Danny Driver's third disc for Hyperion is a horse of a different color from his first two. Those covered the rich, post-Romantic music of York Bowen, music that bears little in common with the music of C.P.E. Bach. About the only thing in common between the two composers is that they performed and wrote for keyboard instruments. Yet their music -- as divergent as their styles are -- appeals to Driver.
The Bach sonatas included here are three of the six Prussian Sonatas framed by two slightly later sonatas, including the fantasia-like Sonata in G minor, H47, unpublished in Bach's lifetime. Together these show Bach to be a highly individual composer, taking elements of traditional Baroque keyboard writing and morphing them into new forms with new expressive qualities. What marks all of these, and maybe what appeals to Driver, is the way moods shift and change in each movement, often suddenly and in unexpected directions. One moment the music dances along in a lightly animated manner, then suddenly it becomes calmly philosophical. The Prussian Sonatas, which have more structure to them, foreshadow Haydn's sonatas, but there are still elements of Baroque dance suites in them. The opening of the Sonata in B flat major, H25, is an example of this, combining a dance with ornate runs more associated with fantasias. Driver brings out the eccentricities of the music by making the sudden dynamic changes as great as possible without exaggerating the extremes and by shifting tempos a little more greatly or freely than one might expect with sonatas of this era. However, his control of touch and articulation is light and clean enough to keep the music from becoming at all Romanticized. All of his interpretive choices are made to show just how unconventional Bach's music was for his time, how it bridged the Baroque and Classical eras, and they are made in a satisfyingly musical way, as well. Hyperion's sound is excellent as usual, however, it is engineered somewhat on the quiet side, so the volume has to be up to catch all of the wide changes in dynamics.