Op. 5; Nos 2, 4 & 5 from Op. 17 – Olga Martynova, harpsichord –
Caro Mitis Multichannel SACD CM 0052004, 68:33 ****:
This release is Volume 1 of a series on the Russian label titled
Harpsichord Gems. It may seem rather odd to see albums of early music
coming from such a source, but there is a small group of Russian
musicians specializing in this genre, including the Pratum Integrum
Orchestra, with which young Martynova often plays. In fact she is one
of the premier harpsichordists in Russian today. It was her idea
to record some of the clavier sonatas of Johann Christian Bach, and she
selected the six presented here.
J.C. was J.S.’s favorite of his many sons, and it was for him that the
elder Bach created Book II of The Well-Tempered Clavier. As a
child J.C. was playing the harpsichord, clavichord and organ, and later
grew fond of the newly-developed pianoforte. At his father’s death J.C.
was only 15, and he inherited three of J.S.’s harpsichords. He moved
from Leipzig to Milan where he spent a decade, but he then settled in
London, becoming known as The London Bach. He composed for keyboards
his entire life, in addition to symphonies, concertos and various
chamber works. The child Mozart studied J.C. Bach’s music carefully and
the elder composer was drawn to the young genius. The two composers’
music share a similar style, but the gallant approach of Bach’s with
clear and strong melodies and light sensuality is in contrast to
Mozart’s abilities to develop his themes intensively and creatively.
Mozart even arranged the Sonatas 3 &4 from Opus 5 here as concertos
for clavier and strings.
The sonatas were intended to be performed on any keyboards available at
the time, but they neither lean toward the octaves, chords and other
devices of early pianoforte music nor are they filled with ornaments as
is most Baroque harpsichord and clavichord music. The Sonata No. 2 from
Opus 17 is unique in having all three of its movements in sonata form.
The closing Sonata No. 5 is in a sunny A Major and has an Italian mood
to it, bringing the J.C. Bach recital to a graceful and melodic
conclusion. The instrument is a 1985 copy of a 1730 Parisian
harpsichord and is miked just right using five mikes, but not too
closely to pick up annoying mechanical noise.
– John Sunier