Carl Philipp Emanuel
Bach was the second son of Johann Sebastian
and, arguably, the second greatest composer
in the family. As prolific as his father,
much of his music is still not widely
known. The works on this disc were all
composed a few years after his father’s
death between 1755 and 1758 whilst he
was living in Berlin. During that period
alone, Bach composed at least 48 works
for solo keyboard, three concertos,
four sinfonias, five chamber works and
64 songs. This disc contains three Sonatas,
each in three movements, and seven "character"
pieces based on a French model. It is
part of a major project in which Miklós
Spányi is recording all C.P.E.
Bach’s keyboard music for BIS. The first
disc of Sonatas and Petite Pièces
was Volume 8 in the complete series
and was well-received by Kirk McElhearn
(see below for link).
Although this music
could be played on various other keyboard
instruments, Spányi has opted
for the clavichord, which was apparently
C.P.E. Bach’s favourite instrument and
had the advantage of portability. He
uses a recent facsimile of an instrument
originally made by Gottfried Horn in
1785. I found the clavichord sound to
be an acquired taste (but one that’s
worth acquiring!). Initially, the narrow
dynamic range and lack of power seemed
too great a disadvantage – it may take
one several hearings to appreciate the
subtlety involved. Perhaps I was influenced
by Mikhail Pletnev’s 1998 DG disc of
C.P.E. Bach’s music played on a modern
grand piano. Doubtless that will be
considered heresy by some but, as with
his father, Bach’s music will tolerate
a range of approaches. The influence
of Bach senior is never far away in
a programme which is sensibly constructed.
The sonatas and shorter pieces are carefully
interwoven to provide effective contrasts.
The first character piece, La Prinzette,
is reflective in mood whilst the following
L’Aly Rupalich positively bounces
along. The concluding Sonata in A minor
is the work of greatest substance here.
With both outer movements marked as
Allegretto, it runs for 16 minutes.
Miklós Spányi is a fine
exponent of this music and there is
no hint of routine in his playing, despite
the enormity of the project.
In his review of Volume
8, Kirk McElhearn had some reservations
about the degree of reverberation on
the recording. Although recorded in
the same venue, that problem seems to
have been resolved here and I have no
reservations about the recorded sound.
The documentation is superb and, in
addition to a detailed essay on the
music, it includes some notes by the
performer on his approach and on the
Only great enthusiasts
will be collecting the whole of this
series. However, anyone with an interest
in keyboard music and/or a desire to
try something a bit different should
give this disc (or one of its companions)
a spin – and, indeed, several spins
if the appeal is not immediately obvious.
Not just for specialists, this is a
worthwhile disc in every way.
Patrick C Waller