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Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
Divertimento in G, H642, for clarinet and string trio [10:56]
Six Sonatas for clarinet, cello, and keyboard, Wq. 91 or 92 (H516-521) [16:52]
Violin Sonata in G minor, H542.5 [11:30]
Duo for two clarinets in C, H636 [5:15]
Quartet in A minor for clarinet, viola, cello, and keyboard, Wq. 93 (H537) [15:34]
Luigi Magistrelli (clarinet), Italian Classical Consort
rec. 9 October 2014, Bodio Lomnago, Varese, Italy

Any attempt to describe this CD will come across as bewildering, so bear with me as I explain it. This is a disc of C.P.E. Bach’s chamber music for clarinet, on which one work has no clarinet, multiple works were probably not written by C.P.E. Bach, and every single work originally had no clarinet whatsoever. In the divertimento and quartet, the clarinet displaces the original flute; the sonatas and duo were arrangements by the composer of music he had already written for other instruments; and occasionally these performers use a cello where another instrument was originally demanded.

Still interested? Still reading at all? This hour is certainly pleasant enough. C.P.E. Bach was a wildly inventive composer, fond of weird harmonies and structures, but the music here is mostly on a very small scale, modest in ambition and expression. The Divertimento has an elegant minuet, and the violin sonata, which involves no clarinet at all and which might have been written by J.S. Bach or one of J.S.’s students, turns out to be the best and worthiest piece here (It sounds like Papa Bach, to my ill-informed ears). But for the most part, this recital is not too memorable. I am impressed, though, by the fact that soloist Luigi Magistrelli apparently owns over 250 clarinets.

What confuses me is, quite frankly, the entire concept. The Italian Classical Consort and Luigi Magistrelli all play period instruments, and attempt to capture an authentic 18th-century sound. But if their goal is to be true to the original texts, why did they substitute so many instruments, and why did they co-opt flute scores for the clarinet? Why not advertise the fact that this disc is mostly arrangements?

C.P.E. Bach’s original Duo, by the way, was not for two clarinets: it was for two musical clocks. That sounds worth hearing once, if only for novelty value. The recorded sound here is good, and the performances are good, given that they were recorded in a single day. I expect the players enjoyed themselves thoroughly with this easygoing music. I must issue one final warning: the “harpsichord” listed on the back is in fact a fortepiano, not a harpsichord at all. What kind of fortepiano, the booklet does not tell us. This is one strange CD.

Brian Reinhart



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