Miklós Spányi

C.P.E. Bach: The Solo Keyboard Music, Vol. 26

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The sonatas by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach recorded here, in the 26th volume of Hungarian pianist Miklós Spányi's magisterial series of C.P.E.'s complete keyboard works, were composed in 1761. They are known as the "Fortsetzung" (sequel or continuation) sonatas because they were published as a sequel to an earlier set of sonatas of similar features. The most interesting aspect of the program here is the presence of alternate versions of the slow movements of two of the four sonatas. These were written out by Bach himself. It is not wholly clear why he did so or to what extent the existence of these versions is indicative of a role for improvisation in the performance of this music. The most likely explanation is that the written-out elaborations, very much in a quasi-improvisatory mode, were meant as a guide for students. They do not substantially alter the material, instead mostly adding ornaments to bare slow notes. The four sonatas themselves are fine examples of this composer's art. They are serious, concise pieces that use thematic material very economically, in the developing manner of the young Haydn around the same time. Only one sonata is in a minor key, and the pieces do not partake much of the Sturm und Drang manner of some of Bach's orchestral music of the 1760s. Spányi plays them on a clavichord, always a welcome thing, but the BIS recording team puts the music in a hall that overemphasizes the music's low notes; in its intended domestic settings they would not have dominated the melody lines so much.

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