is, as the liner notes suggest, “ easy-going and easy to listen to”. The Andantino of the G major sonatina features an attractive section where the tangent piano dialogues with the flutes. The piano later plays some cascading harp-like themes that reinforce the lightness and delicacy of the work.

The B flat major concerto starts out more intense, with a slow dense movement, but ends on a more positive note, with the flutes and horns taking the lead in the final movement, before the piano comes in with more harp-like arpeggios. The third movement of this concerto is one of the most attractive on the disc; the tone mixes playfulness and intensity, combining to form an unforgettable atmosphere.

This 11th volume in this complete set of C.P.E. Bach’s keyboard concertos comes with the usual quality performances and recording, and all four works are attractive and enjoyable. With each new volume, this series becomes more solidly anchored as the reference for these works.

Kirk McElhearn


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