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Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
The Solo Keyboard Music ● 12 ; Sonatas and Petite Pièces ● 2

Sonata in B Minor, W.62/22 (H.132)
La Prinzette, W.177/21 (H.91)
L’Aly Rupalich, W.117/27 (H.95)
La Gleim, W.117/19 (H.89)
Sonata in E minor, W.65/30 (H.106)
La Stahl, W.117/25 (H.94)
La Bergius, W.117/20 (H.90)
La Buchholz, W.117/24 (H.93)
L’Herrmann, W.117/23 (H.92)
Sonata in A minor, W.62/21 (H.131)
Miklós Spányi (clavichord)
Rec. House of the Lumijoki Youth Association, Finland in July 2000 DDD
BIS-CD-1198 [66:00]


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 He uses a recent facsimile of an instrument originally made by Gottfried Horn in 1785.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 instrument used.

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

Volume 7 8 9 10 11

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