CPE Bach: Sonatas & Rondos

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: CPE Bach
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Sonatas & Rondos
PERFORMER: Mikhail Pletnev (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 459 614-2
The piano works of CPE Bach are deeply exploratory, improvisatory works, miles away from his father’s rigorous, contrapuntal creations. Pushing forward into the new era’s ‘empfindsamer Stil’ (sensitive style) and developing the classical structures of sonata and rondo, the younger Bach was nevertheless a chip off the old block in terms of his ability to exploit his instrument’s capabilities to the full and make the performer sweat.

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Pletnev does appear to be the first major modern-day pianist to devote an entire CD to this composer and the results make compulsive listening. From the opening flourish of the G minor sonata onwards, it is clear there won’t be a dull moment. Pletnev brings out both virtuoso glitter and moments of great delicacy and fine detail in these elusive pieces, which he characterises with an inventiveness that brings them leaping off the page. He is a pianist who never does anything by halves and at times that inventiveness perhaps acquires an aura of Gould-like eccentricity – it can be hard to grasp fully the structures of the pieces, because the extraordinary impression is that Pletnev becomes the composer himself and makes it up as he goes along. But that is a small complaint: that improvisatory quality is generally one of the best things about Pletnev.