son of Johann Sebastian Bach, court harpsichordist to Frederick the Great and godson of Georg Philipp Telemann, Carl Philipp Emanuel
Bach was destined for greatness. He began his career in law
school but it was as a keyboard virtuoso and composer that the
arguably most successful of the post-Sebastian generation of
Bachs was to make his fame and fortune. The most broadly educated
and intellectual of all of Sebastian’s children, Carl Philipp
would gain great respect as a learned man, teacher and author.
His Essay on the True Art of Clavier Playing was held
in high esteem. His influence on the work of Franz Josef Haydn
is unquestionable and blatantly obvious. Upon his death he was
mourned by his colleagues as a more significant and important
composer than his father.
would be easy enough on first glance to dismiss the younger
Bach as a composer of Rococo fluff, and frankly, having just
now become acquainted with his music in anything other than
name, I expected nothing less. My surprise and delight was enormous
then when I popped this disc into the player to discover music
of energetic and complex rhythmic vitality and startlingly original
and adventuresome harmonic language. Bach’s preference for the
newer clavichord over the more traditional plucked harpsichord
is obvious from the start. This music employs a new kind of
virtuosity, one that plays up its emotional and dramatic content,
and is far more reliant on melody than counterpoint, which by
the time of these works, was considered passé and academic.
sonatas are as a rule cast in the fast-slow-fast three movement
form that would dominate the genre until Beethoven. The outer
movements are full of technical display, and yet never stray
from their overall focus on melody. They are full of exciting
and unexpected twists and turns, and Bach uses the entire range
and scope of the instrument to express himself. Often we find
long melodies beginning in the upper register, only to be completed
by a two or three octave drop to the bass. The inner movements
are lovely in their aria-like treatment.
Rondos, although dismissed at their publication by some critics
as needless filler and unworthy of inclusion with the more sophisticated
sonatas, are brimming as well with interesting and exciting
music. Brief and without wasted notes, they are little virtuoso
showpieces that delight the ear.
Hinterhuber, performing here on a modern grand, is a pianist
of formidable technique, able to handle fast passage-work with
ease and aplomb. He plays just fast enough to give us the whirlwind
spirit of the music without obliterating lines. His cantabile
playing is admirable as well. I did find that, particularly
in the upper registers, the playing gets a bit shrill and clanky.
I would have wished for more subtlety, warmth and nuance of
tone in the upper end of the piano. Nonetheless this is a small
distraction, and I am thrilled that this splendidly crafted
and colorful music has seen a bit more sunlight.
definite must-own for lovers of fine keyboard music.
see also Review
by Glyn Pursglove