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Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
Solo Keyboard Music - Vol. 29
Sonata No. 4 in F sharp minor, Wq 52/4 (H 37) (1744) [21:32]
Sonata No. 5 in E Major, Wq 52/5 (H 163) (1762) [12:24]
Sonata No. 6 in E minor, Wq 52/6 (H 129) (1758) [16:31]
Sonata in C Major, Wq 65/47 (H 248) (1775) [14:12]
Sonata in C minor, Wq 65/49 (H 298) (1786) [9:42]
Miklós Spányi (clavichord)
rec. Keizerszaal, Sint-Truiden, Belgium, July 2013
BIS BIS-2046 [75:30]

This set is truly remarkable, no matter where you join it - and I in no way have all 29 volumes. There are certainly wonders to behold and this present disc is no different in that respect. Miklós Spányi’s choice of instruments makes this series so enjoyable. Whether it be fortepiano, tangent piano, or Emanuel’s favourite instrument, the clavichord, Spányi has the ability to bring this beautiful music to life. I have heard quite a bit of Ana-Marija Markovina’s set of the complete works for piano solo on Hänssler Classics on which she plays a modern Bösendorfer piano. I am not really sure that it works but there are no such problems here.

Having enjoyed the first three of the Zweyte Fortsetzung von Sechs Sonaten fürs Clavier Wq 52/1-3 in volume 28 (BIS-2045) I was eager to hear this disc. I was not disappointed. The set of six sonatas were published in 1763, although they were actually composed between 1744 and 1762 and later brought together for publication. This was not an unusual practice for Emanuel, as can be seen by the rest of his collections of sonatas. The mammoth Wq 65 for instance, two of the sonatas from which are also included on this disc, was composed over a great many years.

The music presented here has moved on from that of C.P.E.'s father, but yet can still be said to belong to that of the high baroque period. It does however look forward to what was to come. That being said, it is wrong merely to regard this music as transitional. Emanuel had his foot in both camps. Yes, there is evidence of the baroque style here but also of the early classical style too. It is no wonder that the likes of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven all owned and studied printed copies of Emanuel’s keyboard sonatas. If the tercentenary of his birth in 2014 did nothing else, it showed C.P.E. Bach to be a very important figure in the development of the classical style. This development can be seen in the sonatas presented here, but especially in the set of six. The earliest of these is the less developed and more baroque sounding compared to the later more classical sonatas. Beware though, the numbering has nothing to do with the set's compositional chronology.

This is an excellent disc, and as always with this series, it is accompanied by detailed and informative booklet notes, including some helpful ‘performer’s remarks’ from Miklós Spányi. The beautiful instrument is miked quite closely which leads to a somewhat reverberant sound at times. However, if you have ever heard a clavichord live, you will appreciate just how quiet they can be. To get the full dynamic range of the instrument the microphones have to be up close and I certainly don’t find the recorded sound off-putting. If anything, it adds to the experience.

Stuart Sillitoe


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