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Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH, Franz Joseph HAYDN: "Bach vs. Haydn 1788/90"

Barthold Kuijken, transverse flute; Ann Cnop, violaa; Wieland Kuijken, cellob; Ewald Demeyere, harpsichordc; Piet Kuijken, fortepianod

rec: Sept 2014, Antwerp, AMUZ
Accent - ACC 24293 (2 CDs) ( 2015) (1.47'30")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover, track-list & booklet
Scores CPE Bach (Wq 93 & 94)
Scores FJ Haydn

Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788): Quartet for keyboard, transverse flute and viola in a minor (Wq 93 / H 537)ac; Quartet for keyboard, transverse flute and viola in D (Wq 94 / H 538)ac; Quartet for keyboard, transverse flute and viola G (Wq 95 / H 539)ac; Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809): Trio for keyboard, transverse flute and cello in G (H XV,15)bd; Trio for keyboard, transverse flute and cello in D (H XV,16)bd; Trio for keyboard, transverse flute and cello in F (H XV,17)bd

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Joseph Haydn are mostly allocated to different stylistic periods in music history. The former is associated with a period which is called Empfindsamkeit or Sturm und Drang; it is also the time in which the galant idiom manifested itself. Haydn, on the other hand, is considered one of the three great representatives of the classical era. However, they were largely contemporaries. Bach was almost 20 years older than Haydn; the latter was clearly influenced by him, but Bach on his turn appreciated the oeuvre of Haydn. When Bach died in 1788 Haydn had already established himself as one of the main composers of his time. Only three years later he was received in England as the greatest composer in Europe.

The present disc combines two series of compositions by Bach and Haydn respectively which were written at about the same time. The three quartets for keyboard, transverse flute and viola by Bach date from 1788, the year of his death. Haydn composed his three trios for keyboard, flute and cello in 1789/90. That makes their juxtaposition on this set historically plausible. It is also quite interesting to compare them.

In his liner-notes Barthold Kuijken writes: "The stylistic differences between the two [composers] are enormous. In Bach, we find Sturm und Drang (storm and stress), Empfindsamkeit (sensitivity), contrasts and unexpected events. In Haydn, alongside his typical wit and moving depth, we find (apparent) simplicity, clear forms, elegance, charm and the cantabile of Viennese classicism". In general terms that seems a very good characterisation. However, it is indeed a general transcription which doesn't cover the whole oeuvre of both masters. The opening movement from Haydn's Trio in D recorded here, for instance, is certainly not devoid of surprises, especially a number of unexpected general pauses.

The two composers also differ in regard to the place of the transverse flute in their oeuvre. Bach composed a large number of works for the flute or with an important flute part, including solo concertos and solo sonatas. That is not so much the effect of his employer for a number of years, Frederick the Great of Prussia, being a fanatic player of this instrument. After all, he hardly appreciated the style of his harpsichordist. It was rather the fact that the flute was the most popular instrument among amateurs which inspired Bach and other composers to write for it. Chamber music was mostly aimed at amateurs, and that explains that the flute takes an important place in Bach's chamber music oeuvre. Haydn, in contrast, composed very little for the flute. The three trios recorded here are the only for this scoring in his oeuvre. He also didn't compose any flute quartets - for flute and string trio, another highly popular genre in the second half of the 18th century - or sonatas for keyboard and flute, and - as far as we know - only one concerto which has been lost. Even so, chamber music by Haydn with a flute part is regularly performed and recorded. In such cases we have to do with arrangements by contemporaries: Haydn's music was very popular, and amateurs wanted to play it. That created a whole market for quartets, trios and other pieces in which one of the parts - mostly originally written for the violin - were arranged for flute.

The three trios are the result of a commission of the London publisher Bland. He published first the trios in D and G, and later the third in F. At the same time they were published by Artaria in Vienna. It is interesting to note that in the latter trio the flute could be replaced by a violin. At the title page of the first two trios in the London edition the exact scoring is not given, only the keyboard (fortepiano or harpsichord) is mentioned, "with accompaniment". Whether a cello is added is probably due to the interpreters. It is worth mentioning that the cello largely supports the left hand of the keyboard part; like in all Haydn's piano trios it can be omitted. However, the fortepianos of the time were rather weak in the bass, and that makes the inclusion of a cello plausible. The three trios are different in character: the trios in D and in G are comparable in that both are in three movements, the first being longer than the two remaining movements. The closing movements are in rondo form, the middle movements are of a pastoral character. The Trio in F has two movements and therefore falls into the category of the divertimento. The second movement is a menuet.

Although theoretically the keyboard part can be played at the harpsichord, the fortepiano seems the most plausible option, certainly if one realizes that these trios were published in England where this instrument had fully established itself. In this recording Piet Kuijken plays an interesting instrument, from the Longman-Clementi workshop and dating from 1799. However, in its sound it is quite close to instruments with Viennese action: it allows a speechlike interpretation which is far harder to realize on most fortepianos with English action, especially Broadwoods. That seems appropriate, because Haydn composed them before his first stay in London. At that time he was only acquainted with Viennese instruments, and that must have been the sound he had in his mind while writing these trios.

The quartets by Bach are clearly intended for either professional players or highly-skilled amateurs. Kuijken suggests that these pieces may have been composed for some of the children of the Jewish banker Itzig in Berlin. Two of them, Sara and Zippora, were keyboard players, Sarah's husband Salomon Levy played the flute and her elder brother Benjamin the viola. The two sisters were in close contact to Carl Philipp Emanuel and his elder brother Wilhelm Friedemann, and very interested in the oeuvre of members of the Bach family, including Johann Sebastian. They were well-versed in playing the keyboard: Sara regularly performed keyboard concertos by Emanuel and by his father and commissioned Emanuel's concerto for harpsichord and fortepiano. As in all recordings of these works the performers have to decide which keyboard to choose and whether a cello should be included. I have mentioned these issues in a recent review of three different recordings. Here it was decided to use the harpsichord, and to omit the cello. The decision to use a harpsichord is partly based on practical considerations: the lack of a really appropriate instrument. A Silbermann was considered too old-fashioned, a Stein or Walter "too 'classical', too 'Mozartian', too modern, too extroverted". The presence of dynamic markings in the keyboard part doesn't exclude the use of a harpsichord: they can be suggested with musical means. This seems a very plausible option. A fortepiano is certainly not out of the question, but too often performers out of laziness turn to a copy of a Walter fortepiano. It is praiseworthy that Kuijken and his colleagues have realized that such an instrument is not appropriate and were willing to take the consequences.

These quartets are every inch vintage Emanuel Bach. The many twists and turns we know from his keyboard works are very much present here as well. That is perfectly conveyed in these performances. One doesn't miss a more dynamic keyboard, such as the fortepiano. However, the balance is not ideal: the flute is too dominant in relation to the harpsichord. It is the latter which should have the lead here, but it is a bit underexposed. Even so, these are outstanding performances. I would even consider the interpretations of Haydn's trios as the best available right now. That has everything to do with the choice of the fortepiano which turns out to be the ideal instrument for these pieces. Piet Kuijken plays with great panache, in a really speechlike manner, with clear dynamic accents. The differentiated treatment of dynamics is one of the features of these performances. This is Haydn at his very best.

The overall quality of these performances and the combination of two series of pieces which are so characteristic of their respective composers makes this set a winner. Even if you have good recordings of these works in your collection there is every reason to add this set.

Johan van Veen ( 2015)

Relevant links:

Ann Cnop
Ewald Demeyere
Barthold Kuijken
Piet Kuijken


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