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Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
The Solo Keyboard Music - Volume 17
Sonata No.4 in B flat major, Wq 49/4 (H32) [18.51]
Sonata No.5 in E flat major, Wq 49/5 (H34) [21.14]
Sonata No.6 in B minor, Wq 49/6 (H36) [25.41]
Miklós Spányi (clavichord)
rec. July 2003, House of the Lukijoki Youth Association, Finland.
BIS CD1424 [66.49]

In this 17th volume of C.P.E. Bach’s complete solo keyboard music, we have the second of the six “Wurtemberg” sonatas, three-movement works typical of this Bach’s solo output and this period. The three sonatas are similar in structure and length, and all contain first movements that are much longer than the others - in the second sonata, the opening movement is longer than the remaining two movements. 

The first of these, the B flat major sonata, opens with “galant” elements, and delightful melodic turns that are attractive and witty. The second movement, a fugue - all three of the sonatas on this disc contain fugal movements - recalls some of Johann Sebastian Bach’s fugues, though the son is far less complex. In fact, given the slowness of this movement, it sounds like a relatively easy fugue to play; something one cannot say for many of the father’s fugues. One appreciates this fugue more for its melodies than for its intricacy. Finally, the closing movement of this first sonata recalls the lightness of the first movement, and contains some of the younger Bach’s famous pauses; the liner-notes call them “pregnant pauses”, and they are a hallmark of this Bach’s keyboard music. This freedom of rhythmic structure is part of what sets C.P.E. Bach’s music apart; one can hear these works as improvisations written down, and Miklós Spányi’s performances reinforce this impression. One always gets a sense of immediacy and spontaneity when listening to these recordings. 

The remaining two sonatas are similar in structure to the 4th, with the 5th beginning somewhat in the form of a French overture with a long (almost 12-minute) movement full of attractive melodies and loose rhythms. The fugue in the second movement is slow and simple, and the final movement again has a French sound, with lilting rhythms and melodies that often jump intervals. The 6th sonata stands out for its long opening movement, with sweeping arpeggios and flexible rhythms, with a wide variety of musical phrases, which, as Spányi says in the liner-notes, “produce an impression of fervent conversation among protagonists, each represented by a musical idea”. Its closing movement is reminiscent of the elder Bach’s two-part inventions. 

All of C.P.E. Bach’s solo keyboard works are similar, yet all are different. As Spányi continues his series - we are nearing the half-way point, now, as there should be more than 35 volumes - one discovers the wide range of styles and colours that Bach used. As with most of these recordings, this volume is played on an attractive sounding clavichord and is well recorded. For clavichord fans, each volume of this series is a welcome addition to the meagre discography of this instrument, but for all kinds of music fans, this disc, as the rest of the series, is a window into a world of music that is little-known.

Kirk McElhearn



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