The Strange sonatas of Bach's second son in a stunning recital

C P E Bach (second son of JSB) offers so much more than eccentricity and in this recital of five sonatas Danny Driver, a recent addition to Hyperion's bejewelled roster of pianists, makes his superlative case for music that is as inventive as it is unsettling. Playing with imperturbable authority, he captures all the mercurial fits and starts of the G minor Sonata (H47) - almost as if Bach were unable to decide on his direction. And here, in particular, you sense Haydn's delight rather than censure in such a startling and adventurous journey. The strange, gawky nature of the third movement even anticipates Schumann's wilder dreams and, dare I say it, is like o prophecy of Marc-André Hamelin's trickery in his wicked take on Scarlatti (also on Hyperion, 12/01). Again, the beguiling solace of the central Adagio is enlivened with sufficient forward-looking dissonance to take it somehow out of time and place.

In the Adagio of the A major Sonata (H29) gaiety quickly collapses into a Feste-like melancholy, though even Shakespeare's clown hardly sings more disquietingly of life's difficulties. The finale from the same Sonata has a mischievous feline delicacy; and if the last three sonatas on this recital are more conventional, they are still subject to all of Bach's mood-swings. It would be impossible to over-estimate Driver's impeccable technique and musicianship, and also a warmth missing from Pletnev's earlier and razor-sharp recital (DG, 2/02). Moving from York Bowen to C P E Bach (and with Balakirev on the horizon), he clearly believes that variety is the spice of life. This is surely one of the finest of all recent keyboard issues and Hyperion's sound and presentation are ideal.

Bryce Morrison, Gramophone
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