CPE Bach: Three Quartets; Sonatas
Nevermind (Alpha Classics)
Three Quartets; Sonatas, Wq 48/6 – Adagio; Wq 65/32 – Andante con tenerezza
Alpha Classics ALPHA 759 57:27 mins
The quartet in this instance consists of Anna Besson on flute, Louis Creac’h on viola, Robin Pharo on viola da gamba and Jean Rondeau on harpsichord. They are dedicated to spreading the word about the available 18th-century repertoire for this unusual combination.
CPE Bach wrote these quartets in 1788, the last year of his life, after a long and prolific career. He did not specify whether the keyboard should be harpsichord or piano, and his score doesn’t mention a string bass. The first thing that strikes the listener is the fact that the viola – not commonly used as a chamber instrument in CPE’s time – makes a particularly happy contrast, and complement, to the flute.
The playing here is marked by clarity and expressiveness in music that is intricate, emotionally demonstrative and ceaselessly exploratory. CPE trades regularly on the element of surprise, as in the A minor Quartet. There are plenty of Haydn moments, and touches of Mozart, and in the Adagio to the G major work you remember who CPE’s father was: it feels like a harpsichord concerto by JS Bach himself, complete with mini-cadenza. In all, supremely accomplished works if lacking that elusive ‘voice’ of a great creative mind.