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Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788) Keyboard Sonatas - Volume 2
Sonata in F sharp minor, Wq.52/4, H37 (1744) [16:32]
Sonata in E major, Wq62/5, H39 (1744) [15:49]
Sonata in C minor, Wq65/31, H121 (1757) [11:57]
Sonata in A major, Wq65/32, H135 (1758) [13:26]
Fantasia in F sharp minor, Wq67, H300 (1787) [11:40]
Rondo in D minor, Wq.61/4, H290 (1785) [4:12]
Danny Driver (piano)
rec. 19-21 January 2012, Henry Wood Hall, London, England
HYPERION CDA67908 [73:38]

 
This release played by the Londoner Danny Driver is the second in the Hyperion series of keyboard sonatas by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. A check through Driver’s biography shows that he has made a speciality of recording music by lesser-known and neglected composers from various eras including Balakirev, Dale, Bowen Sonatas, Bowen Concertos and Chisholm. The first volume of five CPE sonatas was recorded in 2009 at the Concert Hall at the Wyastone Estate, Monmouth (Hyperion CDA67786). For this second instalment the Hyperion engineers have switched to the splendid acoustics of the Henry Wood Hall.
 
It’s not especially surprising that CPE is known more for being one of the children of the great Johann Sebastian than as a composer in his own right. He is viewed as a significant link in the transition from the late-baroque music of his father to the classical period of Haydn and Mozart. Before the genius of JS Bach’s music became universally known it was the Weimar-born CPE who was acknowledged as the finest composer of the Bach dynasty. As part of my own Bach dynasty pilgrimage I recall visiting in 2011 the Weimar Lutheran church in which he was baptised. During the years 1738/68 he was in the employment of Crown Prince Frederick (who later became Frederick the Great) at the Prussian Court in Berlin. Following the death of his godfather Georg Philipp Telemann, CPE was appointed to the court of Princess Anna Amalia of Prussia at Hamburg where he served between 1768 and 1788. A prolific composer in various genres he wrote in excess of three hundred sonatas mainly cast in a three movement fast-slow-fast form as well as numerous other single movement pieces. These works have been catalogued by both E. Eugene Helm with his ‘H’ numbering system and also by Alfred Wotquenne whose system allocated ‘Wq’ numbers.
 
The six keyboard works on this release, composed during the composer’s time in Berlin and Hamburg, span a period of forty-three years from 1744 and 1787. They prove remarkably attractive and easily accessible. Hearing these progressive works soon after their composition must have been a breathtaking if possibly unnerving experience for their first audiences. Despite excellent advocacy in pianist Mikhail Pletnev’s successful 1998 Berlin release of Sonatas & Rondos on Deutsche Grammophon, CPE’s works remain relatively neglected and are certainly deserving of wider circulation.
 
Struck by the consistent quality of these scores I did however find the Sonata in C minor Wq65/31, H121, from his Berlin period, the most memorable and enjoyable. I admired Driver’s playing of the restlessly scurrying opening movement Allegro assai ma pomposo and the Andantino pathetico punctuated with exuberant forte interjections contrasted with calmer contemplative passages. In the dance-like Allegretto I delighted in the confident playing of syncopated rhythms much in the manner of a Scotch snap. Composed in the year before his death the substantial single movement Fantasia in F sharp minor, Wq67, H300 is zestfully performed with genuine affection amid divergent moods, dynamics and brisk shifts in tempo.
 
Driver is a sensitive player who never overstates or romanticises. His control is sure, his articulation is crisp and there’s that real sense of spontaneity.
 
Michael Cookson