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Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
Cello Concerto in A minor, Wq170 [25:23]
Cello Concerto in B flat major, Wq171 [22:44]
Cello Concerto in A major, Wq172 [20:08]
Orquestra Barroca Sevilla/Christophe Coin (cello)
rec. 2014, Iglesia Conventual del Santurio, Seville, Spain

A few months ago I enthusiastically reviewed a recording of Baroque and Classical cello concertos by the Spanish cellist Asier Polo supported brilliantly by the Orquestra Barroca Sevilla (review). In concluding the review, I commented I would love to hear some more from these players, including some CPE Bach. Not long after, I was contacted by the orchestra’s media person to inform me that they had indeed recorded Emanuel Bach’s three concertos, and would I like to have a copy. Naturally I said yes, and a few months later, this being the era of COVID, they arrived here in New Zealand. I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the cellist was Christophe Coin. While I had been very impressed by Asier Polo, whose name had been previously unknown to me, Coin is one of the foremost cellists of pre-Romantic era music.

Almost immediately I felt there was a “problem”. I associate the orchestral works of CPE Bach with strongly accented changes in the dynamics, and here I wasn’t hearing that. The orchestra played the introduction almost “straight”, and the entry of Coin did little to change matters. Yes, the tempos were as one would expect, but I wasn’t getting the fizzing vitality I knew from other recordings. It was a little sedate, dare I say staid, and that isn’t how I think this music should be played. It would be an overstatement to say I was bored as I listened to the rest of the first movement, but I certainly wasn’t getting any sense of excitement. I switched across to my other version of the A minor, that by Hidemi Suzuki on BIS, also on authentic instruments, and heard that excitement straight away. Here the artists were performing the music, adding their own twists and turns, not just playing it. I then went to the dazzling final movement of the A major concerto, and had the same reaction. Over the next day or so, I listened to all of the Coin performances, and my reaction didn’t change. It was comfortable listening, never thrilling. I don’t think that the sound helped greatly either. While it was clear enough, there wasn’t much definition across the soundstage.

There is no information about the DVD included in the package. It appears to be no more than a filmed version of the three concertos. The setting is a darkened “chamber” where all you can see is the players. I can’t imagine they are exactly the same performances as those on the CD, perhaps just ones done for the cameras, but they do have the same performance characteristics. I hope you will not think I was shirking my responsibilities as a reviewer when I say that I did not watch it all the way through.

So I have to conclude that this was rather a disappointment. In the package with this disc was another by the same artists, with three Haydn symphonies with obbligato cello parts. I hope it is more successful.

By way of a postscript, having completed my review, I thought to check whether this had been reviewed on this site, and found that it had been, a little over 12 months ago, with a very different conclusion to mine.

David Barker

Previous review: Stuart Sillitoe

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