Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
The Solo Keyboard Music - Volume 23
Clavierstück für die rechte oder linke Hand allein, Wq117/1 (H 241)
Fantasia in D minor, Wq117/12 (H 224) [0:34]
Sonata in G major, Wq62/11 (H 63) [11:07]
Fugue in D minor, Wq119/2 (H 99) [3:17]
Fantasia in G major, Wq117/11 (H 223) [0:48]
Sonata in G major, Wq62/14 (H 77) [7:50]
Fantasia in D major, Wq117/14 (H 160) [3:22]
Solfeggio in A major, Wq117/4 (H 222) [0:42]
Sonata in C minor, Wq65/31 (H 121) [13:14]
Solfeggio in E flat major, Wq117/3 (H 221) [0:45]
Solfeggio in C minor, Wq117/2 (H 220) [1:04]
Sonata in A major, Wq65/32 (H 135) [16:06]
Miklós Spányi (clavichord)
rec. June 2008, Helsinki Sarvela Hall, Liminka, Finland.
BIS CD-1763 [63:48]
The following dialog was overheard in a record store. Two people were standing
by the New Releases bin, discussing a disc they had spotted.
A: Look at this. Another recording of CPE Bach's solo keyboard music. This one
says it's volume 23.
B: Oh, great, I'm going to buy that.
A: Really? What's so special about this? And are there really 23 of them?
B: Yes, this is the 23rd of what should be more than 35 discs of this music.
It's truly wonderful music. C.P.E. Bach was Johann Sebastian's son, and he was
an excellent composer of music for the keyboard. What is interesting about these
recordings is that most of them are on the clavichord.
A: Clavichord? Isn't that a bone you break when you fall from a bicycle?
B: No! It's a small, fretted, table-top keyboard instrument. Some have legs,
but the clavichord is small enough that you can close the cover and carry it
around with you. It was the 18th century equivalent of the portable keyboard.
It's a very quiet instrument; it's meant for playing at home. You won't see
clavichord concerts, because no one past the first few rows would hear anything.
A: Well, that doesn't sound very interesting.
B: Oh, it is. It's one of the most expressive keyboard instruments, because
the performer can actually play a type of vibrato.
A: Okay, but what's so special about this music?
B: C.P.E. Bach was a very creative composer, and, while he wrote all types of
music, a lot of what he wrote was for keyboard. He wrote pieces for solo keyboard
and he wrote keyboard concertos. Miklós Spányi, who plays on this
disc, has been recording all of these works. Most of the solo keyboard discs
are played on the clavichord, and the concertos are played on fortepiano.
A: What does the music sound like?
B: C.P.E. Bach's keyboard music is very expressive, and, while part of the classical
style, he uses a lot of silence and rubato. While you can clearly hear the classical
style in the music, there is often a feeling that parts of them are improvised.
This disc has three sonatas along with a number of shorter works, such as fantasias,
fugues and others.
A: Maybe we can get them to play some of this. I'd like to hear it. Goes to
ask the record store employee if he can play it. Yes, he's going to put it on
the speakers. [...] Hmm, maybe he forgot?
B: No, it's just very soft. We need to move over next to the speakers to hear
B: As I said, the clavichord is a very quiet instrument. If you play this at
home, you don't want to increase the volume, at least not much. I find that
this music is great on headphones; you can hear the subtleties much more easily.
B: The notes say that many of these works were composed for students. These
are certainly less complex works than some of his other pieces. There are four
sonatas - each in three movements - and a handful of studies, some of which
are less than a minute long. It's interesting that the third sonata on the disc
is in C minor, a key that was often used for "music of turbulent or tragic character."
A: This doesn't sound very turbulent or tragic...
B: No, but you can hear that there is a different type of tone from the other
works in more common keys. Let's listen to the last sonata, in A major. Hear
how this is much happier, much more upbeat?
A: Yes, that's obvious. I can also hear what you mean about Bach's use of silence;
there are often pauses during these works.
B: In some ways, C.P.E. Bach's keyboard music sounds like a conversation, with
its natural ebbs and flows. There are simple parts, then parts with ornaments
and embellishments. Then silence, repeats of previous sections, and more of
these subtle variations in rhythm.
A: So how many of these discs do you have?
B: Oh, I have them all. While this may not be the most musically interesting
of these recordings, given that many of the pieces were written for students,
it's another brick in the huge edifice of C.P.E. Bach's keyboard works. If you
like this music, you may not want to collect all of these volumes, but you'll
certainly want to get a number of them.
A: And how long until the series is complete?
B: I don't know. There are two or three releases a year, between the solo keyboard
music and the concertos. The series began in 1995, and has been progressing
regularly since then. I'd say another half-dozen years at least to get to the
A: Well, I'd like to listen to more of these. Next time I visit, you should
play me some of these, and some of the concertos; this is certainly interesting
Kirk McElhearn writes about more than just music on his blog Kirkville
( http://www.mcelhearn.com ).
Not the best in the series, but another fine recording of C.P.E. Bach’s
excellent solo keyboard music on clavichord.