The following was posted in the International Record Review Magazine, September 2007
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
the first two discs in this survey of varied keyboard releases are of fortepiano works by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. The first contains four Sonatas, three Rondos and a Fantasia played by Sharona Joshua on an instrument by Christopher Barlow after a 1795 fortepiano by Johann Schantz. Apart from his music, CPE Bach’s legacy is complemented by his Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments, which he revised extensively just before his death in 1788, and in which his statement that ‘a musician cannot move others unless he too is moved’ remains as the most succinct summation of the ideal nature of music-making.
one can take this too far – for, as Basil Lam described, CPE Bach’s startling effects can appear to be those of a composer who expresses himself by way of a ‘too-easy style in which anything can happen’. In this case, a fine line has surely to be drawn between the ‘effects’ and their effectiveness in performance in so far as they impinge on the inner life of the music, often expressed in eighteenth-century music in relatively unvarying tempos, before the rise of the notion of Romantic Empfindsamkeit. Yet, it is clear from his essay that, so far as CPE Bach was concerned, expressive feeling was not to be abjured in performance; and it is this fine line between emotion and intellect, shall we say, that Joshua draws from so well.
Here is a beautifully played and recorded disc, and the music itself rarely exhibits that characteristic to which Lam objected; there is nothing wrong in striking out new paths in music, as in any art, so long as the result makes sense to the recipient – in this case, us. Joshua combines scholarship with genuine musical understanding and an excellent technique. I recommend this disc strongly to those keen to explore keyboard music of the latter half of the eighteenth century, outside of Haydn and Mozart.
(Rubato Records RRLA1104U, 1 hour 15 minutes).
International Record Review