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CPE Bach Sonatas for Violin and Pianoforte

CPEBach CD Amandine Beyer and Edna Stern record 4 sonatas for violin and keyboard by Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach, H 513, H514, H 545 (sometimes attributed to J.S. Bach), and H 512. It's very easy to guess the composer of these works; if you're at all familiar with Bach's orchestral pieces (such as concertos), the flavor is there, for sure, the mixture of cantabile melodies with the old-fashioned baroque passagework, making J. S. Bach's son a perfect transition between the sound world of his father and that of a pure classical composer such as Haydn or Mozart. The pianoforte seems well-suited to these pieces; we could imagine them on the harpsichord probably, but Edna Stern (a performer new to me) is quite good here; she and violinist Amandine Beyer are well-captured in the recording from Zig-Zag Territoires. Bach explores the sonata form here, sometimes called "Sonata-Allegro" by theorists, and the duo here choose three minor-mode pieces (my preference), many with tastefully-wrought melodies (both the theme and ultimate development in H512 in E minor) shows Bach's genius of style. My personal preference is for the faster movements, but well-written slow ones are the real hallmark for a good composer. Bach in the middle movement of H512, for instance, starts in 2-parts, but then splits into three, with a right-hand melody in the piano to play duet to the violin. While it comes across as far more modern than what his dad might do, the technique isn't terribly different. Beyer and Stern add the appropriate amount of drama into the last movement, as a rule, a short movement if we take Bach's sonatas presented here as a guide. It's only that pesky H 545 that pits two movements of more or less equal length in positions 1 and 3. Of course, H. 545 is also known as BWV 1020 for flute and harpsichord. I like the approach here, the sparkle of the fortepiano, the fast opening tempo, and the range of expression between Stern and Beyer is quite expertly done. But is it CPE Bach? I'd wager that yes, it is Bachian, it's got the touch of genius that the name Bach brings to any authentic work. But living with this work for so long as one by J. S. Bach, I can't shake the notion that dad had something to do with it. Beyer convinces me more on C.P.E. with her treatment of the middle movement, which is done somewhat differently than I'm used to, in terms of her phrasing and what I might call a modern pulse. Or, it might just be the tempo and the clarity here of the instruments. Any way you cut it, these two play the piece so well, and who wrote it doesn't ultimately matter. It's a great piece of music. H 514 in C minor opens with a theme that could never have come from J. S. Bach. It's also immediately presented, with no formal introduction that a Mozart would provide us. I picture this performed in Pottsdam, perhaps, the style mature enough to compete fairly against the works of Quantz at Frederick the Great's court. The presto puts the real onus for technique on the violinist, and Beyer meets the challenge. The opening sonata is the proper one to open the recording; written in the likely challenging key of B-flat major, it takes Bach's ability to present well-crafted melodies in sonata form again, this time again in a "fresh" language that gives ample time for the development of the melody to the piano alone. Then for the old fashioned, we get this really cool middle movement, with double-stopping that reminds one (me, at least), of the opening of J. S. Bach's first violin/harpsichord sonata. And piano with pedal! The schtick here is that combination in C.P.E. Bach of old/new, of the baroque and classical. It what makes him at once both familiar and fresh (for baroque fans, I'd wager). Well-recommended.

Avison Concerti Grossi

Pirates of the Baroque