Recent CPE Bach CD review, November 2010

by Sharona on February 4, 2011

Article written in the Early Music Oxford Journals
4 November 2010 issue

Oxford Journals/Humanities/Early Music Volume 38/Issue 2/Pp.317-9


…’Music written on the page, which is straight and ordered, can actually hinder our good musical sense, which should not be ‘straight’ at all. In his highly influential Versuch, C. P. E. Bach gives us a clue as to how we can unstraighten our hearing simply by closing our eyes and shutting out all unnecessary visual influence. Is this the reason that blind musicians have played such a crucial role in the history of music? Try closing your eyes now for just a few moments, and listen to your surroundings what do you notice? It is not the sound but rather your hearing that changes. You begin to take in more information because your brain is not busied with extraneous information. This is perhaps why the clavichord won C. P. E. Bach’s heart, beating in time with its own Bebung; the ability to produce the finest shades on this instrument, its subtle range of dynamic capability, provides the most satisfactory stimulus to such a refined ear as Bach’s. His career was shaped by this very scenario: Charles Burney wrote in 1772 that Bach’s “Compositions are calculated for great players and cultivated ears and that he seems to have passed by all his co[n]temporaries in refinement”.

November 2010 issue

Although the clavichord is not the instrument featured here, Sharona Joshua nevertheless offers the utmost in refinement on her C. P. E. Bach: Selected fortepiano works (Rubato RRL A1104U, rec 2004, 75′). This disc has so much going for it: sudden pregnant pauses, fiery bits, tender moments, exemplary technique. The fortepiano here is a copy of a 1795 Schantz built by Christopher Barlow in 1996. Barlow prepared and tuned the instrument for this recording, but the temperament is not listed. This is often the case, unfortunately, for those who have an interest in this music and are curious to know such details.

Joshua has chosen four sonatas from Bach’s oeuvre of over 150, as well as three rondos and one imaginative fantasia. She opens the disc with the Sonata in G minor, Wq65/17 (H37), dating from the late 1740s. Her mastery of sudden rhetorical pauses makes our ears perk up in anticipation. She dashes whimsically about the keyboard, conjuring up chromatic fancy, challenging the usual formal transparency of the Viennese sonata popular in Bach’s day. What finally wins us over is that deep inner reflection, as if her playing were influenced by the tragic passing of someone dear; she delivers this in the Adagio affetuoso e sostenuto of the Sonata in F minor, Wq63/6 (H75) as well as in the Fantasia movement that follows. Her consummate musicianship allows us to imagine C. P. E. Bach the improviser sitting before the fortepiano that belonged to him at the time of his own passing in 1788’…
Dan McCoy

To read the full article please go to Early Music Oxford Journals ‘Carlophilipemanuelbachomania’ page

{ 1 comment }

Chris Barlow February 14, 2011 at 12:26

The temperament used for the CPE Bach recording was Silbermans’ 6th comma meantone.

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