CPE Bach: Keyboard Sonatas, Wq 65/16, 17 & 20; Fantasia in E flat

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WORKS: Keyboard Sonatas, Wq 65/16, 17 & 20; Fantasia in E flat
PERFORMER: Miklós Spányi (fortepiano)
This fascinating disc breaks new ground in two respects: all four works are world premiere recordings, and Miklós Spányi plays a copy of a rare instrument which briefly bridged the gap between harpsichord and Viennese fortepiano. The original, made in 1749 by Gottfried Silbermann, is a strongly built, powerful instrument, more like a harpsichord with dynamic control than an amplified clavichord. It has a fine sound, with the stable tone of more modern pianos but retaining the distinctive ‘voices’ of its different registers – a fruity tenor, a ringing treble. Its dampers cannot be raised momentarily with a pedal, but only for extended passages – by two knobs, one for treble end, one for bass. This perfectly suits CPE Bach’s fantasia-like passages of slow-moving arpeggiated harmony which Spányi shapes spaciously, avoiding a blur of sound and giving time for the short-lived tone to fade, each chord merging seamlessly into the next. One magical moment (Wq 65/20) has a haunting left-hand melody piercing a mist of harmony above. Elsewhere the sound is clean-cut, though warmed by both the scale of the instrument and its well-recorded acoustic. While Bach’s capricious stream of contrasting musical events seems loosely structured compared with his Classical successors, this glimpse of a timbral cul-de-sac is not to be missed. George Pratt