C.P.E. BACH: Nine Sonatas – Jean Goverts, piano – Divox Antiqua

by | Mar 20, 2007 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

C.P.E. BACH: Nine Sonatas – Jean Goverts, piano – Divox Antiqua CDX 70303, 68:39 ****:

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788) completed six collections of sonatas between 1779 and 1787, conceived mainly for the harpsichord or the fortepiano and accessible to both amateurs and professionals. Eschewing the formalism or “learned style” of his illustrious father, C.P.E. Bach cultivated the new, emotional style that aimed at “touching the heart.” There can be striking shifts of affect in the course of a Bach sonata, and individual bars of music might evidence harmonic daring and chromatic lines in the left hand. If the E Major Sonata, Wq 52, No. 5 seems relatively formal, the C Major, Wq 55, No. 1 begins with a series of arpeggios more akin to a fantasia. Huge pedal points, staggered melodic riffs, and shifts in registration easily befit a harpsichord manual as well as the piano. Jean Goverts plays a reconstructed Hammerklavier Neupert (1970) whose A is fixed at 435 Hz. The Allegretto of this sonata is so completely “Haydnesque” that it resonates with that composer’s later statement, “Whoever knows me well will see that I owe Emanuel Bach a great deal.”

The C Minor Sonata, Wq 60 opens like an extended improvisation, a style Mozart will adapt for his C Minor Fantasia, K. 475. The brief Largo is an emotional pearl; then it bursts suddenly forward into Presto that itself stops and starts in dynamic colors. The F Major Sonata (1780), Wq 56, No 4 is of the two-movement variety; it seems indebted to D. Scarlatti. The motivic impetus in the Presto looks forward to Beethoven. The longest sonata to play – the B Major (1784), Wq 59, No. 3 – exploits the broken-style writing of the French clavecinists. Repeated notes, rather obsessive riffs, stops and starts, and chromatic runs fill the sound space. The affecting Largo is emblematic of the empfindsamkeit (emotional) style endemic to C.P.E. Bach. The concluding Andantino grazioso transforms a minuet structure into something more personal, a bit militant, with dissonances and a touch of modal harmony. The last offering on the disc is the 1786 Sonata in C Minor, Wq 65, No. 49, a richly dark, chromatic piece, traversing a thin line between recitative and arioso. The eloquent figures of the Andante appealed to Glenn Gould. The last movement, Allegro, resonates with chromatic syncopation, a dance whose emotions are nobly restrained but passionate all the same.

— Gary Lemco

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