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Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
Complete Original Works for Violin & Keyboard
Violin Sonata in D, Wq.71 (H502, 1731) [12:11]
Violin Sonata in d minor, Wq.72 (H503, 1731) [8:42]
Violin Sonata in C, Wq.73/149 (H504, 1731) [15:08]
Sinfonia in D for keyboard and violin, Wq.74 (H507, 1754) [9:53]
Violin Sonata in F, Wq.75 (1763) [24:02]
Violin Sonata in b minor, Wq.76 (1763) [18:44]
Violin Sonata in B-flat, Wq.77 (1763) [17:35]
Violin Sonata in c minor, Wq.78 (1763) [20:48]
Arioso con variazioni, Wq.79 (H535, 1781) [11:13]
Freye Fantasie in f-sharp minor, Wq.80 (H536, 1787) [14:36]
Tamsin Waley-Cohen (violin)
James Baillieu (piano)
rec. Britten Studio, Snape Maltings, Snape, Suffolk, 10-12 September and 13-14 October 2018. DDD.
Reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from
SIGNUM SIGCD573 [3 CDs: 153:06]

Purists may object to the combination of a modernised Stradivarius and a modern Steinway grand piano in music originally intended for the harpsichord (actually specified for the Sinfonia, Wq.74) or fortepiano. I would normally find myself among their number: I originally decided to give this set a miss until I heard an extract on BBC Radio 3 and changed my mind.

If you must have period instruments, Duo Belder Kimura on baroque violin and fortepiano or harpsichord (Resonus RES10192) will do very well – review. For a shorter selection on period instruments, there’s Amandine Beyer and Edna Stern on mid-price Alpha Collection (Alpha329, Wq.76, 77 and 78 and H545 – review).

Modern instruments these may be on the new Signum, but Tamsin Waley-Cohen and James Baillieu play with a real sense of period style; the piano, even when acting as the senior partner, is never allowed to get too big for its boots. Readers may recall that, though I much prefer the keyboard music of CPE’s father on the harpsichord, I make honourable exceptions in the case of Glenn Gould and Angela Hewitt. Now Baillieu joins their ranks and Waley-Cohen, whom I associate with music from a later period, joins those violinists who, while not baroque or classical specialists, plays the music of the period convincingly.

In fact, CPE’s music spans the baroque and classical styles, moving over a period of more than 50 years from early works in the manner of his father and his godfather Telemann, to anticipations of Haydn and Mozart. I’m not even sure that ‘anticipations’ is the right word for the Arioso, Wq.79 and the free fantasy, Wq.80. The notes, jointly written by the performers, remind us that Mozart hailed CPE as ‘the father of us all’ and that his works in the Empfindsamer Stil, with its emphasis on feeling, even anticipate the romantic movement in many respects. After all, as O.A. Lovejoy’s essay On the Discrimination of Romanticisms (plural) reminded us long ago, there are many forms of the latter, and F.L. Lucas counted over 11,000 definitions of the term, one of which might well be applied to CPE.

Even the early Wq.71, unusually in four movements, is made to sound attractive here, but it’s the later works where both the music and performances come into their own. I’m pleased to see that, unlike the Resonus recording, Signum have given us the music in chronological order, with Wq.79 and Wq.80 the logical conclusion. Originally composed for keyboard alone, it’s not over-fanciful to compare Wq.80 with Beethoven’s late piano sonatas and quartets. Here I’m even prepared to concede that the modern Steinway not just equals the fortepiano on Resonus but makes more sense. If the sonatas from 1763 reflect at least in part the conservative tastes of his employer, Frederick of Prussia, by 1787 he was able to compose in the much freer style specified in the work’s title, 'free fantasy’.

The Duo Belder Kimura end the first of their two Resonus CDs with Wq.80. Though the fortepiano on that recording is a copy of a Walter instrument of 1795, thus post-dating by several years the Fantasie, it fails to make as much impact as Baillieu’s modern instrument, even with the volume turned up. The copy of another Walter fortepiano, as played on the Alpha selection would have sounded better in this work; it’s a shame they didn’t include it there. Where the Resonus Duo’s lighter approach to the music is marginally preferable in the earlier works, the new Signum scores here and in the Arioso, Wq.79.

The Signum CDs are sold for around the price of two discs, about 19, making them competitive with the 2-CD Resonus set. Beware, however, that one dealer, who has currently reduced the CDs to 17.50, is asking 33.12 for the 16-bit download and 41.40 for the 24-bit. Follow the Hyperion link (above) for a more reasonable 15.99 and 24.00 respectively. You may even find the download for less elsewhere, but without the booklet.

The single-CD Alpha selection is well worth considering, but it doesn’t contain CPE’s best works for violin and keyboard. Out-and-out advocates of period performance will want the Resonus set but my money is on the new Signum in preference to either.

Brian Wilson

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