Miklos Spanyi, C.P.E. Bach: Solo Keyboard Music, vol. 27

Steve Holtje

By Steve Holtje

on 12.05.13 in Reviews

This entry in BIS’s invaluable series of the keyboard music of J.S. Bach’s second son completes the Fortsetzung Sonatas with Nos. 4-6, all from the 1750s. The name given to this set (it means “Sequel”) was C.P.E.’s attempt to cash in on the popularity of his previous Sonatas with Varied Repeats. This disc also includes a variant of No. 1 plus the second movements of 4-6 with C.P.E.’s handwritten embellishments, apparently for the instruction of students; these are mostly a matter of ornamentation. The second version of No. 1, however, is a more drastic revision that makes the piece considerably more eccentric, full of quirky parts and deliberately disruptive rests. It’s the 18th century equivalent of a remix.

If Haydn and Mozart are too tame for you, check this out

Even before remixes, this is some strange music, relatively speaking, for its era, full of unexpected pauses, surprising modulations, and more highly expressive melodies than the clean and predictable norm of the then-current Rococo style. Not until Beethoven, three generations later, would such willfully individual sonatas be heard again. They heave with unbridled emotions, especially No. 4 in D minor and, even more so, No. 6 in G minor, a true masterpiece. If Haydn and Mozart are too tame for you, check this out.

Spanyi plays a facsimile of a 1785 clavichord; it is quieter than a harpsichord, with a mellower tone, but beefy enough that this isn’t one of those clavichord recordings that’s so ephemeral it’s almost not there. Anybody interested in keyboard music should explore C.P.E. Bach’s sonatas, and this is a good set to start with.