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Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
The Solo Keyboard Music – Volume 36
‘Für Kenner und Liebhaber’ Collection 6, WQ 61
Miklós Spányi (tangent piano)
rec. 2016, Keizerszaal, Sint-Truden, Belgium
BIS BIS-2263 [80:00]

The sound of the tangent piano is an acquired taste, one that I appreciate many will dislike. A fellow reviewer has described it as an out-of-tune upright piano in the bar of the Adelphy public house. It is not that bad; in reality, it sounds like a cross between a harpsichord and a fortepiano, with the strings of the instrument being hit by narrow wooden struts or ‘tangents’, sometimes from below the strings, rather than by the felted hammers of forte and modern pianos. Rather than pedals, some tangent pianos had stops which allowed the performer to soften and sweeten the sound, with some having a stop which raises all or some of the dampers on the piano, similar to the way that the damping pedal on a modern piano works.

Despite its brief popularity and the fact that very few pieces were composed specifically for the instrument, it is thought likely that at least some of the keyboard concertos by C.P.E. Bach, as well some by his brothers, were composed to be played on the tangent piano. This is not the first disc in this series of the complete keyboard works that utilises a tangent piano; out of the six discs featuring the pieces ‘Für Kenner und Liebhaber’ or ‘for Connoisseurs and Amateurs’, five are now recorded on the tangent piano and I have another earlier volume that was also recorded on the instrument. I find the tone of the instrument, with its bright piano timbre in the higher notes and the more reverberant harpsichord sounds in the lower notes, to be quite fitting for the music. There are some highlights on this disc: the opening Rondo in E flat Major sets the scene well and the E minor Sonata is superb. However, ‘Les Folies d’Espagne’ comes as a surprise; I had forgotten he had composed his ornate Variations, and they sound wonderful on the instrument, as does the final Fantasia in F sharp minor, which at times sounds as if it is played on a Hungarian cimbalom rather than a piano. It is difficult to believe that this series is now at Volume 36, and it is still introducing the listener to marvellous music.

As with all the disc in this series that I own, Miklós Spányi is excellent. I keep saying that I should get more, and on this evidence, it is becoming increasingly evident that I do not have enough. The recorded sound is also excellent; it captures the instrument so well that the sound qualities of both the fortepiano and harpsichord are easily discernible from the tangent piano. As always, the booklet notes are excellent; this has been a feature of this series and it has helped to place the music in the context of the history of both the composer and of musical development.

Stuart Sillitoe

Rondo No.1 in E flat major, Wq 61/1 (H 288) [7:24]
Sonata No.1 in D major, Wq 61/2 (H 286) [5:29]
Fantasia No.1 in B flat major, Wq 61/3 (H 289) [6:11]
Rondo No.2 in D minor, Wq 61/4 (H 290) [5:32]
Sonata No.2 in E minor, Wq 61/5 (H 287) [8:17]
Fantasia No.2 in C major, Wq 61/6 (H 291) [6:05]
Sonata in G major (Sonata furs Bogey-Clavier), Wq 65/48 (H 280) [13:18]
‘Les Folies d’Espagne’ with 12 Variations, Wq 118/9 (H 263) [7:49]
Sonata in G major, Wq 65/50 (H 299) [6:53]
Fantasia in F sharp minor, Wq 67 (H 300) [12:54]


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