JC Bach, Haydn

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COMPOSERS: Haydn,JC Bach
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Keyboard Sonatas, Op. 5; Symphony No. 53 in D (Imperial)
PERFORMER: Harald Hoeren (fortepiano)
CATALOGUE NO: 999 530-2
The brittle tone of the 18th-century fortepiano may be an acquired taste, but its acquisition shouldn’t take long in the genial company of JC Bach’s Op. 5. These six sonatas, advertised for harpsichord or piano, were published in 1766, giving us the first known reference to a piano in a score published in London. Their immediate success helped to confirm Johann Christian’s standing in late 18th-century Europe as the most celebrated member of the Bach family.

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His reputation is less elevated nowadays, yet there’s no gainsaying the sparkling elegance of these sonatas, which extends from No. 1’s bright, tuneful appeal to No. 6’s more solemn formality. Nos 2-4 are the best known, thanks to the fact that Mozart rearranged them as piano concertos in 1772, their attraction for him exemplified by the D major’s enticingly enigmatic Minuetto.

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Harold Hoeren plays with exemplary precision and vivacity, his dazzling fingerwork matched by a cantabile touch. He closes the CD with Haydn’s popular Symphony No. 53, the Imperial, in an arrangement for solo piano attributed, rather dubiously, to JC Bach. It’s an enjoyable curiosity, though a poor substitute for the real thing. Graham Lock