CPE Bach: Cello Concertos

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Aparté
ALBUM TITLE: CPE Bach Cello Concertos
WORKS: Cello Concertos: in A minor, Wq 170; in A, Wq 172; Sinfonia No. 5 in B minor, Wq 182; Trio Sonata in C minor, Wq 161
PERFORMER: Pulcinella Orchestra/Ophélie Gaillard


Neither booklet nor internet reveals anything about the Pulcinella Orchestra, but its 13 strings and continuo fortepiano are a force to be reckoned with. Led by cellist Ophélie Gaillard, the group’s well-nigh impeccable ensemble and palpable enthusiasm make it an ideal vehicle for CPE Bach at his most stormy and passionate. In the concertos, the energy is lightly handled, Gaillard dancing off-the-string with impressive bow-control. It becomes rather relentless by the end of the Sinfonia, with persistent, hard-bowed strings above forceful piano chords.

The cello works, Bach’s own arrangements from keyboard concertos, contain every Sturm und Drang trick in the book: abrupt changes of mood, of dynamics, of pace, harmonic hand-brake turns. But there are moments of intensely soulful melody: the middle movement of the A major Concerto expands magically in long, poignant chromatic steps.

The Trio Sonata is a curious programmatic piece in which the instruments take on personalities and engage in dialogue, one violin ‘Melancholicus’, the other a cheery ‘Sanguineus’. Bach has spelled out every moment of their argument in a ‘programme’ printed in his introduction to the published trios. One may follow the exchanges, guided by detailed timings on the CD player, though the joke wears thin with a disturbingly disjointed allegro, a largo gradually reconciling the two, and the relief of a finale allegro assai. Still, I look forward to more from this excellent ensemble.


George Pratt