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Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
Andante con tenerezza Wq.65/32 [5:46]
Solfeggietto Wq.117 [0:52]
Variations sur le thème de la Folia Wq.118/9 [7:58]
Concerto in D minor Wq.23 [24:04]
Abschied von meinem Silbermanischen Klaviere in einem Rondo H.272 [6:07]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sonata in A minor K.310 [19:25]
Fantaisie in D minor K.397 [5:38]
Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH
Andante con tenerezza Wq.65/32 [5:12]
Shani Diluka (piano, fortepiano)
Orchestra de chambre de Paris/Ben Glassberg
rec. 2018, L’Abbaye de Royaumont; Colonne Concert Hall, Paris
MIRARE MIR434 [74:00]

Shani Diluka has given us some unusual programmes on the Mirare label in the past, including Schubert’s final great sonata (review) with an assortment of other short pieces by the master, and Road 66 (review) with American composers. So what are we to make of this assortment of C.P.E. Bach solo works, plus one concerto, a couple of pieces by Mozart and a change of instrument in the last 10 minutes?

Quite a lot as it happens. Diluka’s way with C.P.E. Bach is deeply poetic and involving in the opening Andante con tenerezza, with the sharpest of contrasts in the spectacular Solfeggietto that follows. The weight here is somewhat in favour of Bach over Mozart, and we are kept in anticipation as to “the filial, even spiritual relationship” between these two composers. The Variations sur le thème de la Folia has just about everything, from tender reminiscence to extrovert showmanship that at times looks as much towards Beethoven as anything else. Diluka’s touch is pearlescent in the quieter music, with plenty of colour and steely edge when the mood changes.

The Concerto in D minor might seem like a centrepiece, but in many ways feels more like a continuation of the wide expressive palette to which we’ve been treated until now. The Orchestre de chambre de Paris is given an early music finish with harpsichord continuo adding spice to the refined string sound and the modern piano is a hefty machine against this backdrop, but the music and musicianship are both superb, with Bach’s declamatory drama presented with emphasis in the opening Allegro. The central Poco andante is more Mozartean, with simple textures and expressive lines exchanging between soloist and orchestra, the final Allegro assai drawing on dramatic techniques that connect us with Vivaldi as well as propelling us into the explosive extremes of C.P.E. Bach’s personal idiom. The link with Mozart is given some added brushstrokes in well-placed cadenzas by Shani Diluka that refer to Mozart’s Concerto D. 466, one that shares its D minor tonality with this work.

Bach’s Abschied von meinem Silbermanischen Klaviere in einem Rondo is another special choice in the context of this programme, given that we’re comparing period with modern instruments as well as composers. Full of contemplative reflection and “nourished by the imagination of lost sounds” this is both a reminiscence and an exploration, with some striking moments which demand repeated hearing. Having become attuned to C.P.E. Bach, Mozart’s Sonata in A minor K.310 does indeed take on a new aspect. Diluka doesn’t change her touch particularly between composers, so there is an almost seamless transition and we hear Mozart’s contrasts in the light of what has gone before. It is only as the form develops and Mozart’s individual shaping of his musical paragraphs roll out that we sense a different imagination at work. Mozart’s dramas are less fleeting in this work, though the contrasts are in many ways no less extreme. Diluka doesn’t force the point in the opening Allegro maestoso, but she doesn’t really have to. Mozart’s operatic side comes more to the fore in the central Andante cantabile con espressione, the notes gathering into vocal ensembles as much as they can be aria-like. C.P.E. Bach is more cabaret than opera with these kinds of mood, surprising us with quick changes and variety, where Mozart reaches out with longer arcs, the diversions from which are given time to take on more concrete identities. I really like Diluka’s touch in this piece; not overdoing things, but delivering each emotive high point with the right kind of weight.

There is an inevitable disturbing drop in pitch between the modern piano and the 1790 Walter fortepiano, reportedly Mozart’s favourite type of piano, in a faithful copy by Chris Maene. Mozart’s Fantaisie in D minor K.397, one of his most C.P.E. Bach-like pieces, sounds superb on this instrument. Silky softness contrasts with metallic edges to maximise the sort of effect Mozart must have been after, Diluka proving her skill in keeping things together on an instrument with a fragility to its sound that only adds to the intensity of the experience.

The programme ends with a reprise of the Andante con tenerezza on this fortepiano, which makes for an interesting comparison between instruments. The lack of sustain makes for a less lyrical performance, but by no means a less interesting one. Diluka gets to the heart of this music and takes us with her very effectively. This programme might seem a little eccentric at first glance, but all is justified by the time you reach the end and have the feeling you’d want to hear it all over again straight away. With excellent recorded sound and wonderful playing, this is a path strewn with gems you just want to pick up and take home to keep.

Dominy Clements

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