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Carl Philip Emanuel BACH (1714 - 1788)
Complete Keyboard Concertos Vol. 13
Sonatina in F, H.463, W.104 (1764) [20.37]
Concerto in d, H. 425, W.22 (1747) [23.14]
Sonatina in C, H.457, W.103 (1764) [22.35]
Miklos Spányi, tangent piano and conducting Concerto Armonico, leader Péter Szüts.
Recorded at Phoenix Studio, Budapest-Diósd, Hungary, November 1999
Notes in English, Deutsch, Français. Photos of the artists and the instrument.
BIS CD-1307 [67.34]

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Additional CPE Bach recordings by Miklós Spányi and Péter Szüts:
Harpsichord Concertos in c, H441; d, H427; F, H443. Hungaroton HCD 31159
Harpsichord Concertos Volumes 1 - 12: BIS 707/8, 767/8, 785/6, 857, 867/8, 914, 1097, 1127

This disk is the fourteenth (!) in a series of the complete keyboard concerti of this most capable son of J. S. Bach. In their lifetime the sons of Bach ó Johann Christian, Carl Philip Emanuel, and Wilhelm Friedman ó were considered better composers than their father who was so irretrievably old-fashioned and fussy while his sons wrote modern up-to-date music. In the nineteenth century their reputations all but disappeared and they were dismissed as inept imitators of Mozart ó ironic since Mozart expressed his debt to them for what they taught him. One or two works by each were played over and over and proclaimed to be derivative and second-rate.

This series has been an astonishing revelation, and I have it all [except "volume 11" but including the first volume which, oddly, appeared on the Hungaroton label]. Although I had had my own eye-opening experience many years ago at a live performance of the great d minor harpsichord concerto (H.427, W17) by Ingolf Dahl (cembalo continuo and conductor) and Ronald Ratcliff (cembalo concertato) and the University of Southern California Student Orchestra, I never expected that experience to be equalled. But it seems that that transcendent masterpiece is only one of hundreds of great works by this tragically (for us) underrated composer who is only now being discovered 220 years after he died. By 2014, the three hundredth anniversary year of his birth, if the rate of discovery continues, we may be holding rapturous world-wide celebrations in his honour.

The tangent piano is a sort of hard hammer fortepiano, one of the many Eighteenth Century experiments in keyboard action that eventually led us to the modern piano.

You arenít about to buy 14 full price CDs on the off chance that you might like some of them, but, as it turns out, this volume by itself is a good place to start. At this late date of issue, itís among the best of the series. Donít be put off by the title "Sonatina" ó granted, an odd thing to call a keyboard concerto, but they are keyboard concerti none the less, and very good ones. You would note from looking at the track list that these works deviate from the fast-slow-fast pattern of the movements of the Concerti. The Sonatina in F features the flute and is one of the finest works of this composer, well worth owning on a CD even if it was the only thing by him ever recorded. The d minor concerto features horns in the orchestra; the slow movement has an almost Handelian grandeur and pathos, while the finale is pure sturm und drang, a curious blend of Beethoven and Vivaldi. The first three movements from the C major Sonatina, which features both flute and horns, are also somewhat Handelian, possibly arias with figurations arranged from C.P.E. Bachís operas. One of the very nice things about discovering this disk ó the thought that there are 13 others yet to be heard.

The program notes to these many disks constitute an extensive in-depth essay on the life of the composer, the instruments, and performance practice of the time by Spányi and Szüts. These notes may alone justify the purchase of the complete set of disks by musicologists and school libraries.

Paul Shoemaker


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