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Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714 - 1788): "Sonatas for harpsichord and violin"

Roberto Loreggian, harpsichord; Federico Guglielmo, violin

rec: August 24 - 26, 2013, Este (Padua), Abbazia di Santa Maria delle Carceri
Brilliant Classics - 94902 ( 2014) (74'30")
Liner-notes: E
Cover & track-list

Sonata in C (Wq 73 / H 504); Sonata in D (Wq 71 / H 502); Sonata in d minor (Wq 72 / H 503); Sonata in D (Wq 74 / H 507); Sonata in g minor (Wq deest, 'BWV 1020' / H 542,5); Sonata in b minor (Wq 76 / H 512)

The sonatas for keyboard and violin represent a lesser-known part of the oeuvre of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. They are far less often performed than the three quartets which he composed in the last year of his life or the flute sonatas, either with basso continuo or with an obbligato part for keyboard. The latter is also the scoring of the sonatas recorded by Roberto Loreggian and Federico Guglielmo. CPE Bach never composed sonatas for violin and bc.

His father, Johann Sebastian, was the first German composer who wrote sonatas for an obbligato harpsichord and violin (BWV 1014-1019). His son rated them very highly: "The 6 Clavier trios ... are among the finest works written by my dear late father. They still sound very good today, and they give me great pleasure, despite the fact that they are over 50 years old. There are certain Adagios in them whose cantabile qualities are unsurpassed to this day", he stated in a letter to Johann Nicolaus Forkel in 1774. It seems likely that he composed his own sonatas under his father's guidance. The present disc ends with the Sonata in g minor which for a long time was considered as being from Johann Sebastian's pen. Even today it is still sometimes played under his name, and often with a transverse flute. Its authenticity has been a subject of debate since the 1930s and is still undecided. It seems that the general view is that it is certainly not a work of Johann Sebastian but probably not by CPE Bach either. A possibility could be some student of JS Bach.

It is notable that CPE Bach referred to the sonatas for keyboard and violin by his father as 'trios'. That is also how his own sonatas for this scoring are called. This was pretty common at the time: the two hands at the keyboard were counted as two parts. Remember that the quartets I referred to in the opening paragraph were scored for three instruments. In the case of some sonatas there is another reason: they were first conceived as trio sonatas for two melody instruments and basso continuo and revised in the 1740s to sonatas for keyboard and violin.

Although the Sonata in D (Wq 71) dates from 1731 and was revised in 1746 it seems to be an original piece for keyboard and violin. From the same year dates the Sonata in d minor (Wq 72), originally scored for transverse flute, violin and bc and revised in 1747. The Sonata in C (Wq 73) was also first written for that scoring and revised around 1745. The Sinfonia in D - whose title Bach later changed to sonata o vero sinfonia - exists in two scorings: keyboard and violin and two violins and bc respectively. This piece dates from 1754.

The Sonata in b minor (Wq 76) is the latest work on this disc; it dates from 1763 and was originally scored for keyboard and violin. It is also the longest piece and the most dramatic of the set. In the opening allegro moderato Bach makes use of the ritornello form of the Italian solo concerto. It opens with a solo episode of the keyboard which takes about 30 seconds; then the violin enters. Its interventions often have quite a dramatic effect.

Most sonatas are in three movements; the exception is Wq 71 which has the four movements - slow, fast, slow, fast - which was common in the baroque era. However, the last movement is a pair of menuets which refers to the galant idiom which came in vogue in the 1730s. Wq 72 has three movements in the order which became the habit in Berlin in the mid-18th century. It opens with an adagio ma non troppo which is followed by two allegros. Wq 73 has also three movements but here the slow movement is in the centre.

It is remarkable that these sonatas are so seldom performed. On ArkivMusic I couldn't find any other recording of the sonatas Wq 72 and 74. The others are available in several interpretations but Wq 73 only in performances with a transverse flute. All the sonatas on this disc, except the one in g minor, were recorded by Anneke Uittenbosch and Alda Stuurop (Globe, 1988); these recordings may still be available somewhere. Even so, the present disc is an important addition to the discography. I can hardly imagine better performances than these sonatas receive here. I mentioned the dramatic features of the sonata Wq 76; these are explored to the full by these two artists. They deliver truly gestural performances, which include a marked contrast between good and bad notes. Federico Guglielmo's dynamic shading is exactly right. The tempi are also well chosen. Listen to the meaningful difference between the adagio ma non troppo of the first and the adagio of the third movement in Wq 71. The closing allegro from the sonata Wq 72 receives a sparkling performance. The only minus is that the balance is probably a bit too much in favour of the violin. The harpsichord is in the lead here and that should have been more emphasized in the recording.

All in all, this disc is a very strong case for these sonatas by CPE Bach.

Johan van Veen ( 2017)

Relevant links:

Roberto Loreggian

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