Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
Sonata in A minor, Wq 65 No.32 [13:34]
Sonata in G minor, Wq 70 No.6 [13:38]
Sonata in D major, Wq 70 No.5 [14:25]
Sonata in F major, Wq 70 No.3 [12:40]
Sonata in A minor, Wq 70 No.4 [13:44]
Sonata in B flat major, Wq 70 No.2 [9:29]
Iain Quinn (organ)
rec. 28-30 July 2014, Miller Chapel, Princeton Theological Seminary, New Jersey, USA
NAXOS 8.573424 [77:29]
The accepted wisdom is that Johann Sebastian Bach’s second surviving son, Carl Philipp Emanuel (whose Christian names, interestingly, never appear anywhere in the booklet or on the disc’s cover), excelled as a composer in those areas in which his father did not. Some suggest that his unwillingness to write organ music was the consequence of a deliberate decision not to find his work compared with that of his father. That may well be the case, but just as likely is the fact that the glory days of the North German organ school were long gone by the time he came on-stream as a composer, and the market no longer had the appetite for big complex contrapuntal organ works. Much more suited to the age in which the younger Bach lived was the light and airy style which we have since come to label as the “classical”.
This disc contains the five Organ Sonatas C P E Bach composed in 1755 and which were included in Wotquenne’s catalogue of 1905 as Wq 70 nos.2-6, along with an arrangement for organ of the A major keyboard Sonata originally written in 1758, no.32 in the Wq 65 group. There remain just three more Sonatas for organ along with a few shorter pieces of doubtful authenticity, and that is the sum total of C P E Bach’s organ music.
Anyone who knows the organ writing of Mozart’s “Epistle” Sonatas or the organ concertos of Haydn and Stanley will immediately identify a clear stylistic link with these works of Bach. Contrapuntal gestures are few and far between, and even the superficially grandiose start of the G minor Sonata with its occasional forays into mild chromaticism could never in a million years be mistaken for that of J S Bach or his contemporaries.
The writing is for manuals only. Not because the music was intended to be adaptable on different keyboard instruments or because the organ at Bach’s disposal was, like those of Stanley’s London, devoid of a full pedal division, but because the person for whom Bach wrote this music was, it is reported, unable to play the pedals. That person was Princess Anna Amalia, sister to C P E Bach’s then employer, King Frederick the Great of Prussia. An endearingly relaxed booklet note by Caroline Waight suggests that Amalia was not without a certain pride in her own playing prowess, claiming that when she played the organ, “under my windows, on the staircase, in the corridor, every place is full of a rabble that gather round – this amuses me, for I am giving them a spectacle gratis”.
If the music was designed to impress, then Iain Quinn’s effervescent performances do just that. He indulges in much hopping between the instrument’s two manuals, exploiting the delights of this 2000 Paul Fritts organ, and choses registrations from the 28 manual stops which sparkle, captivate and generally are a sheer delight on the ear, and all are captured in a bright, clean, unpretentious recording. Crisply articulated fingerwork and a welcome lack of nuance - even down to a habit of abruptly ending movements without so much as an implied rallentando – create a pleasingly buoyant sound. This would certainly have had any passing rabble keen to listen outside the windows; where, if the playing is in any way reflective of the outside environment, they were enjoying a bright spring day (in late July?).