CPE Bach: Sonatas, Wq 48/1-4 & 65/2

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COMPOSERS: CPE Bach
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Sonatas, Wq 48/1-4 & 65/2
PERFORMER: Miklós Spányi (clavichord)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-878
Spányi has taken up the cause of CPE Bach with a projected complete edition of the keyboard music and a 30-disc recording venture. On this showing, I can’t imagine a better advocate.

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He plays a fine, large clavichord recorded rather close, so released keys rattle and metal tangents click against strings. But lend distance to your listening – lower the volume – and the rewards are immense. In addition to the clavichord’s small-scale but telling dynamic range, each register here is sharply defined – a beefy bass, a nasal tenor, a treble of great sweetness.

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Spányi plays this impassioned music with spontaneity and no holds barred. The First Sonata ends careering through mad-cap chromaticisms, the Second opens with extraordinary metrical liberties. The high spot for me, though, is the Third Sonata – its disarmingly simple opening interrupted by astonishing silences, its timeless Adagio, the outrageous humour of its dancingly exuberant finale. If the performance shocks you, recall Dr Charles Burney’s description of Bach’s own playing: ‘… so animated and possessed, that he not only played, but looked like one inspired. His eyes were fixed, his under lip fell, and drops of effervescence distilled from his countenance.’ George Pratt