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Johann Christian BACH (1735–1782)
Sonata in G major, Op. 17, No. 1 [12:18]
Sonata in C minor, Op. 17, No. 2 [14:37]
Sonata in E flat major, Op. 17, No. 3 [12:28]
Sonata in G major, Op. 17, No. 4 [9:06]
Sonata in A major, Op. 17, No. 5 [9:56]
Sonata in B flat major, Op. 17, No. 6 [21:03]
Alberto Nosè (piano)
rec. Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, UK, 21-22 October 2006
NAXOS 8.570361 [79:28]
Experience Classicsonline


London-Bach, as he has been called, was the youngest of Johann Sebastian Bach’s sons. He was fifteen when his father passed away and then moved to Berlin, where his half-brother Carl Philipp Emanuel was harpsichordist to Frederick the Great. Young Johann Christian studied with his brother and it was during this time he wrote his first concertos. In 1754 he moved to Italy where he was successful as an opera composer and it was in this capacity that he was called to London where he settled. In London he met the young Mozart and was greatly influenced by him as a composer. The six sonatas Op. 17, first published in Paris in 1774 as Op. 12, clearly show his compositional style. It is easy to hear similarities between the two composers, especially the earlier Mozart sonatas. Bach’s sonatas are good representatives of the gallant style with sweet melodics and the care-free and easygoing flow of the music.
 
Of these six sonatas only two are written in the traditional three movements and the brevity of most of them rather implies that they might have been labelled sonatinas instead. The exception is No. 6, which is on a much grander scale, elaborated and with deeper development of the thematic material. It is also technically the most demanding. Sonata No. 2 is the other three-movement piece and it also stands out as it is the only one in a minor key, which automatically lends it a more ‘serious’ character.
 
All the sonatas are highly entertaining and I don’t use that word in any pejorative sense. They are well constructed and fairly simple. Dr. Burney wrote about Bach’s keyboard compositions that they were ‘such as ladies can execute with little trouble’. But simplicity doesn’t exclude musical finesse, even though music of this kind shouldn’t be over-interpreted.
 
Alberto Nosè is a young Italian, who has a long list of prizes in prestigious piano competitions worldwide, most recently First Prize, Gold Medal and Sony Audience Prize in Santander 2005. The year before that I heard him in Florence where I found him better suited to Scriabin’s and Szymanowski’s late Romantic-to-Impressionist sound-world than Schumann’s more sweeping Romanticism. Half a century further back in history he reaps laurels through his clarity, his rhythmic poise and his light touch. He has a formidable technique, to which his prizes are testimony and which I also noted in Florence. He has ample opportunity to demonstrate this in Sonata No. 6, where the rousing finale in particular requires fluent finger-work. He sticks rather strictly to the basic tempos of each movement and keeps the dynamics within a rather limited scope, bearing in mind that these sonatas were composed for harpsichord or fortepiano. In other words he lets the music speak and puts himself in the background. I can’t think of better advocacy for Johann Christian Bach. Next time I would be happy to hear him in Scriabin or Szymanowski but I am afraid that Naxos have already dealt with both composers.
 
The recording has great clarity without being too analytical.
 
Göran Forsling
 


 


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