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Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
The Collection
rec. 1976-81
Full track-list at end of review
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 634927 [13 CDs: 12:58:47]

So it’s happy 300th birthday to Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and what a way to celebrate. This satisfyingly chunky 13 CD box is packed with variety, fine recordings and excellent performances which you may or may not have come across before – this is also a celebration of releases which did the Teldec and Erato labels proud in the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, and in some ways bids a fond farewell to artists such as Gustav Leonhardt who are no longer with us, and a generation including musicians such as Anner Bylsma who are now amongst the elders of our musical community. There is also one new-to-CD recording included, if any extra incentive were needed.
 
With plenty of new recordings of C.P.E. Bach appearing on a regular basis each of these discs will have its challenger somewhere, but at a highly competitive price you will be more interested in knowing if this collection is worth your attention at all. The answer is yes, and I hope I can tempt you into diving into this world of wonders with enthusiasm.
 
Talking of enthusiasm, CD 1 has the Orchestra of the Enlightenment directed by Gustav Leonhardt in Orchestral Symphonies which breeze through your speakers with startling liveliness and bags of the composer’s remarkable harmonic invention. Crisp with harpsichord continuo, the orchestral sound is bright and rhythmic, the early-music winds pungent but beautifully tuned. This is a terrific start and an instant favourite.
 
Three substantial works for oboe and orchestra follow with CD 2, Ku Ebbinge’s reconstructed period instrument plangent and well-modulated over the tightly disciplined and again lively and crisp sounding Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra under Ton Koopman, whose harpsichord is a touch higher in the mix than with CD 1 but still mixing nicely with the general texture. This is all top notch music and another winner.
 
CDs 2 and 3 have Konrad Hünteler with his transverse flute as a guide through another mighty handful of concertos, again with Ton Koopman at the helm of the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra. Written for King Frederick of Prussia, the rounder tones of the early flute is more challenged by the volume of the orchestra, but Bach knew his stuff, and you will often hear the soloist fall silent when the dynamic levels are pushed higher. Outer movements can be as exciting as any elsewhere in the repertoire, and with consistently gorgeous slow movements we are going from strength to strength. CD 4 concludes with husband and wife team Koopman and Tini Mathot joining in a Concerto for two harpsichords which is great fun, the soloists given just enough left/right definition to make for interesting conversations without turning the recording into a musical tennis match.
 
Further concertos entertain on CD 5, with master cellist Anner Bylsma performing three superb works on a late 17th century instrument by Matteo Goffriller of Venice. This cello has an interestingly vocal sonority which lends extra melancholy to the slow movements. CDs 6 and 7 bring us the entire 1772 collection of Hamburg Harpsichord Concertos, played by eminent soloist Bob van Asperen and the excellent ensemble Melante Amsterdam. The harpsichord is to my ears just a little too close in terms of recorded balance, delivering plenty of detail but making the transition between solo and orchestra less than natural. There are some remarkable sounds in these works however, the flutes and strings mixing in the Adagio of the Concerto No. 4 in C minor to create an effect like a glass harmonica, just to pick out one of many remarkable moments in these most experimental of concertos.
 
Bob van Asperen is also our guide in the six Prussian Sonatas, W48, the Württemberg Sonatas and the solo Concerto W112 No. 1 in CDs 8-10. These recordings are the earliest in the collection, from 1978-79, and while very fine the perspective is pretty close and unrelenting, particularly in the ‘Prussian’ set. Van Asperen is a superb performer. The intensity of C.P.E. Bach’s invention thrives on this kind of full-on approach, and the chiming legato sonorities of some of the slow movements creates its own magic.
 
Alan Curtis appears on CD 11, his recording of the Rondos for fortepiano appearing here on CD for the first time. The fortepiano makes a welcome change from harpsichord, the added dimension of graduated dynamics adding to C.P.E. Bach’s sometimes explosive changes of mood. The Rondos were extremely popular in their day and you can hear why in these performances. They have an accessible character, plenty of spectacular prestidigitation from the player, and a sense of poetry and drama which marks Carl Philipp out from most of the rest from his era. This is a very good recording with only mild and occasional mechanical noise from the instrument and some light inhaling from Mr. Curtis.
 
CD 12 has, as described by Lindsay Kemp in the compact but useful booklet notes, “the six technically undemanding but skilfully made sonatas for organ without pedal”. These are indeed relatively uncomplicated works, but in the expert hands of Herbert Tachezi they brush up as full of delightful melodic and harmonic touches and inner contrast. The Mariathal organ is bright sounding and beautifully tuned, the acoustic ideal for smaller scale work without being dry.
 
The final disc, CD 13, is one of the treats of this set, the oratorio Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu. This was one of the choral works written for the church in Hamburg, and less a Biblical narrative than “a sequence of lyrical observations and reflections” on these familiar events. The CD sleeve has its dates as 1777/78 though most sources indicate 1774 as an original year of composition, with subsequent revisions. This work builds on the examples of Telemann and Graun and is considered one of the most significant examples of its genre between the works of Handel and J.S. Bach, and those of Haydn. This is one work which it is worth being aware of some of the competition, with very strong recordings from the likes of Sigiswald Kuijken on the budget Hyperion Helios range, CDH55478. It was suggested “unlikely that there will ever be a better recording” in download news. You won’t be disappointed by Philippe Herreweghe’s performance in this set and the soloists are all good, but Kuijken brings more life and energy to the drama and more sublime beauty to the choral pieces.
 
To sum up, this is a superb box set and a great boost to anyone’s music collection, C.P.E. Bach or otherwise. It’s stuffed with refreshingly vibrant performances and recordings, and is a joy to dip into or even to dive in and wade through in unseemly haste as is the wont of your average reviewer, present company included.
 
Dominy Clements
 

 
Full track-list
 
CD 1 [54.17]
Orchestral Symphony No.1 in D major, W183 (H663)
Orchestral Symphony No.2 in E flat major, W183 (H664)
Orchestral Symphony No.3 in F major, W183 (H665)
Orchestral Symphony No.4 in G major, W183 (H666)
Symphony for strings in B minor, W182 no.5 (H661)
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Gustav Leonhardt
CD 2 [49.58]
Concerto for oboe, strings and continuo in E flat major, W165 (H468)
Concerto for oboe, strings and continuo in B flat major, W164 (H466)
Sonata for oboe and continuo in G minor, W135 (H549)
Ku Ebbinge oboe (Toshi Hasegawa, after T. Paulhahn c.1720)
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra/Ton Koopman
CD 3 [62.24]
Flute Concertos
Concerto in D minor, W22 (H425)
Concerto in A major, W168 (H438)
Concerto in B flat major, W167 (H435)
Konrad Hünteler flute (Rudolf Tutz, copy Rottenburg c.1740)
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra/Ton Koopman
CD 4 [72.13]
Flute Concerto in G major, W169 (H445)
Flute Concerto in A minor, W166 (H431)
Concerto for two harpsichords in F major, W46 (H408)
Konrad Hünteler flute (Rudolf Tutz, copy Rottenburg c.1740) (0106)
Ton Koopman, Tini Mathot - harpsichords (07 09)
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra/Ton Koopman
CD 5 [70.11]
Cello Concerto in A major, W172 (H439)
Cello Concerto in A minor, W170 (H432)
Cello Concerto in B flat major, W171 (H436)
Anner Bylsma - cello (Matteo Gofriller, Venice, c.1695)
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Gustav Leonhardt
Cadenzas: Anner Bylsma
CD 6 [43.30]
Hamburg Harpsichord Concertos, W43 (1772)
Concerto No.4 in C minor
Concerto No.5 in G major
Concerto No.2 in D major
Bob van Asperen - harpsichord & direction
Melante Amsterdam
Harpsichord: Michael Johnson, Fontwell Magna 1982, after Pascal Taskin,
Paris 18th century
CD 7 [44.42]
Hamburg Harpsichord Concertos, W43 (1772)
Concerto No.6 in C major
Concerto No.3 in E flat major
Concerto No.1 in F major
Bob van Asperen - harpsichord & direction
Melante Amsterdam
Harpsichord: Rainer Schütze, Heidelberg 1969, after J.D. Dulcken, Antwerp 1745
CD 8 [70.52]
Prussian Sonatas, W48
Sonata No.1 in F major, H24 (Berlin 1740)
Sonata No.2 in B flat major, H25 (Berlin 1740)
Sonata No.3 in E major, H26 (Berlin 1741)
Sonata No.4 in C minor, H27 (Berlin 1741)
Sonata No.5 in C major, H28 (Berlin 1741)
Sonata No.6 in A major, H29 (Berlin 1742)
Bob van Asperen - harpsichord
(Schütze, Heidelberg 1969, after J.D. Dulcken 1745)
CD 9 [56.17]
Württemberg Sonatas, W49 nos.1–4
Sonata No.1 in A minor, H30 (Berlin 1742)
Sonata No.2 in A flat major, H31 (Berlin 1742)
Sonata No.3 in E minor, H32 (Teplitz 1743)
Sonata No.4 in B flat major, H33 (Berlin 1742)
Bob van Asperen - harpsichord
(Schütze, Heidelberg 1969, after J.D. Dulcken 1745)
CD 10 [48.53]
Württemberg Sonatas, W49 nos.5 & 6
Sonata No.5 in E flat major, H34 (Teplitz 1743)
Sonata No.6 in B minor, H35 (Berlin 1744)
Concerto for solo harpsichord, W112 no.1 (Berlin 1765)
from Clavierstücke verschiedener Art, Erste Sammlung
Bob van Asperen
harpsichord
(Schütze, Heidelberg 1969, after J.D. Dulcken 1745)
CD 11 [53.16]
Rondo in B flat major, W58 no.5 [5.11]
Rondo in E flat major, W61 no.1 [5.25]
Rondo in C minor, W59 no.4 [4.58]
Rondo in C major, W56 no.1 [7.11]
Rondo in A minor, W56 no.5 [7.10]
Fantasia in C major, W61 no.6 [5.24]
Rondo in G major, W57 no.3 [5.00]
Rondo in E major, W58 no.3 [4.22]
Rondo in E major, W57 no.1 [8.35]
Alan Curtis- fortepiano
CD 12 [75.18]
Organ Sonatas
Sonata in A major, H133
Sonata in B flat major, H134
Sonata in F major, H84
Sonata in A minor, H85
Sonata in D major, H86
Sonata in G minor, H87
Herbert Tachezi - organ (Mariathal/Tyrol)
CD 13 [75.45]
Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu, W240 (H777) (1774/84)
Hillevi Martinpelto - soprano
Christoph Prégardien - tenor
Peter Harvey - bass
Choir of Collegium Vocale, Ghent
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Philippe Herreweghe
rec. Doopsgezinde Kerk, Haarlem, November 1977 and January 1978 (CD 9 & 10), September 1978 and June 1979 (CD 8), July and November 1982 (CD 6 & 7); Pfarrkirche Mariathal, Tyrol, June 1978 (CD 12); September-October 1976 (CD 3 & 4), May 1987 (CD 2), Oud-Katholieke Kerk “Maria Minor”, Utrecht; All Saints’ Church, Petersham, 18-19 November 1988 (CD 5); Abbey Road, Studio No. 1, London, December 1988 (CD 1); Salle Wagram, Paris, February 1991 (CD 13).



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