JC Bach, Mozart, Haydn

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COMPOSERS: Haydn,JC Bach,Mozart
LABELS: Meridian
WORKS: Sinfonia Concerto in G, Op. 1/4; Sonata No. 6 in B flat
PERFORMER: David Watkins (harp); Salomon Quartet
The late 18th century was a golden age for the harp, especially in France, where Marie Antoinette’s enthusiasm for the instrument induced something of a harp craze in fashionable society. In this agreeable re-creation of 18th-century domestic music-making, only one work – the JC Bach Sonata – was written specifically for the harp, though all the music sounds well in David Watkins’s idiomatic realisations. Both the Sonata and the Sinfonia Concerto (arranged from a harpsichord concerto) exude the ‘London’ Bach’s trademark urbanity and delicate sensuality. Neither of the early Haydn works is fully authenticated, and while both manipulate galant clichés pleasantly enough, they only really come to life in the breezy finales. With the Mozart, arrangements of pieces for the glass harmonica, we are on another plane altogether: minor works, yet quintessential late Mozart in their rarefied, luminous solemnity. If the harp – a Grecian-style instrument strung to recreate the silvery sonority of an 18th-century harp – cannot emulate the glass harmonica’s unearthly timbre, it compensates with its infinitely greater flexibility. Watkins’s playing throughout is aptly graceful, with deft touches of timing and ornamentation, and the Salomon Quartet offers sympathetic support. Richard Wigmore