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Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
Piano Concerto in A minor, Wq 26 (1750) [21:22]
Piano Concerto in G, Wq 44 (1778) [11:21]
Piano Concerto in C, Wq 20 (1748) [23:04]
Michael Rische (piano)
Kammersymphonie Leipzig
rec. 2015, location not provided

In the A minor concerto, which starts the program, the opening ritornello receives a driving, no-nonsense performance, crisply chugging along in the approved Classical manner. At his entrance, however, the soloist takes a completely different, freer tack, pushing the tempo ahead, lengthening the rests, segmenting the phrases. It seems a classic case of a soloist and conductor out of sync with each other.

What’s curious is that there is no separate conductor! No one at all is even credited as director; it's safe to assume that soloist Michael Rische supervised the orchestral proceedings, at least in collaboration with the ensemble’s concertmistress, Katharina Sprenger. Thus, this Punch-and-Judy routine seems odd, as does another episode of fitful agogics after 3:29 in the C major's finale.

Perhaps Rische felt he had something to prove interpretively. Fortunately, these prove to be isolated bits of disorder. Rische is an adept player with a keen ear. The quick passagework in scales and arpeggios, typical of the composer, is fluent and clean, inflected sufficiently to avoid the ‘sewing-machine’ effect; the little harpsichord-derived embellishments are gracefully turned. Rische doesn’t scant the resources of what sounds like a modern piano – the instrument isn't identified – but neither does he allow its resonance to unbalance the writing: rather, his full-bodied sound conveys a sense of ample tonal reserves.

As putative director, Rische displays a good sense of the music’s scale and style, particularly in the forthright Allegros. The slow movements feel brisk, but only that of the C major concerto, marked Adagio ma non troppo, really suffers, gaining agitated drama at the expense of any ruminative quality.

The orchestra plays well, with alert rhythms and trim articulations. In the G major concerto – a late, concise distillation of the composer’s style – the violins deftly fit the opening theme’s extensive decorations into the sturdy rhythmic framework. Now and again, tonal weight sounds insufficient for the intended effects: the bristling excitement of the A minor's opening, or the incisiveness of the C major's finale. At the start of the A minor’s central Andante, the strings’ straight tone is threadbare, but the forte answering phrases are nice and full.

The sound is fine. Incidentally, the booklet note consistently translates the German Kadenze as “cadence,” but the context makes clear that "cadenza" is intended.
Stephen Francis Vasta
Stephen Francis Vasta is Principal Conductor of Lighthouse Opera in New York (lighthouseopera.org)

Previous review: Michael Cookson


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