CPE Bach Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 2

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LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: CPE Bach Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 2
WORKS: Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 2: Sonata in F sharp minor, H37; Sonata in E, H39; Sonata in C minor, H121; Sonata in A, H135; Fantasie in F sharp minor, H300; Rondo in D minor, H290
PERFORMER: Danny Driver (piano)


Danny Driver has chosen some seldom performed pieces for his second volume of CPE Bach’s solo keyboard music. Emanuel Bach’s music is a deliberate shift away from the learned style of his father, though by no means immediately accessible. In the F sharp minor Sonata (H37), Bach asks a lot of his listeners: the rhetorical gestures, harmonic surprises and a wealth of other devices that define his distinctive personal style are strikingly experimental. After hearing this Sonata, it’s easy to empathise with English music historian Dr Charles Burney’s remark that ‘a little habit is required’ for the enjoyment of Bach’s music. Driver revels in Emanuel’s idiosyncrasies, underlining the spontaneous and edgier qualities in the composer’s Empfindsamer stil (sensitive style).

Beside the F sharp minor, the E major Sonata (H39) is more melodic and immediately appealing. Both date from 1744, while the C minor (H121) and A major (H135) Sonatas belong to the late 1750s. The three-crotchet ‘pomposo’ motifs that dominate the opening movement of the C minor piece sound over-emphasised on modern piano, but elsewhere there are plenty of passages of expressive delicacy. An improvisatory fantasie and a rondo round off this unusual and fascinating programme.


Nicholas Anderson