CPE Bach: Keyboard Sonatas II, classical album review

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Johann Sebastian’s second surviving son, is full of surprises. You only have to listen to the opening movement of his F sharp minor sonata, composed in 1744, to appreciate that he had a whimsical frame of mind and that he had already subverted the decorum of the Baroque age. Abrupt swings of mood between the toccata-like writing that his father would have recognised and the poised melody that was to be the province of the likes of Mozart indicate a composer with an adventurous streak. Even more so in the central slow movement of the same sonata, CPE Bach’s emotional stance is far more prescient of the Classical era than it is reminiscent of the Baroque.

In this sequel to his first disc of CPE Bach Keyboard Sonatas (CDA67786), Danny Driver is intimately in touch with the fluctuations of the musical language. The E major sonata, also from 1744, shows Bach exploiting sharp contrasts between loud and soft, aspects that Driver points up in a way that underlines the music’s energy and momentum. His feel for the harmonic explorations in the slow movement and the rhythmic mischievousness of the finale likewise echoes the music’s spirit.

There are four sonatas on this disc, the later C minor and A major from the 1750s attesting to an even greater boldness on Bach’s part, with performance indications such as “pompous”, “touching” and “with tenderness” signalling the broadening of his expressive spectrum. The Andante pathetico from the C minor sonata even offers a foretaste of the conflicting aggressive and mollifying features that characterise the slow movement of Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto. Ending with an F sharp minor Fantasie and D minor Rondo from the 1780s, Driver plays with an imagination and subtlety fully equal to Bach’s own.

Geoffrey Norris, The Daily Telegraph
Related Link
Back to List
Back to Top