Bach, Cpe

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COMPOSERS: Bach,Cpe
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Sonatas for viola da gamba; Harpsichord Sonatas
PERFORMER: London Baroque
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901410 DDD
CPE Bach was among the last composers to write for the viola da gamba, its popularity rapidly eclipsed by the rise of the new-fangled cello. Yet Bach was no musical conservative but a forward-looking, if idiosyncratic, composer whose belief in ‘thinking singingly’ – ie, with greater emphasis on the expression of feeling – made him an important figure in the transition from the Baroque era to the early classicism of Haydn and Mozart. His three viola da gamba sonatas – two with continuo, one with harpsichord obbligato – are highly accomplished and delightful pieces. Bach conjures great expressiveness from the instrument: intricate lines are made dramatic by sudden haunting asides or unexpected thrusts of melody that bespeak a lurking gravitas. In the Larghetto of the G minor sonata this blossoms into explicit melancholia. The two harpsichord sonatas are less emotionally fraught but no less brilliant, balancing refined lyricism with darting vivacity, technical innovation with ornate formality.

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Impeccably performed and recorded, this disc offers further evidence of CPE Bach’s quirky yet impressive talents. Graham Lock